2nd Soldier to Plead Guilty in Rape, Slay of Iraqi Girl, Family

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

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, of Barstow, California, is expected to plead guilty to rape and premeditated murder during a hearing next month at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 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. Military prosecutors have also declined to discuss legal cases.

The March 12, 2006, killings of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, her parents and younger sister in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of alleged atrocities by U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

Spc. James P. Barker, 24, of Fresno, California, pleaded guilty to rape and murder in November as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to testify against the others. He was sentenced to 90 years in military prison.

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

A fifth defendant, 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 last June. Green will be tried in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.

In a separate case, a Marine corporal was expected to plead guilty Thursday to unpremeditated murder in the death of a 52-year-old Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania, a newspaper reported, citing the corporal's attorney.

Cpl. Trent D. Thomas was scheduled to enter his guilty plea at Camp Pendleton, California, his lawyer Victor Kelley told the North County Times newspaper.

Thomas was among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged in connection with the April 26, 2006, kidnapping and killing of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad.