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3 soldiers charged in deaths of Iraq detainees

Army accuses soldiers of premeditated murder

By MATT MILLHAM | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 18, 2008

The U.S. Army on Tuesday charged three Germany-based soldiers with premeditated murder in connection with the deaths of Iraqi detainees from two separate incidents in early 2007.

First Sgt. John E. Hatley, 40; Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo, 27, and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr., 26, all formerly assigned to 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with one specification each of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice, stemming from an incident in March or April 2007 in or near Baghdad, according to an Army statement.

The Army also charged Hatley and Leahy with premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder for a separate incident that occurred in or near Baghdad in early January 2007, according to the Army release. Leahy also faces a specification of accessory after the fact stemming from that incident.

"Preferral of charges represents an accusation only," according to the Army statement, and the men are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Questions about a possible Article 32 hearing, which would presumably precede any courts-martial proceedings, were not answered by deadline Wednesday.

In July, the Army charged four other soldiers with conspiracy to commit premeditated murder in connection with the later incident. Two of the soldiers, Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, 27, and Sgt. Charles Quigley, 28, faced an Article 32 — similar to a civilian grand jury — in late August, and are waiting to find out if they will face courts-martial.

The other two soldiers, Spc. Belmor Ramos, 23, and Spc. Steven Ribordy, 25, waived their rights to an Article 32, and the Army announced last week that both will face general courts-martial. Ramos’ court-martial is scheduled to begin Thursday morning, according to a previous statement from 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command.

At the Article 32 in August, witnesses identified Hatley, Mayo and Leahy as the shooters in the deaths of four unarmed Iraqi detainees near a canal in southwest Baghdad in April 2007. At least 15 soldiers were at or near the site of the killings, according to witnesses’ recollections of the incident.

Mayo and Leahy confessed their roles to Army investigators in January, according to sworn statements that were entered into evidence during the Article 32 and provided to Stars and Stripes by a person who insisted on anonymity and has an interest in the outcome of the legal proceedings. Hatley apparently didn’t make a statement to investigators.

According to witnesses at the Article 32, Hatley instructed his soldiers to keep quiet about the killings, and, apparently, they did for at least eight months.

In January, Cunningham came forward, evidently bringing the case to the military’s attention for the first time.


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