Sergeant convicted of killing Afghans

Nov. 11, 2011 at 12:19 AM
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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army staff sergeant was immediately sentenced to life in prison Thursday after a court-martial convicted him of killing three Afghan civilians.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs will be eligible for parole after 10 years, The Seattle Times reported. A panel of three officers and three non-commissioned officers heard testimony for a week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Gibbs took over a platoon in Afghanistan after his predecessor was seriously injured by a bomb. Prosecutors said he cultivated a "kill squad" within the platoon that killed unarmed civilians, posed for snapshots with their bodies and cut off body parts as trophies.

"Staff Sgt. Gibbs betrayed his oath," the military prosecutor, Maj. Robert Stelle, told the court Wednesday in his summation. "He betrayed his unit, and with the flag of his nation emblazoned across his chest, thousands of miles from home, he betrayed his nation."

Eleven soldiers have been charged in the case, many of them with lesser crimes. Two have pleaded guilty to murder and one to involuntary manslaughter, and another is awaiting court martial on a murder charge.

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