Federal judge won't issue gag order in Iraq slaying case

By The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has rejected a gag order that could have kept lawyers and even President Bush from publicly discussing the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the slaying of her relatives.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell said there was "no reason to believe" that a former soldier's right to a fair trial would be jeopardy.

In an Aug. 31 ruling, Russell also ordered former Pvt. Steven D. Green, 21, to be arraigned Nov. 8 in federal court in Louisville.

Investigators allege Green and four other soldiers from the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division plotted to rape the girl in the village of Mahmoudiya. Green is accused of being the triggerman in the shooting of three family members in a room of the girl's house before she was raped and killed.

Defense lawyers had asked the judge to silence a variety of people, from the attorneys in the case to Bush.

Green's attorneys, federal Public Defenders Scott Wendelsdorf and Patrick Bouldin, said federal authorities were "cavalier" about commenting on ongoing cases in the request for the gag order. They cited statements by Bush and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about Green's case.

Federal prosecutors in Louisville said they had not and would not comment on the case and that prohibiting Bush and top administration and military officials from talking about the case would inhibit their jobs.

Green was arrested June 30 in North Carolina, four days after an affidavit seeking his arrest was issued. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder.

He served 11 months with the 101st Airborne Division before receiving an honorable discharge and leaving the Army in mid-May. He was discharged because of an "anti-social personality disorder," according to military officials and court documents.

Russell declined to address in his ruling whether a gag order would interfere with the president's ability to do his job, but said there had been no statements that would rob Green of his right to a fair trial, including comments by Bush and Pace.

"Each was careful to word his comment or comments conditionally, and the court finds that in such a context, the statements are unproblematic," Russell wrote. "It is beyond question that the charges against Mr. Green are serious ones, and that some of the acts alleged in the complaint are considered unacceptable in our society."