FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) A military jury recommended a simple reprimand Monday for an Army officer who killed an Iraqi general by stuffing him headfirst into a sleeping bag and sitting on his chest during an interrogation.
As soldiers applauded in the courtroom, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. hugged his wife after hearing the surprisingly light sentence, which will be reviewed by Fort Carson's commander, Maj. Gen. Robert W. Mixon.

The commander cannot order a harsher sentence, defense attorney Frank Spinner said.


Welshofer, 43, was charged with murder, but was convicted over the weekend of negligent homicide and negligent dereliction of duty that carried a penalty of up to three years and three months in prison, a dishonorable discharge, loss of pension and other penalties.

The murder charge carried a potential sentence of life in prison. Instead, Welshofer faces no jail time, the forfeiture of $6,000 in salary and what amounts largely to a restriction to his barracks for 60 days.

"I have the utmost respect for the decision the panel members came to tonight," Welshofer said. "I'm sure it was difficult for them."

Welshofer was convicted of putting a sleeping bag over the head of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, sitting on his chest and using his hand to cover the general's mouth while asking him questions at a detention camp in 2003 in al Qaim, Iraq.

The defense argued that a heart condition caused Mowhoush's death, and that Welshofer's commanders had approved the interrogation technique. Spinner also argued that interrogators were under pressure to extract information from detainees and to find a way to replace techniques that hadn't been working.

Spinner said Mixon can order a lighter sentence and that he might ask the general to set aside the verdict entirely. He contends his client should never have been charged.

After the sentencing, Spinner said the six-member jury apparently accepted his argument that Welshofer did what he thought was right without clear guidance from his commanders during a chaotic time.

"When you send our men and women over there to fight, and to put their lives on the line, you've got to back them up, you've got to give them clear rules, and you've got to give them enough room to make mistakes without treating them like criminals," Spinner said.

During the sentencing hearing, Welshofer fought back tears as he apologized and asked the jury not to separate him from his wife and children by sending him to prison.

"I deeply apologize if my actions tarnished the soldiers serving in Iraq," Welshofer said. "It was never my intent to cast aspersions on their tremendous accomplishments."

After his testimony, Welshofer mouthed "I love you" to his wife, Barbara, who was seated in the gallery. She told the jury she was worried about providing for their three children without her husband, but was proud of him for contesting the case.

"I love him more for fighting this," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "He's always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do."

Lt. Col. Paul Calvert, testifying on Welshofer's behalf, said attacks by Iraqi insurgents around al Qaim, the area where Mowhoush was taken into custody, "went to practically none" when Mowhoush died.

Prosecutor Maj. Tiernan Dolan suggested Mowhoush's death likely denied coalition forces valuable information. He did not call any witnesses at the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors described Welshofer as a rogue interrogator who became frustrated with Mowhoush's refusal to answer questions and escalated his techniques from simple interviews to beatings to simulating drowning, and finally, to death.

Spinner admitted that Welshofer sat on Mowhoush while the general's face was covered by the sleeping bag. But he said Welshofer did nothing illegal, and claimed Army headquarters had told interrogators it was "time to take the gloves off" during questioning because of a need to gather information about an increasingly lethal insurgency.

The weeklong court-martial included dramatic testimony from secret witnesses. One man spoke from behind a green cloak and recalled Welshofer saying rules about interrogation techniques were probably being broken in Iraq "every day."

In the background of the trial was whether the CIA played a role in the attempts to get Mowhoush to talk. The CIA said last year that one of its officers may have been involved in the death, but the agency refused additional comment despite reports that documents said Mowhoush had been beaten by a paramilitary Iraqi group sponsored by the CIA two days before he died.

Chief Warrant Officer Todd Sonnek testified that Mowhoush had been beaten by Iraqis, but he did not identify the civilian interrogators he said were responsible.

Nice how the other soldiers cheered when this guy got off. Really fucking nice...