US Army sergeant pleads not guilty to killing Iraq detainees

US Army Sgt. John Hatley entered a plea of not guilty to murder charges at his court-martial April 13 for the killing of four unarmed Iraqi prisoners in 2007. Hatley, along with Sgt. Michael Leahy, Jr. and Sgt. 1st Class John Mayo, was charged in September with premeditated murder, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. Hatley also faces murder charges for a separate killing of a prisoner during early January 2007. The trial opened at a US military base in Germany, with a verdict expected later this week. If convicted, Hatley could face life in prison.

Last month, Mayo was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder after he pleaded guilty at his court-martial proceedings. He has also agreed to testify against Hatley. Leahy 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, April 13)

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