Friday, August 3, 2007

Army private at Fort Campbell guilty of rape-murder.

Army Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 22, was found guily by a military jury on 3 August of conspiracy to commit rape, rape, housebreaking with intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder according to the AP.

Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pa., was charged in connection with the March 12, 2006, slaying of the girl and the killings of her family. The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders, but alleged he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout. Spielman had pleaded guilty on 30 July to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstructing justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Saturday morning, 4 August. Spielman faces a mandatory life sentence. The jury will decide if he will be eligible for parole.

Spielman's grandmother, Nancy Hess, collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was read and prosecutor Maj. William Fischbach ran to her side and called 911.

Spielman's sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: "I hate the government. You people put him (in Iraq) and now, this happened."Defense attorneys left the courthouse immediately following the verdict and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday when a fellow soldier's recanting of a story that Spielman acted as a lookout during the attack last year.

Spc. James Barker, who has admitted his own role in the assault, said in earlier testimony that he had allowed investigators to draft sworn statements for him that implicated Spielman in the crime.

Barker testified Wednesday, ! August, that several portions of the document were untrue, including references to Spielman's role in the conspiracy to attack the family and his knowledge of plans to rape the girl.

Another soldier convicted in the attack, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, testified that Spielman stood guard as his fellow soldiers raped the girl. Cortez said Spielman was within a few feet of the others as they held down the screaming girl but did nothing to stop them.

Barker, Cortez and another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, pleaded guilty for their roles in the slayings and received sentences of five to 100 years under plea agreements with prosecutors.

Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the Army before being charged, faces a possible death sentence when he is tried in federal court in Kentucky. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder and sexual assault.

Barker and Cortez have given investigators conflicting statements about whether Spielman knew of the plan to rape the girl and was present when they discussed it over swigs from bottles of whiskey and gin mixed with energy drinks, according to testimony.

During their courts-martial, Barker and Cortez testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. Green shot the girl in the head after raping her, they said.

The girl's body was set on fire with kerosene to destroy the evidence, according to previous testimony.

Fort Campbell is a sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

FBI Raid Violated US Constitution.

The FBI violated the Constitution when agents raided U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's office last year and viewed legislative documents in a corruption investigation, a federal appeals court ruled # August, according to the AP.

The court ordered the Justice Department to return any legislative documents it seized from the Louisiana Democrat's office on Capitol Hill. The court did not order the return of all the documents seized in the raid and did not say whether prosecutors could use any of the records against Jefferson in their bribery case.

Jefferson argued that the first-of-its-kind raid trampled congressional independence. The Constitution prohibits the executive branch from using its law enforcement powers to interfere with the lawmaking process. The Justice Department said that declaring the search unconstitutional would essentially prohibit the FBI from ever looking at a lawmaker's documents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that claim. The court held that, while the search itself was constitutional, FBI agents crossed the line when they viewed every record in the office without giving Jefferson the chance to argue that some documents involved legislative business.

"The review of the Congressman's paper files when the search was executed exposed legislative material to the Executive" and violated the Constitution, the court wrote. "The Congressman is entitled to the return of documents that the court determines to be privileged."

The raid was part of a 16-month international bribery investigation of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted $100,000 from a telecommunications businessman, $90,000 of which was later recovered in a freezer in the congressman's Washington home.

Jefferson pleaded not guilty in June to charges of soliciting more than $500,000 in bribes while using his office to broker business deals in Africa. The Justice Department said it built that case without using the disputed documents from the raid.

The court did not rule whether, because portions of the search were illegal, prosecutors should be barred from using any of the records in their case against Jefferson. That will be decided by the federal judge in Virginia who is presiding over the criminal case."Today's opinion underscores the fact that the Department of Justice is required to follow the law, and that it is bound to abide by the Constitution," defense attorney Robert Trout, said, promising more legal challenges to "overreaching by the government in this case."
The Court said the Constitution insists that lawmakers must be free from any intrusion into their congressional duties. Such intrusion, even by a filter team, "may therefore chill the exchange of views with respect to legislative activity," the court held.

The case has cut across political party lines. Former House Speakers Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and Thomas Foley, a Democrat, filed legal documents opposing the raid, along with former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, a Republican.

Conservative groups Judicial Watch and the Washington Legal Foundation were joined by the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in supporting the legality of the raid.

Following his indictment, Jefferson's supporters accused the Bush administration of targeting Black Democrats to shift attention from the legal troubles of Republican congressmen.

"We are confident that as this case moves forward, and when all of the facts are known, we will prevail again and clear Congressman Jefferson's name," Trout said Friday.

Jefferson was re-elected to a ninth term in 2006. His win complicated things for Democratic leaders who promised to run the most ethical Congress in history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stripped Jefferson of his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and placed him instead on the Small Business Committee.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit judges who considered the case were Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson and Judge Judith W. Rogers.

Ginsburg and Rogers served in the Justice Department and Henderson served as deputy South Carolina attorney general. None of the judges served in the legislative branch, though Rogers was counsel to a congressional commission formed to review Washington's municipal structure. Ginsburg and Henderson were appointed by Republican presidents, Rogers by a Democrat.