WIESBADEN, Germany – A military court on Thursday found a U.S. Army tank company commander guilty of a criminal charge related to the shooting death of a wounded Iraqi last year.
Capt. Rogelio "Roger" Maynulet (search) stood at attention as Lt. Col. Laurence Mixon, the head of the six-member panel, read the verdict. Mixon did not give reasons for the ruling, which followed 2 1/2 hours of deliberations.
The court was to reconvene later Thursday to consider Maynulet's sentence. The charge -- assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter -- carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors had sought a conviction on a more serious charge of assault with intent to commit murder that carried a 20-year maximum.
Maynulet, 30, maintained that the man was gravely wounded and he shot him to end his suffering.
Maynulet's 1st Armored Division (search) tank company had been on patrol near Kufa, south of Baghdad, when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) and another militiaman loyal to the Shiite cleric, who led uprisings against U.S.-led forces in Iraq last year.
They chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver. The killing was filmed by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft.
In closing arguments earlier Thursday, prosecutor Maj. John Rothwell said that Maynulet "played God" when he shot the wounded driver.
He argued that Maynulet, who was trained in first aid, should not have relied on a medic who said the man was beyond saving, telling him "there's nothing I can do."
"Those five words were enough to make a life and death decision, and he chose to end a life," Rothwell said. "This combat-trained life saver prescribed two bullets. He didn't call his superiors for guidance, didn't consult with his medic."
Maynulet said at this week's court-martial that he shot the man to "put him out of his misery." His lawyers have argued that his actions were in line with the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.
His defense attorney, Capt. Will Helixon (search), argued that conflicting testimony from neurosurgeons about whether the Iraqi was still alive at the time of the shooting required that Maynulet be acquitted.
Maynulet's command was suspended on May 25, but he has remained with the Wiesbaden-based unit.
The U.S. military has referred to the Iraqi driver only as an "unidentified paramilitary member" and has not named al-Sadr directly -- instead referring to a "high profile target" -- but relatives named the driver as Karim Hassan, 36, and said that he worked for al-Sadr.