Fort Hood, Texas An Army platoon sergeant who ordered his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River was sentenced Saturday to six months in military prison, but will not be discharged.
The military jury also reduced the rank of Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins by one grade to staff sergeant, which cuts his pay and responsibilities.
Perkins, 33, was convicted Friday of two counts of aggravated assault, assault consummated by battery and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and making a false statement.
He did not testify during his trial, but before he was sentenced Saturday told the jury of Army officers and enlisted members that his actions were wrong -- although he did not apologize to the Iraqis. He said he still loved the military and did not want to lose his job.
"If I had to go back, I would definitely do something different on those days," Perkins said, wiping away tears.
The six-man jury considered a sentencing range of no punishment to a dishonorable discharge, rank reduction and 11 1/2 years in prison. Prosecutors had recommended five years in prison and a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.
Perkins was taken to the Bell County Jail because Ford Hood has no jail. It could take up to a week to determine where he will serve his sentence.
Before deliberations began, the prosecutor, Capt. Megan Shaw, said Perkins had jeopardized the U.S. mission because insurgents were using the incidents to spread anti-American propaganda.
The defense attorney, Capt. Tom Hurley, urged the jurors to consider Perkins' numerous military awards.
Perkins and another soldier were accused of ordering soldiers to push the two Iraqis into the river in Samarra in January 2004. Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river.
Marwan Hassoun testified that he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful current swept Zaidoun away.
Marwan said the body was found in the river nearly two weeks later.
Defense attorneys contended Zaidoun may still be alive, but said if he was dead it was not at the hands of U.S. soldiers.
Perkins did not discuss specifics of the incident on the stand Saturday, but admitted he had ordered his soldiers to throw an Iraqi man into the river in December 2003.