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Soldier Faces Rape, Murder Charges

November 15, 2006

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ A soldier in the 101st Airborne Division was arraigned Wednesday on military charges in the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing of her family, charges that could bring the death penalty.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez is accused of plotting in March to rape and kill the teenager in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad. He did not enter a plea Wednesday and no trial date was set.

Three other soldiers and a former private from the division’s 502nd Infantry Regiment also face charges related to the attack.

Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman could face the death penalty if convicted in courts-martial at Fort Campbell, a judge ruled in October.

Former private Steve Green, 21, accused of plotting the attack, pleaded not guilty last week to charges including murder and sexual assault. He was discharged from the Army for a ``personality disorder″ before the allegations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say if they will pursue the death penalty against him.

The indictment alleges that Green and others raped the girl and burned her body to conceal their crimes. It also alleges that Green and four others stationed at a nearby checkpoint killed her father, mother and 6-year-old sister.

Spc. James P. Barker, another defendant, has signed a plea agreement and agreed to testify against the others, according to his civilian defense attorney, David Sheldon. He has already given investigators vivid accounts of the assault.

The slayings were among the worst in a series of cases of alleged killings of civilians and other abuses in Iraq.

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