The case of former Pfc. Steven Dale Green is now scheduled to go to the jury Wednesday. (Mark Humphrey / The Associated Press)
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PADUCAH, Ky. — A former U.S. Army soldier accused of raping an Iraqi girl and killing her and three other members of her family told a superior that the rules of combat were unfair and that he wanted to shoot civilians, one of his commanding officers testified Tuesday.
Steven Dale Green, 23, of Midland, Texas, has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges, including sexual assault and four counts of murder, stemming from the March 2006 attack in Iraq's so-called "Triangle of Death."
Col. Todd Ebel told jurors on the second day of the federal trial that he spoke with Green for about 30 minutes in December 2005 about losing soldiers to enemy attacks. During nearly two hours of sometimes contentious questioning by Green's attorneys, Ebel said Green appeared during that meeting to be upset over losing four friends and fellow soldiers.
"He said he didn't think it was fair the enemy could be dressed as civilians," Ebel said. "He said something to the effect that we ought to be able to shoot them."
Green's frustrations and anger were normal for a soldier who had witnessed the loss of friends in combat and the comments did not give him pause, Ebel said.
"I had no concern he was acting different than any other soldiers," Ebel told the jurors.
Prosecutors said in opening statements that Green and three other soldiers attacked the family — father, mother, and daughters ages 6 and 14 — at their home near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Skaret said Green fatally shot the rest of the family with a shotgun before becoming the third soldier to rape the teenager, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi.
After he shot the girl in the face several times, Green used kerosene to set fire to her body, Skaret said.
Green is being tried in a civilian court because he was discharged from the Army before being charged. Defense attorneys have asked jurors to consider the extraordinary circumstances confronting soldiers while serving in Iraq.
Defense attorney Darren Wolff asked Ebel, who oversaw the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 2nd Brigade, of the 101st Airborne Division, which included Green, if he met with any other private for about a half-hour to discuss "grief counseling."
Ebel said he couldn't remember a similar such meeting with another private, but that he met with numerous soldiers of various ranks while in Iraq.
"You do not recall simply because it did not happen," Wolff said.
Ebel responded sharply: "I do not accept your assertion."
Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, who oversaw Green's unit and others, testified later Tuesday.
Kunk said he first heard from other soldiers that Americans may have been involved in the family's death in June 2006, three months after the attack.
Kunk said he began a commander's inquiry, interviewing all of the soldiers who were at a traffic checkpoint when the attack happened. The interviews didn't shed much light on what went on, Kunk said, so he called in the Army's criminal investigators.
"Something just did not sit right with me," said Kunk, whose testimony was to continue Wednesday. "I could not allow a rumor like this to persist. I either needed to prove it or disprove it."
In defense opening statements Monday, attorney Patrick Bouldin painted a picture of young soldiers in harsh wartime conditions, lacking leadership and receiving little help from the Army to deal with the loss of their friends.
Other soldiers involved in the attack were prosecuted in military court, including two who pleaded guilty and acknowledged taking part in the rape. Prosecutors said a third who was convicted had gone to the family's home knowing what was planned. A fourth who stayed behind at the checkpoint pleaded guilty to being an accessory, they said.
Green's federal trial is being held in Paducah because of the western Kentucky city's proximity to Fort Campbell, where the 101st Airborne is based. His discharge papers show he received an honorable discharge in May 2006 after being diagnosed with a personality disorder.