GI testifies he saw Iraqi detainee shot by soldier
February 19, 2009
VILSECK, Germany — A soldier serving time for helping dump the bodies of four Iraqi detainees allegedly executed by U.S. forces in 2007 said at a court-martial Wednesday that one of the victims survived an initial shot to the head, only to be finished off by the soldier’s first sergeant.
Spc. Stephen A. Ribordy, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, recounted the incident during the court-martial of Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr.
Leahy, 26, is facing charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice for his alleged role in two separate incidents in which several Iraqi detainees were killed.
Ribordy, 25, said Leahy told him he walked up to the scene of the shootings and "one of the individuals was still breathing and gurgling on the ground."
Ribordy testified that he saw 1st Sgt. John Hatley then shoot the man.
Ribordy said Leahy later told him to dispose of photos that Ribordy had taken of the detainees when they were captured.
"When Leahy told me to get rid of the pictures, he told me he had shot two of the detainees," Ribordy said.
Under cross-examination from the defense attorney, Capt. James Hill, Ribordy revealed that the first time he had mentioned Leahy’s statement to investigating officials was to the prosecution last week at the Army detention center in Mannheim, Germany.
"You told the [Criminal Investigation Command] that you weren’t sure that anyone was even shot that day," Hill said.
He said Ribordy didn’t mention the shooting during previous interviews with the defense counsel, CID, other hearings on the charges or even at his own court-martial.
However, Staff Sgt. John Sellers, who also served with Company A in Iraq, testified Wednesday that while they were still in Iraq, Ribordy had told him about Hatley finishing off the detainees.
Ribordy, who pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact, and another soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, 23, also of Company A, received prison sentences for their roles in the deaths of the four Iraqis in March or April 2007.
Hatley, 40, and another alleged shooter, Sgt. Joseph Mayo, 27, face charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice.
Leahy’s court-martial is expected to continue until Friday.