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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - A former U.S. soldier was convicted on Thursday of raping an Iraqi girl and killing her and her family near Baghdad in 2006 and now faces a possible death sentence.
The federal court jury that delivered guilty verdicts on all 16 counts against former Private 1st Class Steven Green will decide his fate in the trial's death penalty phase beginning on Monday.
Green, 24, was tried in federal court as a civilian on murder, rape and obstruction of justice charges since his arrest came after he was discharged from the U.S. Army later in 2006 for a "personality disorder."
The trial, which lasted eight days before 1 1/2 days of jury deliberations, featured prosecution testimony by Green's former comrades in which they detailed the brutal assault, one of several incidents involving American soldiers that enraged Iraqis and strained U.S. relations.
Green, 19 at the time of the crime, was described as the trigger-man in the group of five men, who donned black "ninja" outfits and raped Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14, and shot to death her and her father, mother and 6-year-old sister.
The incident unfolded after the soldiers drank whiskey, played cards, and plotted the attack in Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Green, from Midland, Texas, was described by prosecutors as predisposed to killing Iraqis. Defense attorneys acknowledged he participated in the killings but argued he was suffering combat stress after the death of close colleagues and did not know friend from foe.
Three of the other soldiers pleaded guilty in the attack and the fourth was convicted, all in military courts-martial. They received sentences ranging from five to 100 years, although they could be paroled much sooner.
According to testimony, Green shot the girl's family in a bedroom while two soldiers raped her. Green then took his turn raping the girl, covered her head with a pillow and shot her three times. The soldiers then set fire to her body to try to cover up the crime.
Green later bragged about the assault, saying what he had done was "awesome."
The trial was held in Paducah, Kentucky, because the soldiers were assigned out of Fort Campbell in that state.
Writing by Andrew Stern and Michael Conlon; Editing by Peter Cooney