US soldier acquitted of Iraqi civilian premeditated murder charges

[JURIST] A military panel Friday found US Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval not guilty of murder in the shooting deaths of three unarmed Iraqis but convicted him of planting evidence to cover up the shootings. Sandoval, along with Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley and Sgt. Evan Vela, was charged [press release; JURIST report] with premeditated murder and wrongfully placing a weapon with the remains of a deceased Iraqi for his role in the incident, which took place between April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, Iraq [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Sandoval is expected to be sentenced on Saturday. His lawyers expect a sentence of no more than six months in prison for misplacement of public property, while prosecutors argued for a five-year sentence for obstructing justice.

Sandoval pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to these charges when his court-martial in Iraq Wednesday. Vela and Hensley will be tried separately. Vela's lawyer has argued that Vela was simply following orders to "bait" suspected Iraqi insurgents with materials that could be used to aid the insurgency and then kill them. In August, Hensley refused to accept a plea agreement [JURIST report], saying he was innocent of the charges against him. AP has more.


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