TACOMA, Wash. - The first of five US soldiers charged with killing unarmed Afghan civilians last year was sentenced on Wednesday to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of premeditated murder.
The guilty plea and sentencing of Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, of Wasilla, Alaska, marked a turning point in the most serious prosecution of alleged US military atrocities during 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
Under questioning by the judge, Morlock recounted his role in the deaths of three unarmed Afghan villagers whose slayings by grenade blasts and rifle fire were staged to appear as legitimate combat casualties.
"I knew what I was doing was wrong, sir," he said, adding that, contrary to his lawyers' suggestions, his judgment was not impaired by drugs. He admitted smoking hashish three or four times a week during his deployment in Afghanistan.