US soldier pleads guilty to firing on unarmed Afghan civilians

[JURIST] Staff Sergeant Robert Stevens pleaded guilty on Wednesday to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers at a trial held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord [official website]. Stevens pleaded guilty [Reuters report] to aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, wrongfully tossing a grenade out of his vehicle, making false statements to military investigators and dereliction of duty. He did not plead guilty to a fifth charge of conspiracy to commit assault. Military prosecutors originally sought a prison term of 18 months, but Stevens stuck a deal with the military prosecutors to testify against other soldiers accused of terrorizing civilians. Stevens stated that he and the other soldiers acted on orders from a squad leader [BBC report]. The charges against Stevens stem from a probe into the 5th Stryker Brigade. Five of the twelve 12 involved in the probe are accused of premeditated murder. Stevens will serve nine months at a military brig on his home base. He will be allowed to stay in the military, but he will be demoted to E-1 private and forfeit his pay while in prison.

The probe into the 5th Stryker Brigade has led to charges against several soldiers. On Monday, the US Army ordered a court-martial [JURIST report] for Staff Sgt. David Bram. Bram is accused of severely beating an Army private in his unit to keep him from informing about alleged drug abuse within the unit. In June, the US Army charged [JURIST report] Specialist Jeremy Morlock with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault in the death of three Afghan civilians. The Army announced in May that its Criminal Investigation Command was opening an investigation into the civilian deaths [JURIST report] in Kandahar. The charges are the latest in a number of incidents involving US soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, a military appeals court reversed the conviction [JURIST report] of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian. In December 2009, former soldier Steven Green appealed his conviction [JURIST report] for his role in the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl. Green was sentenced to five consecutive life terms [JURIST report] in September 2009.

 

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