- U.S. soldier enters no plea in 2009 Iraq shootings
- Australia's hoax collar bomber jailed for 13 years
- Denver man accused of threatening to kill Obama mentally ill, judge says
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 08:40 PM PST
TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow servicemen at a military combat stress centre in Baghdad in 2009 entered no plea at an arraignment on Monday at a military base in Washington state.
Sergeant John Russell, 48, is accused of going on a shooting spree at Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport, in an assault the military said at the time could have been triggered by combat stress.
Russell, of the 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, faces five charges of premeditated murder, one charge of aggravated assault and one charge of attempted murder in connection with the May 2009 shootings. Six months ago, he was ordered to stand trial in a military court that has the power to sentence him to death, if he is convicted.
Two of the five people killed in the shooting were medical staff officers at the counselling centre for troops experiencing combat stress. The others were soldiers.
Russell, tall and broad-shouldered with a military crew-cut and glasses, was mostly silent during the 15-minute hearing, answering only "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to the judge's questions.
Russell's attorney, James Culp, waived hearing of the charges on Russell's behalf and entered no plea for him, which is common practice in military justice procedure. No date has been set for the court-martial, but both military prosecutors and defence attorneys indicated on Monday that it could begin in March.
The arraignment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, comes at a sensitive time for the Army, which is in the process of deciding how to prosecute Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a soldier accused of killing Afghan villagers in cold blood earlier this year.
A two-week hearing at Lewis-McChord to establish if there is sufficient evidence to send Bales to a court-martial wrapped up last week after harrowing testimony from Afghan adults and children wounded in the attack.
Bales' civilian defence lawyers have suggested he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
On Monday, Russell's attorney outlined a defence based on his declining mental state.
Russell suffered from depression, thoughts of suicide, anxiety and stress from multiple deployments, and suffered "at least one traumatic experience involving civilian casualties" and "mass grave sites" while serving in Bosnia and Kosovo during 1998 and 1999, Culp said in presenting arguments to the judge after the arraignment.
Culp and military defense lawyers, through telephone testimony presented by forensic psychiatric experts, told the judge they planned to use a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test to prove that Russell had brain damage.
Another defense witness testified that forensic hypnosis would be needed to unlock Russell's memories of the shootings on May 11, 2009.
Government witness Dr. Ronald Schouten, a forensic psychiatrist at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, argued against the effectiveness of either.
"If we're doing brain imaging now, it doesn't tell us what it was three years ago," Schouten said. Later, he added: "Hypnosis has long been recognized as invalid and prone to providing inaccurate information."
Dr. Robert Sadoff of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the country's top experts in forensic psychiatry, is scheduled to testify as a defense witness on Tuesday.
(Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Peter Cooney and Mohammad Zargham)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 08:07 PM PST
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A man who strapped a fake collar bomb around the neck of a Sydney schoolgirl and then fled to the United States was jailed for 13 and a half years on Tuesday after an Australian court ruled he had instilled unimaginable fear into his victim.
The case sparked an international manhunt and led to a tense 10 hours for teenager Madeleine Pulver after the man broke into her family's luxury home last August and strapped what he said was a bomb around her neck, leaving a note demanding money.
The collar bomb turned out to be fake.
Police in the United States arrested Paul Douglas Peters, 52, in Kentucky about two weeks after the incident after he was tracked down through email accounts.
Defence lawyers said Peters had suffered depression in the months before the attack and had no memory of his actions, but prosecutors said Peters had planned to target a neighbour of the Pulver family, but broke into the wrong house.
"He would have appreciated the enormity of what he was doing and the terrible effect and consequences of his actions on the victim," Sentencing District Court Judge Peter Zahra said. "The fear instilled can only be described as unimaginable."
He sentenced Peters, who pleaded guilty to aggravated break and enter, to 13 years and six months in prison, with a minimum 10 years to be served before he can apply for parole.
Outside the court, Pulver said she was pleased Peters would not be able to reoffend, and that the court acknowledged the impact of his crime on her family.
"It was good to hear the judge acknowledge the trauma (Peters) has put my family and me through," she said.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 07:16 PM PST
DENVER (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Colorado man charged with threatening to kill President Barack Obama during a visit to the state is severely mentally ill and must remain in custody, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
Mitchell Kusick was arrested this month by the U.S. Secret Service at his parents' suburban Denver home after his mental health therapist told police last month that Kusick had revealed to the therapist that he wanted to kill the president, and had been trying to keep track of his visits to the Denver area.
A U.S. Secret Service affidavit showed that Kusick also "made credible threats and took steps" toward shooting and killing children at a trick-or-treat Halloween event sponsored by a Denver-area high school.
"It's clear to the court that the defendant has a severe mental illness," U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kristin Mix said in denying a request from Kusick's attorney to allow him to be released on bond.
Mix said Kusick had been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and posed a "risk to the community."
Kusick's attorney, Marci Gilligan, argued that Kusick should be released under electronic monitoring pending trial and be required to live with his parents and to take medications to control his illness.
She said he had "a breakdown" on October 28 and sought help by calling his therapist for an emergency appointment.
Kusick was hospitalized for mental disorders from October 29 to November 9, when mental health providers decided he was not then a threat, Gilligan told the judge.
The Secret Service, who had interviewed Kusick in a mental ward, arrested him because "they were concerned for the community's safety," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hosley said.
The Secret Service agent's affidavit said Kusick had told his therapist he had had daily homicidal fantasies for years. An agent testified on Monday that books about assassinations were found during a search of the home of Kusick's parents, where he had been living.
(This story corrects headline to say "man accused of threatening" instead of "man who threatened"; corrects paragraphs 1-2 to show death threat was not tied to a specific visit; removes timing of diagnosis in paragraph 5)
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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