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Hearing ends for US soldier

accused of killing insurgent

Associated Press, December 12, 2007

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12 December 2007

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - A U.S. Army sergeant should be court-martialed because he shot a severely wounded al-Qaida insurgent, ordered a medic to suffocate him and then shot the unarmed man again because "he just wouldn't die," a military prosecutor said at a hearing Wednesday.

But an attorney for Sgt. Leonardo Trevino, who faces murder and other charges for the alleged June incident in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, said he should not go to trial because witnesses lack credibility and hold grudges against their squad leader.

"This is a battlefield situation that should remain on the battlefield," defense attorney Richard Stevens said.

The investigating officer who presided over the hearing will decide if there is enough evidence to support the charges and then recommend to a commanding officer whether Trevino should have a military trial, called a court-martial.

The defense did not call any witnesses, and Trevino did not make a statement. Two prosecution witnesses, a soldier and an Army investigator, were in Iraq and unable to testify Wednesday by telephone as previously planned.

Trevino is charged with attempted premeditated murder for allegedly shooting the Iraqi in the abdomen, a nonfatal wound, and with premeditated murder for the alleged second shot to the head. Trevino, 30, also is charged with soliciting murder for allegedly telling an Army medic to suffocate the man.

Trevino also is charged with impeding the investigation. He is accused of telling a soldier to drop a gun by the Iraqi's body, telling soldiers to say he had been armed and lying to his superior by saying the man had a gun.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor, Capt. Scott Linger, dropped an assault charge related to Trevino's alleged kicking of the insurgent after he and other soldiers found the man in a house, where he fled after being wounded in a gun battle.

Although the bleeding insurgent posed no threat, Trevino went to great lengths to kill him, even telling soldiers later that "I tried to kill this guy; he just wouldn't die," Linger said, based on Trevino's testimony Tuesday and sworn statements.

But Trevino's attorney said soldiers who testified and submitted statements were immature and disliked Trevino because he disciplined them when they made mistakes. Stevens said Trevino was a tough and outstanding leader, among many who are "making heroic sacrifices every day and who are making heroic contributions to the Army."

Stevens said if a decision is made for Trevino to go to trial, his charges should be reduced because of mitigating factors.

About a month before the June incident, two roadside bomb attacks claimed the lives of six members of the unit, including a close friend of Trevino's.

Stevens also said that after Trevino's "small kill team" went to the dangerous neighborhood that night in June, troops found weapons, ski masks, materials to make improvised explosive devices and al-Qaida propaganda.

"Things happened very quickly, and now we sit in a sterile room and start second-guessing these decisions," Stevens said.

The medic, Spc. John Torres, has been charged with attempted premeditated murder and with dereliction of duty for failing to provide aid.

Cpl. Justin Whiteman, who allegedly placed the pistol by the insurgent's body, has been charged with accessory to attempted premeditated murder and with dereliction of duty for failing to provide aid. Whiteman also is charged with dereliction of duty for violating a law of war after he allegedly shot the body of another insurgent who was dead in the street after the gun battle.

Although Torres and Whiteman invoked their rights not to testify during Trevino's hearing, their sworn statements given previously will be considered as evidence.

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