He was one of three U.S. soldiers implicated in the execution-style shooting of four Iraqi prisoners near Baghdad in March 2007, but 40-year-old Army Master Sgt. John E. Hatley was also believed to have been the main instigator in the incident. On Thursday, Hatley was sentenced to life in prison for murder.

AFP via Google News:

Hatley, who prosecutors said masterminded the killings he committed with two other soldiers, will begin serving his sentence in Germany before being transferred to a US prison. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

During the sentencing hearing, the 40-year-old Hatley told an eight-man army panel that he respected their findings but recounted the stress of dealing with mounting US casualties at the hands of insurgents.

“I understand your decision,” said Hatley, who had pleaded not guilty.

“I’m not perfect, I ain’t no angel” the sergeant said, fighting back tears as he spoke of “policing (cleaning) up the pieces of our soldiers, civilians and friends” following bomb and sniper attacks.

Hatley estimated his company of 150 men had engaged in some 130 firefights, while an army chaplain said they had also suffered a “nightmare” of “easily 250” roadside bomb attacks.

“We knew people were going to die,” Chaplain Seth George added.

But Hatley denied he had cracked under the pressure of relentless attacks, telling the judge “I’m not crazy, sir,” and adding: “I’m an infantryman, sir.”

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