Fort Campbell, Ky. A soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to being an accessory to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the slaying of her family.
Pfc. Bryan Howard, 19, of Fort Campbell, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice by lying to his superior officers about the attack last year in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. It was one of the most shocking atrocities committed by U.S. troops in the Iraq war.
Howard agreed to five years in prison under a plea deal but will not serve more than 27 months if he follows conditions of the agreement, military judge Col. Stephen Henley said.
Howard faced up to 15 years in prison. Under the agreement, his rank will be reduced to private and he will be dishonorably discharged. He will also have to testify against others charged in the case.
Five soldiers were charged in the rape and killing of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killings of her parents and her younger sister. Two of the soldiers previously pleaded guilty and said Howard's role was minimal.
Howard told the judge Wednesday he was left behind at a checkpoint while four other soldiers went to rape the girl.
Howard said he only started to realize that someone had been killed after the soldiers returned about 10 minutes later. He said the four soldiers were in a "hectic state and hyper."
Spc. James P. Barker and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, who have pleaded guilty to rape and murder, have said they took turns raping the girl while Pfc. Steven D. Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. Green then shot Abeer in the head, they said.