Washington: The ringleader of a rogue US
army unit responsible for "thrill kills" of Afghan civilians
has been sentenced to life behind bars.
But a five-person military panel said Staff Sergeant
Calvin Gibbs -- who was found guilty after a week-long court
martial which came to a close yesterday -- would be eligible
for parole after serving at least 10 years.
Gibbs was found guilty of 15 counts in all, including
three charges of premeditated murder for his role in so-called
"thrill kills" in southern Afghanistan between January and May
The prosecution portrayed Gibbs as the ringleader of the
rogue unit, which also harvested body parts from the victims
as grisly war trophies.
Three members of the unit have already pleaded guilty in
a scandal that has threatened embarrassment for the US
military on the scale of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse in Iraq,
disclosed in 2004.
Each of the convictions for murder carried a minimum
sentence of life in prison, but his defence team successfully
managed to avoid life without the possibility of parole.
The prosecution pushed for life without parole in its
final statement before sentencing by repeating a word Gibbs
had used to describe the Afghan civilians.
"There is the savage," said Major Dre LeBlanc, pointing
at Gibbs. "Sgt. Gibbs is the savage."
For the defence, attorney Phil Stackhouse gave a
statement on behalf of Gibbs, asking that the jury keep in
mind Gibbs` wife Chelsy and his young son Calvin Jr. when
deliberating a sentence.
"Life in prison doesn`t mean that he`ll never get out of
prison," Stackhouse said, mentioning that at least 10 years
must pass before Gibbs could be eligible for parole. Gibbs
receives credit for 547 days of time served.