Soldier Guilty in Fatal Shooting

Agencies

Los Angeles Times

January 23, 2005

BAGHDAD — A U.S. military court convicted a 1st Cavalry Division soldier of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an Iraqi interpreter and sentenced him Saturday to three years in prison, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.

Spc. Charley L. Hooser, 28, of Midland, Texas, also was found guilty of making a false statement to investigators after the Nov. 24 killing of the female interpreter, which occurred at an Army base in Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

Another soldier, Spc. Rami Dajani, 24, was convicted of making a false statement in the case, but involuntary manslaughter charges against him were dropped. Dajani was sentenced to 18 months confinement, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge, the military said.

Both men pleaded guilty and offered tearful apologies before they were sentenced.

The soldiers originally told investigators that Luma Hadi, 28, accidentally shot herself, according to testimony Saturday at Camp Victory near Baghdad.

Hadi helped interview Iraqis taken into custody by U.S. forces. Hooser said that he and Dajani were her close friends and that they had been playing around in the office where they worked. She was laughing and joking, Dajani said.

"Somebody said something about shooting someone. We said we could just kill Luma," Hooser testified in court.

Both men said Dajani reached into a locker where Hadi had stored a pistol she carried for her protection and handed it to Hooser without checking whether it was loaded. Hooser said he pointed the gun at Hadi and squeezed the trigger, also without checking it.

"I can never say 'sorry' enough," Hooser said in court. "I killed a friend in a split second of stupidity. I have no excuse."

Hadi was the mother of a 6-year-old girl. U.S. authorities paid the family $25,000 in compensation for her death, Capt. Lawrence Edell said.

Hadi's family did not attend court because it was too dangerous to travel there, her brother, Ali, said. He broke down in tears when he heard about Hooser's sentence. "I am happy, because he was punished by the law," he said, "but I am sad because I remember my sister."

Hooser, who has served in the Army for eight years, has three young children. Dajani, a Palestinian who attended school in the U.S. and said he enlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has an infant daughter.<>