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NCO faces murder charges in Iraqi detainees’ deaths

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 8, 2009

Charges were referred to court-martial Monday against an Army master sergeant accused in two separate incidents allegedly involving the shooting of Iraqi detainees in Iraq in 2007, the Army said Wednesday afternoon.

Master Sgt. John E. Hatley, 40, is charged with one specification of premeditated murder; one specification of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and one specification of obstruction of justice relating to an incident that occurred in either March or April 2007 in or near Baghdad, according to a statement from 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command.

Late last year, Hatley waived his right to an Article 32 hearing on the charges. Hatley is the highest-ranking of seven soldiers charged in the alleged incident.

However, at the Article 32 hearing for another soldier charged in the incident, witnesses testified that Hatley — then the company first sergeant — told his men that four Iraqi detainees were killed to avenge the deaths of three members of his unit.

Pfc. Joshua Hupp was one of the soldiers who testified in December at the Article 32 hearing for Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo.

Hupp said he was at the canal but didn’t see who pulled the trigger because he was on a security detail. But when the soldiers returned to their combat outpost, Hatley approached them and said: "This was for a few of our comrades who have fallen," Hupp testified.

Hupp testified that Hatley told him to get rid of evidence in the back of the Bradley.

"There were zip cuffs and pieces of cloth in the back. I threw them in a burn barrel. I was scared. I was in Iraq. You didn’t know how high it went," he said, adding that he was afraid of Hatley, the most powerful person at the combat outpost.

In a statement investigators read to the court, Hupp said he was scared and afraid that Hatley would "[expletive] me up."

Spc. Justin Lamanna, who also heard the shots, said Hatley later asked him if he had a problem with what happened.

"I told him ‘no.’ I’m not sure I grasped the situation at the time. I went back to see if Hupp needed help getting the stuff out of the back of the Bradley. There were drops and splatters of blood on the ramp. I cleaned it up," he said.

Hatley is also charged with one specification of premeditated murder and a specification of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder for actions for a separate incident that allegedly occurred in early January 2007, in or near Baghdad.

Hatley is a former member of Schweinfurt, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade.

Four other soldiers are awaiting courts-martial, and two other soldiers were convicted in connection with the March or April incident.

Spc. Belmor Ramos, 23, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 40 years’ confinement. His sentence was reduced to seven months as part of a pretrial agreement in which he agreed to testify against other members of his unit.

Stephan A. Ribordy, 25, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to eight months in prison and given a bad-conduct discharge.

A date for Hatley’s court-martial has not yet been scheduled, officials said.


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