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ARMY SNIPERS
ACCUSED OF MURDER

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Sgt. Evan Vela was convicted on February 10, 2008 of murder without premeditation, making a false official statement and of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. He will forfeit all pay and allowances, and will receive a dishonorable discharge. His case is currently on appeal.

In earlier court martials, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley and Spc. Jorge Sandoval were acquitted of murder but convicted of planting evidence on the dead Iraqis. Sandoval was sentenced to five months in prison, his rank was reduced to private and his pay was withheld. Hensley was sentenced to 135 days confinement, reduced in rank to sergeant and received a letter of reprimand.

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News coverage (Note: Hyperlinks are removed as stories no longer appear at their original url. To find a story, try searching the title at the internet search engine of your choice.)

Was soldier jailed to appease Iraqi 'allies'?, Diana West, Townhall, April 10, 2008.

Lawmakers appeal for clemency for Evan Vela, Associated Press, April 4, 2008.

Idaho politicians call for clemency, Associated Press, April 4, 2008.

American sniper hung out to dry, (also a pdf), Marcia Drezon-Tepler, New York Daily News, March 30, 2008.

Sgt. Evan Vela court martial

* Hannity's America (transcript) February 17, 2008.

* US Sniper Gets 10 Years for Iraqi Death, Associated Press, February 10, 2008.

* US soldier convicted of killing Iraqi, Associated Press, February 10, 2008.

* Sniper unit leader tells of ordering shooting, Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2008.

* Army sniper weeps on stand in Iraq, Associated Press, February 9, 2008.

* G.I. Tells of Ordering Unarmed Iraqi’s Death, Solomon Moore, New York Times, February 9, 2008.

* Iraq: US Soldier's Murder Trial Opens, Associated Press, February 8, 2008.

* Murder or Exhaustion in Iraq?, Jim Frederick, Time magazine, February 8, 2008.

QUOTE: A trial unfolding in a makeshift courthouse in a dusty corner of the U.S. Army's main Baghdad base camp complex is demonstrating in stark and dramatic terms just how far some American soldiers are being pushed on the battlefield, just how doggedly the Army is willing to pursue serious alleged crimes like murder — and just how interested the Iraqi government is in the process.

BIG NEWS IN THE SGT. EVAN VELA CASE (AND YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST):

* Dr. Baden Bringing Powerful Medicine to Sniper Murder Trail In Iraq, Nathaniel R. Helms, Defend Our Troops, January 23, 2008.

* Famed Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Baden Will Testify in Iraqi Sniper Murder Trial, Nathaniel R. Helms, Defend Our Troops, January 20, 2008.

News and analysis

* Sgt Vela. Outrageous cruelty: Soldier denied PTSD treatment while awaiting day in court, David Allender, Defend Our Troops, December 10, 2007.

* Sgt Vela. Sniper accused of murder refutes statement, Sgt. Vela says officers changed his account of shooting an Iraqi. He says he thinks the Army 'should have had my back.', Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2007.

Quote: Vela alleges that investigators changed the statement he made to them, and that a military lawyer urged him to waive his right to a hearing -- which he only won back on appeal. Vela has acknowledged that he shot the man, but said he was only doing his job and criticized his commanders for not looking out for him.
"It seems like when they should have had my back, they let me down," Vela said in an interview.
At Tuesday's hearing, Vela's lawyers hope to have the statement thrown out. They say they will ask that he be released from confinement in Kuwait, and that the trial, scheduled to start Jan. 28, be moved to Ft. Richardson, Alaska, where Vela's battalion is based.

* Sgt Vela. Sgt Vela's unit returns home; Vela learns trial date, KPVI, News Channel 6, November 28, 2007.

* Sgt Vela. Report from the closing of the hearing, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2007.

* SSgt Hensley. U.S. sniper cleared of murder charges, Steve Berriman, CBS News, November 10, 2007.

* SSgt Hensley. U.S. sniper sentenced to time served, Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2007.

* Major news: SSgt Hensley. Panel clears Army sniper of murder charges in Iraq, Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2007.

* Sgt Vela. Witness recalls less at Iraq sniper trial, At the court-martial in Baghdad of his onetime superior on murder charges, the GI says he now remembers little about a shooting incident. Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2007.

