gets 5 months in Iraq deaths case
GI guilty of covering up deaths of civilians but
acquitted of murder charges
September 29, 2007
BAGHDAD — A military panel on Saturday sentenced an Army
sniper to five months in prison, a reduction in rank and forfeiture
of pay for planting evidence in connection with the deaths of two
Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval, 22, was acquitted of murder charges in the
April and May deaths of two unidentified men. The panel decided he
was guilty of a lesser charges of placing detonation wire on one of
the bodies to make it look as if the man was an insurgent.
"I feel fortunate that I have been served this sentence," Sandoval
said. "I'm grateful that I'm able to continue to be in the Army."
Because he will receive credit for time served and good behavior,
Sandoval must now spend 44 more days behind bars before he can
return to his unit, his lawyer said. His rank will be reduced to
private and he will forfeit his pay for the period of confinement.
The prosecution had argued Sandoval should be sentenced to five
years in prison.
Sandoval, of Laredo, Texas, had faced five charges in the deaths of
the two unidentified Iraqi men. In dramatic testimony during the
two-day court-martial, Sandoval's colleagues testified they were
following orders when they shot the men during two separate
incidents near Iskandariyah, a volatile Sunni-dominated area 30
miles south of Baghdad, on April 27 and May 11.
Sgt. Evan Vela and Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley are both charged in
the case and will be tried separately. All three soldiers are part
of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st
Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division,
based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Gary Myers, one of Vela's lawyers, claimed this week that Army
snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their
targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, then
kill those who picked up the items. He said his client was acting on
Asked about the existence of the "baiting program," Capt. Craig
Drummond, Sandoval's military defense attorney, said it was unclear
"what programs were going on out there and when," especially "if
there were things that were done that made the rules of engagement
Hensley's court-martial is set to begin Oct. 22, while Vela's
pretrial hearing likely will start next week.