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Soldier to plead guilty in Afghan slayings

Soldier to plead guilty in Afghan slayings
Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock (file/U.S. Army/UPI)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., March 22 (UPI) -- A U.S. soldier facing court-martial in the deaths of three Afghan civilians will plead guilty in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence, one of his lawyers said.

Geoffrey Nathan, representing Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock, said his client admitted to the killings and other related charges and is expected to plead guilty during a hearing Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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"My client is admitting on the record to three counts of murder, plus one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery and one count of illegal drug use," Nathan said.

German news magazine Der Spiegel published three photographs of two U.S. soldiers accused of killing Afghan civilians last year. One photo showed Morlock smiling as he lifts the head of a dead, bloodied Afghan man.

A court-martial is scheduled to begin Wednesday for Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, one of several soldiers charged in an incident last year where the Army says three Afghan civilians were slain by members of the 5th Stryker Brigade operating in Kandahar province.

Once Morlock stipulates to the facts in the case, Nathan said he would ask the court to consider the defendant's overall military record, and any mitigating factors. He said Morlock may testify in other cases related to the incidents.

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Of the 12 soldiers charged in the incident, only five are charged with murder. The others faced charges such as assault and drug use. Hearings for five of the seven remaining defendants have ended, with the five being convicted, confined and likely facing discharge, the Journal said.

The U.S. Army issued a statement of apology Monday and said it would investigate the release of the photos. A spokesman said the photos were "sealed under a protective order" as part of the proceedings.

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