G.I. gets 45 days for assault of Iraqis

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Army platoon leader was sentenced Tuesday to 45 days in a military prison for his role in forcing three Iraqi civilians into the Tigris River.

Army 1st Lt. Jack Saville also must forfeit $2,000 of his military salary each month for six months, military judge Col. Theodore Dixon ruled.

Prosecutors had recommended Saville, who chose a nonjury trial, be discharged from the Army.

"I hope to use these experiences for greater good," Saville, a 25-year-old West Point graduate, read from a statement.

Saville pleaded guilty Monday to assault and other crimes for forcing two curfew violators into the river at gunpoint in January 2004 near Samarra. One of the men allegedly drowned.

Soldier avoids 9-year sentence
Saville was convicted Tuesday of a lesser assault charge for doing nothing to stop another Iraqi man from being forced into the river near Balad in December 2003.

The charges carried a maximum 9-year sentence, though a plea deal capped the sentence at 15 months; that part of the agreement was kept secret so the judge would not be influenced, Army officials said.

During sentencing Tuesday, Saville apologized, saying his poor decisions "adversely affected U.S.-Iraqi trust during critical times of reconstruction." He said he has learned from his mistakes and has been forgiven by God.

Earlier Tuesday, former soldier Terry Bowman testified that before the Balad incident, Saville laughed and said it was part of a bet with another platoon over who would do such a thing first. The actual orders, however, were given by Saville's co-defendant, Staff Sgt. Tracy Perkins.

Manslaughter charge dropped in plea deal
Perkins was acquitted in January of manslaughter in the Samarra incident, but convicted of assault and obstruction of justice in both incidents. He was sentenced to six months.

In the Samarra incident, Saville ordered his soldiers to throw cousins Zaidoun and Marwan Hassoun into the river at gunpoint.

Saville also had been charged with manslaughter in Zaidoun Hassoun's reported death, but that charge — along with counts of conspiracy and lying to investigators — was dropped in the plea deal.

Defense lawyers maintain Zaidoun Hassoun survived, though defense attorney Frank Spinner on Tuesday said he didn't know why the body purported to be his was not exhumed. A judge in December granted Spinner's request for an exhumation and autopsy.

Spinner, who had asked the judge to consider Saville's West Point career and valor in Iraq, said he "can't complain about the sentence."

"I asked the judge to use wisdom and to provide an expansive interpretation of Army values," he said.

Prosecutors declined to comment.

Saville and Perkins are part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo., which is part of the 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Hood.

Higher-ranking officer under investigation
Monday's deal included an agreement by Saville to testify against a higher-ranking officer accused of ordering him and other soldiers to execute certain Iraqi suspects if they caught them.

Saville said Capt. Matthew Cunningham, his company commander, gave him the names of five Iraqis who "were not to come back alive" if they were caught during a series of raids in Samarra on Jan. 3, 2004. The Hassoun cousins were not on the list.

Cunningham, also stationed at Fort Carson, is under investigation but has not been charged, according to a spokesman for the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division.