SEATTLE, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- A U.S. soldier who admitted his role in a plot to kill Afghan civilians was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for killing a teenage boy.
Pfc. Andrew Holmes' sentence was limited to seven years as part of his agreement to plead guilty in military court Thursday to unpremeditated murder. Holmes also pleaded guilty to smoking marijuana and keeping the finger of an Afghan victim as a souvenir.
He will be given credit for 499 days he has been confined since his arrest in the January 2010 slaying of 15-year-old Afghan Gul Mudinon and could have his term reduced by good behavior.
The (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune reported members of Holmes' family cried as the sentence was read after the presiding judge told the defendant, "I hope and I believe you will have a long and productive life, and I believe a happy life."
Holmes, a member of Fort Lewis-McChord's 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, asked the court for a shorter sentence.
"Please give me the opportunity to be a son, a brother, a nephew," he implored the judge.
"It breaks my heart," he said of the fatal shooting. "I wish I could've stopped this whole thing."
But the judge, Army Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said it appeared to him the soldier had not come to terms with "the awful moral gravity" of his crime, the newspaper said. Hawks said he would have given Holmes a 15-year term if he had the leeway.
The 21-year-old Boise, Idaho, man admitted firing his machine gun at Mudinon and said he knew the youth was probably innocent. He said, however, that he hadn't known about the attack in advance, The News Tribune said.
"I fired six to eight rounds at the man, and I've regretted it ever since," he said.
The youth was one of three Afghan civilians killed by U.S. soldiers, authorities said.
Prosecutors allege the soldiers planted weapons to make it look like the deaths of unarmed Afghans were justified.
The News Tribune said Holmes is the ninth soldier found guilty in the Army's so-called kill team probe. Three more awaiting trials.