Soldier Pleads Guilty To Accessory To Rape, Murder In Iraqi Case Where Girl, Family Were Slain

Wednesday, March 21st 2007, 3:59 pm
By: News On 6

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ A Fort Campbell 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, 20, 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 in the Iraq war.

Howard could get up to 15 years in prison at a sentencing hearing expected to begin later Wednesday.

Five soldiers were charged in the rape of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killings of her, 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 overheard the four planning the attack.

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.''

Howard said he saw blood on one of the soldier's uniforms, but he didn't remember which one.

``I was slowly starting to believe what they had done, that they had committed the crimes, the rape and the murder,'' Howard said.

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, who is accused of being the ringleader but was discharged from the military before being charged, will be prosecuted in a federal court in Kentucky. He pleaded not guilty to charges including murder and sexual assault.

Barker said Howard and another soldier charged, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, did not participate in the rape and killings, but he said they were at the house when the assault occurred and had come knowing what the others intended to do.

Barker was sentenced to 90 years in prison and Cortez received 100.