A US Army sergeant was convicted March 30 and sentenced to 35 years in prison for killing four unarmed Iraqi prisoners in 2007. Sgt. First Class Joseph Mayo, formerly of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry and two other soldiers were charged in September with shooting the four bound and blindfolded prisoners and disposing of their bodies in a canal.
Mayo pleaded guilty at his court-martial proceeding, saying he shot the prisoners because he feared they would be released due to lack of evidence against them. The killings followed a series of attacks against US troops and may have been retribution for the deaths of two US soldiers. Sgt. John Hatley, also charged in the killings, faces court martial proceedings beginning April 13. According to Mayo’s lawyer, Mayo has agreed to testify against Hatley.
The third man charged, Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., was convicted in February and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, originally an alleged co-conspirator against whom charges were dropped, testified against Leahy at his trial. Fellow unit members Spc. Belmor Ramon and Spc. Steven Ribordy pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and accessory to murder, respectively, in connection with the incident. (Jurist, March 30)