U.S. soldier gets 8 months, discharge over killings of Iraqis

BERLIN Thu Oct 2, 2008 3:44pm EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty to involvement in the fatal shooting of detainees in Iraq early last year has been sentenced to eight months in jail and will be discharged from the armed forces, the army said Thursday.

Specialist Stephen Ribordy, 25, pleaded guilty at a court martial in Germany to being an accessory after the fact, the army said in a statement. A charge against him of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder was dismissed.

As part of his guilty plea, Ribordy agreed to testify in the trials of other soldiers involved, it added.

Ribordy was present when four unarmed, handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi detainees were shot dead near a canal in Baghdad in March or April 2007, U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, citing court testimony.

An army spokesman was unable to confirm the details of the incident and said the bodies had never been found.

Three other U.S. soldiers have been identified by witnesses as the shooters: Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo, the platoon sergeant, Sergeant Michael P. Leahy Jr., a senior medic and an acting squad leader, and First Sergeant John E. Hatley, the spokesman said, citing court proceedings.

Another Specialist involved in the incident, Belmor Ramos, was last month sentenced to seven months in jail and dishonorably discharged. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and also agreed to testify in the other trials.

Criminal charges have been filed against Hatley, Mayo and Leahy and their courts martial may take place as soon as November, the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers)

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