updated 12/11/2004 3:27:04 AM ET 2004-12-11T08:27:04

A U.S. soldier was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to killing a severely wounded Iraqi teenager, the military said Saturday.

Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne Jr., 30, of Winston-Salem, N.C., also received a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of wages and a dishonorable discharge.

Horne, attached to Company C, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, based in Fort Riley, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of unpremeditated murder and one count of soliciting another soldier to commit unpremeditated murder.

The charges relate to the Aug. 18 killing of a 16-year-old Iraqi male found in a burning truck with severe abdominal wounds sustained during clashes in Baghdad’s Sadr City, an impoverished neighborhood that was the scene of fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite rebels loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

A criminal investigator said during an earlier hearing that the soldiers decided to kill him to “put him out of his misery.”

The military said in a statement that a jury-like panel of seven service members issued the sentence Friday night after about four hours of deliberations.

Horne is among six Fort Riley soldiers charged with killings in recent months — two for slayings in Kansas and four for deaths in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Cardenas J. Alban, 29, of Inglewood, Calif., is charged along with Horne in the teenager’s killing and is awaiting a court-martial hearing.

Two other soldiers from the same unit this week faced Article 32 hearings — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — over a Sadr City killing in August.

An Article 32 hearing was held Thursday for Sgt. Michael P. Williams, 25, of Memphis, Tenn., on charges of premeditated murder, obstruction of justice and making a false official statement. Also charged is Spc. Brent May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, who had a two-day hearing and is awaiting a ruling on whether he will be court-martialed, receive a lesser penalty or be acquitted.

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