A former U.S. soldier received five consecutive life sentences Friday for his role in the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the slaying of three of her family members.
"What the defendant did was horrifying and inexcusable," U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell said in sentencing Steven Dale Green, 24. "The court believes any lesser sentence would be insufficient."
A civilian jury convicted Green in May of raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, conspiracy and multiple counts of murder.
Green shot and killed the teen's mother, father and sister, then became the third soldier to rape her before shooting her in the face. Her body was set on fire March 12, 2006, at their rural home outside Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Green was the first person charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a law passed in 2000 that allows U.S. authorities to prosecute former military personnel, contractors and others for crimes committed overseas.
Unanimous decision couldn't be reached
The panel couldn't reach an unanimous decision about whether Green should get a death sentence, automatically making Green's sentence life in prison. Barring a successful appeal or presidential pardon, Green will not be eligible for release from prison.
Green told the judge he merely followed orders from other soldiers involved in the attack.
"You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever," Green said. "If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything."
At a hearing in May, Green repeatedly apologized to the al-Janabi family, saying he knew little about Iraqis and realizes now his actions then were wrong. Green described the attacks as "evil" and said when he dies "there will be justice and whatever I deserve, I'll get."
During Green's trial, defense attorneys never contested Green's role in the attacks. Instead, they focused on saving his life by putting on witnesses that testified that the military failed Green on multiple fronts — by allowing a troubled teen into the service, not recognizing and helping a soldier struggling emotionally and providing inadequate leadership.
During the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Patrick Bouldin said Green tried to take responsibility for his role in the attacks, twice offering to plead guilty and serve life in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Ford said one offer came on the eve of jury selection, the other two weeks into jury selection.
‘All I ever did was what they told me’
Green and four other soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were investigated after the killings. Three who went to the family's home, along with Green, received lengthy sentences up to 110 years but will become eligible for parole in seven years. Another who had a lesser role was released from military prison after serving 27 months.
All except Green were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and faced a military trial, known as a court martial. Two of the soldiers who were at the home when Green shot the family pleaded guilty and a military jury convicted a third.
Green said the idea of his co-defendants being out of prison one day is "all right with me."
"They planned it," Green said. "All I ever did was what they told me to do."
By the time the Army pressed charges in June 2006, Green had been honorably discharged with a personality disorder and returned to the United States. Because Green had been discharged, prosecutors filed an indictment against him as a civilian.