A former U.S. Army sergeant testified Wednesday that an ex-soldier charged with killing a family in Iraq and raping a teenage girl had twice acknowledged committing the attack in the days after the bodies were discovered.
Anthony Yribe, who was in the same unit of the 101st Airborne Division with Steven Dale Green, told jurors that Green admitted to the crimes in two separate interviews, one hours after the attack March 12, 2006, and again the next day.
Yribe said he met Green and another soldier at a traffic checkpoint after seeing the bodies.
"Green said something to the effect of, 'I did that,'" Yribe said during testimony on the third day of Green's trial in U.S. District Court.
During an interview the next day, Yribe again questioned Green about details of the crime. Yribe said Green accurately described how many bodies there were and where they were in the house. But Green refused to implicate any other soldiers.
"He said he did it alone," said Yribe.
Yribe testified he was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement for not telling military investigators about his conversation with Green. He said that as part of a deal with prosecutors, the charges were dismissed and he accepted an other-than-honorable discharge from the Army in 2008.
A dozen charges
Green, 23, has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges against him, including sexual assault and four counts of murder.
Prosecutors have said Green was the triggerman among a group of soldiers who attacked the family near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles outside Baghdad. They said he shot 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi's parents and 6-year-old sister, then was the third to rape the teen before shooting her in the face several times.
Green faces a possible death sentence if convicted in federal court, where he is being tried because he had been discharged from the Army before charges were brought.
Defense attorneys have asked jurors to consider the "context" of war surrounding Green, painting a picture of young soldiers in harsh wartime conditions, lacking leadership and receiving little help from the Army to deal with the loss of friends.
Other soldiers involved in the attack were prosecuted in military court. Two of those pleaded guilty at court-martial, and a third was convicted. A fourth who stayed behind at a checkpoint while the others went to the family's home pleaded guilty to being an accessory.
Also Wednesday, jurors saw photos taken by Yribe hours after the attack. The photos showed a mother, father and small girl lying in pools of blood with shotgun wounds. Other photos showed badly charred and barely recognizable human remains.
As the photos were shown, Green sat at the defense table, rubbing his eyes, staring at Yribe and looking around the room.
Two interviews recounted
Yribe recounted the two interviews with Green, saying he initially didn't believe his fellow soldier committed the acts.
A superior officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, initiated a criminal investigation in June, after hearing rumors about American involvement in the slayings.
Earlier Wednesday, Kunk testified that he met with Green after his unit had suffered the deaths of several soldiers. Green had apparently told others that he wanted to kill Iraqi civilians, Kunk said.
"I specifically remember asking Steven Green, 'Do you think all Iraqis are bad?' He said, 'No, not all Iraqis are bad, sir,'" Kunk said. "After engaging him and looking him in the eye, I felt comfortable about that."
Kunk said he explained that only a "small percentage" of Iraqis were bad. After the two men exchanged a "firm handshake," Kunk sent Green back to his unit.
In May 2006, Green was discharged from the Army after being diagnosed with a personality disorder.
The federal trial is being held in western Kentucky because the 101st Airborne Division is based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.