updated 7/13/2007 9:54:57 PM ET 2007-07-14T01:54:57

A soldier who recently returned from Iraq has admitted he paid someone $500 to shoot him in the leg so he could avoid returning for another tour.

Jonathan Aponte, 20, claimed he had been robbed and shot but changed his story when police questioned him, authorities said. Aponte, who was facing another eight-month tour, had been scheduled to leave last Monday.

"As far as being shot at every day, I think it's better," Aponte told WCBS-TV in an interview that aired Friday. "Mentally I can't do it anymore. I can't handle it anymore."

Aponte was charged with conspiracy and falsely reporting an incident, according to the criminal complaint.

Joke became reality
Apone had joked with his wife about getting shot in the leg so he could avoid another tour, according to the complaint. His wife took the remark seriously, and said she knew a man named who could do the job.

Early Monday morning, the pair met with the man, who agreed to do the job for $500. Aponte told an investigator that he smoked a cigarette and closed his eyes before he was shot.

His lawyer has said Aponte suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the military will evaluate him and decide whether he is fit for duty, provide counseling if needed and then send him back overseas, or discharge him.

Aponte's wife, Alexandra Gonzalez, 22, was charged with assault, conspiracy and harassment.

The couple was arraigned Thursday and released on their own recognizance. The suspected shooter was also arraigned and charged with assault, weapon possession, conspiracy and harassment.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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