U.S. Soldier to Face Court Martial on Iraq Murder Charges

A U.S. Army sergeant will face a court-martial on murder charges for alleged involvement in the killing of four Iraqi prisoners who were found bound, blindfolded, shot and dumped in a Baghdad canal, the military said Tuesday.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo, 27, will be court-martialed on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice stemming from the spring 2007 incident, the military said in a statement.

At a hearing last month, Mayo's attorney told a military panel there was not enough evidence to bring his client before a court-martial.

But the panel decided to recommend the case be taken to one, the military said. No date has been set for the proceeding.

Mayo is one of seven soldiers implicated in the case, and could receive a life sentence without parole if convicted.

Mayo has been implicated by other soldiers who were on the patrol. All soldiers involved were with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, which is now part of the Germany-based 172nd Infantry Brigade.

Two other soldiers, Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr., of Lockport, Illinois, and Sgt. John E. Hatley are said to have been directly involved in the shootings.

According to testimony, four Iraqis were taken into custody after a firefight sometime between March 10 and April 16, 2007.

The prisoners were then taken to the U.S. unit's operating base in Baghdad. Later that night, according to testimony, members of the patrol took the Iraqis to a remote location and killed them in retribution for attacks.

Other members of the patrol have already been sentenced or are awaiting their trials.

Spc. Steven Ribordy, 25, of Salina, Kansas, and Spc. Belmor Ramos, 23, of Clearfield, Utah, have pleaded guilty in the case and have been sentenced to prison.

Court-martials on charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder are planned at an unspecified date for two other soldiers, Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, 27, of Bakersfield, California, and Sgt. Charles Quigley, 28, of Providence, Rhode Island.

The hometowns of Mayo and Hatley were not released.

No date has been set for Leahy and Hatley's separate courts-martial on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice stemming from the incident.

Leahy and Hatley face additional charges of murder for a separate incident in January 2007. The Army has not provided details of that incident.