A recently discharged Army private appeared in federal court Monday on charges that he raped and murdered an Iraqi woman after rounding up and killing three members of her family as part of a planned assault in the central Iraqi town of Mahmoudiya.
Steven D. Green, 21, was arrested Friday in Marion, N.C., after a four-day nationwide manhunt. Army investigators recently were told by soldiers in Iraq that Green, accompanied by three other soldiers, had committed the rape and slayings in March while another stayed at their guard post to monitor the radio.
If found guilty of murder, Green could be sentenced to death.
According to the FBI, Green was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to the U.S. before the Mahmoudiya allegations came to light. An affidavit submitted by FBI Special Agent Gregor J. Ahlers in Kentucky said military personnel files showed that a “personality disorder” led to the discharge, which apparently was approved at least two months ago.
Green’s is the first case of alleged wrongdoing by American service members in Iraq to go through the U.S. civilian legal process. Ahlers’ six-page affidavit -- submitted Friday in support of a request for an arrest warrant -- is one of the most detailed public accountings of abuse accusations from the Iraq war.
More than 30 soldiers have been implicated in the wrongful deaths of Iraqi civilians. Those incidents include the November deaths of 24 men, women and children in the western town of Haditha and the May killings of three detainees in a province north of Baghdad. Last week, the U.S. military said it had charged two soldiers in the February shooting death of an unarmed Ramadi resident.
The killings have fanned unease between Iraqi officials and the U.S. military, and the incident in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, is considered likely to further aggravate tensions because of its violent, sexual nature.
Ahlers said his information came largely from Army investigators, who interviewed at least three of the five soldiers allegedly involved in the Mahmoudiya incident. An Army official said that besides Green, none of the soldiers had been charged or detained but were under close supervision in Iraq.
Green and the other soldiers came from the 502nd Infantry Regiment, which is attached to the 4th Infantry Division.
In Ahlers’ affidavit, two of the soldiers described themselves as mainly standing watch outside the civilians’ house while Green and another soldier -- identified as Known Participant 1 -- allegedly raped the woman. The third soldier interviewed said he was told to stay behind and monitor the radio while the others went to the woman’s house. All three have submitted sworn statements.
According to their accounts, Green and the other soldier were drinking alcohol -- a prohibited activity for U.S. troops in Iraq -- while manning a checkpoint on the night of March 11. They started talking about having sex with the woman, whom they had seen during a visit to her house. The house was about 650 feet from the checkpoint, one soldier told investigators.
After the decision was made to rape the woman, according to the FBI affidavit, three of the soldiers changed out of their uniforms and into dark clothes. One soldier told investigators that Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt. One of the soldiers told investigators he changed clothes so he “wouldn’t be seen.”
The affidavit said that four of the soldiers then grabbed three rifles and a shotgun and headed to the house. The fifth soldier was said to have stayed behind at the checkpoint.
According to the accounts of the two who stood guard, Green went into a back bedroom, closed the door and shot three family members. An Army official said the three were believed to be the woman’s mother, father and sister, approximately age 5. “Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone: ‘I just killed them, all are dead,’ ” the FBI affidavit said.
Around the same time, the soldier identified as Known Participant 1 grabbed the woman -- believed to have been about 20 -- and threw her on the floor, the affidavit said. The two soldiers acting as guards told investigators that Green and the other soldier raped the woman before Green picked up an AK-47 assault rifle he had found at the house and killed her.
“After the rape, [one guard] witnessed Green shoot the woman in the head two to three times,” the affidavit said.
One of the soldiers who stood watch said Green later told him to dispose of the AK-47 in a canal across the street from the checkpoint. All four soldiers, who returned to the checkpoint with bloody clothes, burned what they were wearing, according to the soldier who said he monitored the radio during the attack.
The incident was brought to the attention of U.S. forces the next day, when Iraqis told soldiers at the checkpoint that four members of their family had been killed and the house had been set on fire.
The incident did not raise suspicions at the time because it was believed to have been the work of insurgents.
Army investigators took at least 15 photos of the scene, the FBI affidavit said, which show three dead Iraqis, including the young girl, with bullet wounds. Other photos show the burned body of what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso.
The possible involvement of U.S. personnel came to light two weeks ago, when a soldier in the 502nd Infantry Regiment came forward with rumors of the March incident during a “combat stress debriefing” concerning the capture and slayings of two soldiers from the same unit by Iraqi insurgents.
Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., were killed in that incident, and their remains were found June 19. Spc. David J. Babineau of Springfield, Mass., was killed at the site of the kidnapping.
Green appeared in a Charlotte, N.C., courtroom Monday, where he was charged with four counts of unlawful killing and one count of a forced sexual act. Cecilia Oseguera, a public defender who represented Green, declined to comment.
A warrant for his arrest was issued Friday by a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in the western district of Kentucky; the 101st Airborne Division, which the 502nd Infantry is normally part of, is based at Ft. Campbell, Ky.
Marisa Ford, chief criminal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in western Kentucky, said Green had the right to a procedural hearing in Charlotte before being transported to Kentucky.
At that hearing, scheduled for July 10, prosecutors must show they have enough evidence to support an arrest. Until then, Green will held in Charlotte without bail.
Ford said prosecutors were expected to move forward to seek Green’s indictment within a month.
An Army official said Green’s case could move to the military criminal justice system, but civilian prosecutors were considered likely to resist such a move.
The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in 2000, allows for the civilian prosecution of crimes committed abroad by American service members.
Times staff writer Richard Fausset in Atlanta contributed to this report.