* SSgt Hensley. U.S. Army sniper on trial in Baghdad: The sergeant's lawyer says three deaths were justified. The military denies planting weapons to draw Iraqi targets. Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2007.

* SSgt Hensley. Court-martial to open in killings of 3 Iraqis, Paul von Zielbauer, New York Times, November 6, 2007.

* SSgt Hensley. Trial starts for U.S. sniper accused of baiting Iraqis, NPR, November 6, 2007.

* Congressman Simpson weighs in on the Sgt Vela case: Read his letter to SECDEF Gates, pdf.

* Sniper team tells of pressure from above, Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2007.

* Major news: Spc. Sandoval. US Army sniper not guilty of murder: gets 5-month sentence in Iraq, Associated Press, September 29, 2007,

* Sgt. Vela. Soldier describes killing unarmed Iraqi, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2007.

* Sgt. Vela. US soldier testifies his sergeant ordered him to shoot and kill unarmed Iraqi man, Associated Press, September 27, 2007.

* U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait', Josh White and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, September 24, 2007.

* Read the appeal from the parents of Sgt. Evan Vela, September 7, 2007

* Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, Parents say son rejects plea deal in Iraq killings, is innocent, Houston Chronicle, August 8. 2007.

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These are facts of the case, according to the military...

NEWS RELEASE FROM CENTCOM, July 2, 2007

Title:

ADDITIONAL SOLDIER CHARGED WITH MURDER

Release Date:

7/2/2007

Release Number:

07-01-03P

Description:

BAGHDAD - A U.S. Soldier has been charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi citizen. The Soldier is the third to be named in an investigation of three alleged unjustified killings during recent military operations in Iraq.

These charges are accusations of wrongdoing. The Soldier is presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any alleged offense.

The Soldier is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. The unit is currently attached to Multi-National Division-Center, Iraq. The alleged offense occurred between April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, Iraq.

Sgt. Evan Vela, of Phoenix, Idaho, is charged with one specification alleging premeditated murder, one specification alleging he wrongfully placed a weapon with the remains of a deceased Iraqi, one specification of making a false official statement, and one specification alleging obstruction of justice. Vela's charges were preferred July 1. He was also placed in pre-trial confinement July 1.

Murder charges were previously announced for Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley and Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr., in connection with similar incidents.

The investigation by Unites States Criminal Investigation Division resulted from reports of the alleged wrongdoing made by fellow Soldiers to military authorities. The investigation continues.

NEWS RELEASE FROM CENTCOM, June 30, 2007

Title:

SOLDIERS CHARGED WITH PREMEDITATED MURDER

Release Date:

6/30/2007

Release Number:

07-01-03P

Description:

BAGHDAD - Two US Army Soldiers have been charged with the premeditated murders of three Iraqi nationals in three separate incidents. 

Charges were announced today. 

These charges are merely an accusation of wrongdoing.  The soldiers are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any alleged offense.

The soldiers are assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.  The unit is currently attached to Multi-National Division - Center, Iraq.  Offenses are alleged to have occurred between April and June, 2007, in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, Iraq.  The two soldiers are charged as follows:

Staff Sergeant Michael A. Hensley, Candler, North Carolina - three specifications alleging premeditated murder, three specifications alleging obstruction of justice, and three specifications of wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of deceased Iraqis.  The Charges were preferred on June 28, 2007, and SSG Hensley was placed into pre-trial confinement in Kuwait on June 28, 2007. 

Specialist Jorge G Sandoval, Jr., Laredo, Texas, one specification alleging premeditated murder and one specification alleging he wrongfully placed a weapon with the remains of a deceased Iraqi.  Spec. Sandoval's charges were preferred on June 28, 2007.

Specialist Sandoval was apprehended on June 26, 2007, while home in Texas, and transferred to pre-trial confinement in Kuwait on June 29, 2007.

The investigation by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division resulted from reports of the alleged wrongdoing made by fellow soldiers to military authorities.  The investigation continues.

Pictures:

Sgt. Evan Vela, keeping watch.

From left: Attorney Dan Conway, attorney Jim Culp, and Sgt.Vela's father, Curtis Carnahan

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