US soldier charged in civilian deaths accepts plea bargain: report

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[JURIST] Specialist Jeremy Morlock has accepted a plea agreement offered by US Army [official website] prosecutors, according to a Washington Post report [text] Wednesday. Under the agreement, Morlock, charged [JURIST report] in June in the deaths of three Afghan civilians in separate incidents between January and May, agreed to offer testimony against 10 fellow defendants in exchange for receiving a maximum sentence of 24 years imprisonment. A military judge is expected to review the agreement at Morlock’s court-martial, at which time Morlock’s lawyers may request the judge to impose a lesser sentence. The proceedings are scheduled for next month at Morlock’s home base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord [official website].

Investigations into Morlock’s unit, the 5th Stryker Brigade, have led to charges against several soldiers. Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in December to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers following a plea agreement that will allow him to remain in the military after serving a nine month sentence and testifying against other soldiers accused of terrifying civilians. Earlier in the week, the US Army had ordered a court-martial [JURIST report] for Staff Sgt. David Bram, who was accused of severely beating an Army private in his unit to keep him from informing about alleged drug abuse within the unit. The Army announced in May that its Criminal Investigation Command was opening an investigation into the civilian deaths [JURIST report] in Kandahar. The charges are the latest in a number of incidents involving US soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, a military appeals court reversed the conviction [JURIST report] of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian. In December 2009, former soldier Steven Green appealed his conviction [JURIST report] for his role in the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl. Green was sentenced to five consecutive life terms [JURIST report] in September 2009.

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