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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

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Steve meant so much to us.

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photo by lindsay beyerstein


Soldier convicted of rape

Soldier Gets 100 Years for Rape, Killing

ROSE FRENCH | AP | February 22, 2007 10:59 PM EST

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, also was given a dishonorable discharge. He will be eligible for parole in 10 years under the terms of his plea agreement.

Cortez, of Barstow, Calif., pleaded guilty this week to four counts of felony murder, rape and conspiracy to rape in a case considered among the worst atrocities by U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

In his plea agreement, he said he conspired with three other soldiers from the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. The girl, her parents and a younger sister were all killed.

Earlier Thursday, tears rolled down Cortez's face as he apologized for the rape and murders. He said he could not explain why he took part.

"I still don't have an answer," Cortez told the judge. "I don't know why. I wish I hadn't. The lives of four innocent people were taken. I want to apologize for all of the pain and suffering I have caused the al-Janabi family."

The military judge hearing the case, Col. Stephen R. Henley, issued a sentence of life in prison without parole, the maximum for the charges. Under military law, the defendant is given the lesser sentence unless he violates terms of the plea agreement, which requires Cortez to testify against others charged in the case.

Psychologist Charles Figley testified that Cortez and the other soldiers likely suffered stress brought on by fatigue and trauma.

"It eats you up," Figley said. "It's a horrible thing. This is not unique. We've seen this in other wars."

Five soldiers who served with Cortez in Iraq testified that his actions were out of character and described the hardships of war they experienced, including sleep deprivation and the lack of running water.

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