US army unit's incharge was jailed for life for killing Afghan civilians

The ringleader of a rogue US army unit responsible for the “thrill kills” of Afghan civilians was jailed for life on Thursday, after a military jury convicted him of three murders.
A five-member military panel found Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs guilty at the end of a week-long court martial, and said he should serve at least 10 years behind bars before being eligible for parole.
Gibbs was convicted on 15 counts in all, including three of premeditated murder for his role in three killings in southern Afghanistan between January and May last year.
The prosecution portrayed Gibbs as the leader of the rogue unit, which also harvested body parts from the victims as macabre war trophies.
Three members of the unit had already plead guilty in a scandal that has threatened embarrassment for the US military on the scale of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse in Iraq, a scandal exposed in 2004.
Each of the murder convictions carried a minimum life sentence and the prosecution said Gibbs should be refused parole, turning the disgraced soldier’s description of the Afghan civilians as “savages” back on him.
“There is the savage,” said Major Dre LeBlanc, pointing at Gibbs.
“Sergeant Gibbs is the savage.”
But for the defence, attorney Phil Stackhouse asked that the jury bear in mind Gibbs’s wife Chelsy and young son Calvin Jr. when considering a sentence, noting that Gibbs received credit for 547 days of the time served.
In closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutor Major Robert Stelle dismissed Gibbs’s claims that he was responding to the legitimate attack when the team killed the Afghans.
“This is a case about betrayal, the ultimate betrayal. (Gibbs) betrayed his folk, he betrayed his unit, and with the flag of his nation emblazoned across his chest, thousands of miles from home, he betrayed his nation,” Stelle said.
He was accused of setting up the killings, planting weapons on the dead civilians’ bodies to make it look like they were fighters, and then removing fingers and teeth to show off to colleagues.
Gibbs’s court-martial started last week, and in an unexpected appearance on Friday he claimed his unit was engaged in genuine combat – while admitting that he took fingers and teeth from the corpses.
“In my mind, it was like keeping the antlers off a deer you’d shoot. You have to come to terms with the things you’re doing,” he said.
The military prosecutor dismissed those claims during a closing argument lasting more than an hour at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, home to the US army’s 5th Stryker Brigade.
“Selling the engagement as legitimate was part of the plan,” said Stelle, calling Gibbs’s stories “fundamentally implausible.”
Gibbs’s lawyer countered by attacking the credibility of Private Jeremy Morlock and two other members of the kill team, who received lighter sentences by pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against Gibbs.
In addition to attacking Morlock’s statements, defence attorney Stackhouse spent more than two hours pointing out discrepancies in the evidence in an attempt to sway the military jury.
But Stelle called the idea that Morlock and the other kill team members were willing to plead guilty to murder in an effort to foist blame onto Gibbs as “patently ridiculous.”

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