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2nd soldier expected to plead guilty in rape case

/ Source: The Associated Press

The second of five 101st Airborne Division soldiers accused of raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl along with executing three of her family members last year in Iraq has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, his attorney said Thursday.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, of Barstow, Calif., is expected to plead guilty to rape and premeditated murder during a hearing next month at Fort Campbell, attorney William Cassara said.

“Sgt. Cortez is going to go in and accept the responsibility for his part in what occurred,” Cassara said. “Our version of events is that he knew what was going to take place and participated as an observer.”

Cassara would not discuss specific details of the agreement, but said Cortez will no longer face the death penalty. As a matter of protocol, military prosecutors won’t discuss the case.

The March 12 death of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, her parents and younger sister were considered among the worst in a series of alleged atrocities by U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

Spc. James P. Barker, 24, of Fresno, Calif., pleaded guilty to rape and murder in November as part of an agreement to testify against the others. He was sentenced to 90 years in military prison.

Two others — Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, 22, of Chambersburg, Pa., and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, 23, of Huffman, Texas — await courts-martial in the coming months on charges related to the attack.

A fifth person, former private Steven D. Green, 21, of Midland, Texas, faces federal charges of rape and murder. Green, the alleged ringleader in the attack, was discharged from the military before the allegations surfaced in June.

Green will be tried in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.