Whistleblower in Afghan killings reaches plea deal

A soldier who tried to blow the whistle on a plot to murder Afghan civilians last year — only to later say he was pressured into taking part himself — has reached a plea deal under which he will serve no more than eight years in prison, a person familiar with the case said Monday.

Spc. Adam Winfield of Cape Coral, Fla., will plead guilty on Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Winfield had not yet entered the plea.

The Army had charged him with premeditated murder, and he could have spent life in prison. Under the deal, Winfield will agree to testify against others charged in the case, including Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Mont., who has been portrayed as the ringleader.

Winfield and Gibbs are among five soldiers accused in the three killings during patrols in Kandahar Province last year.

Gibbs also is accused of keeping severed fingers from the dead and other misconduct, including leading others in beating up a soldier who reported drug use in the unit.

After he learned about the first killing, he sent Facebook messages home to his family expressing his disgust, and told them he was being pressured to join the plot. His father called Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Winfield's unit is based, but the Army took no action until months later when investigators heard about the plot from someone else.

"Should I do the right thing and put myself in danger for it. Or just shut up and deal with it," he wrote his parents after the first killing. "There are no more good men left here. It eats away at my conscience everyday."

Winfield's father told the AP last fall that his son had tried to blow the whistle on the plot, and the story prompted an Army investigation into the way the warning was handled. The sergeant at Lewis-McChord who took the call told the investigators he didn't report the call up the chain of command because there was no standard operating procedure for doing so.

Winfield's family declined to immediately comment on the plea deal Monday. An Army spokesman refused to confirm the deal, saying Winfield's court-martial was set for Friday and more information would be released Thursday.