WASHINGTON — Four American soldiers have been charged with cruelty and maltreatment of an 19-year-old soldier who committed suicide after being in Iraq for 10 days, the U.S. military told NBC News Friday.
The four Multi-National Division-South soldiers are accused of hazing Private Keiffer P. Wilhelm of Ohio. They abused Wilhelm with excessive physical fitness, said Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a military spokesman.
One defense official told NBC News that Wilhelm eventually stopped going to public areas to avoid being harassed repeatedly for being overweight.
Olson said the period of time over which the alleged acts took place was under investigation.
The Fort Bliss soldier locked himself inside a portable toilet and shot himself with a rifle on Aug. 4 in Maysan Province, military officials told NBC. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
Military officials identified the charged officers as Sgt. Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt. Bob Clements, Sgt. Jarrett Taylor and Spc. Daniel Weber, all of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Bliss, Texas.
The four soldiers also are accused of abusing other male soldiers, Olson said.
The accused are part of the first brigade to deploy to Iraq for the new Advise and Assist mission, whose job is to train Iraqi security forces to be better soldiers.
Chatman, of West Covina, Calif., was charged with four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making a false statement and one count of reckless endangerment. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 10 years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay, the military said.
Clements, of Eastland, Texas, faces four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, three counts of making a false statement, one count of impeding an investigation and one count of reckless endangerment. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 25 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, the military said.
Taylor, of Edmond, Okla., was charged with two counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making false statement and one count of reckless endangerment. He faces up to eight years in prison, if convicted on all charges.
Weber, of Frankenmuth, Mich., has been charged with three counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of impeding an investigation. The charges together carry a nine-year maximum sentence upon conviction.
Multi-National Division-South has headquarters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
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