US Army Sgt. Joseph Mayo pleaded guilty today to the murder of four Iraqi prisoners, the Washington Post reports. The 27-year-old was sentenced to 35 years for participating in the execution-style slaying of four men his infantry unit thought had attacked US military patrols in Baghdad. The prisoners had been captured with rifles and ammunition, but Mayo’s unit lacked sufficient evidence to keep them locked up.
When they realized they couldn’t hold the men further, Mayo and his men decided to take matters into their own hands. "I really believed I was protecting my soldiers," he told the court today. "I take full responsibility for my actions. Now I have to pay for my mistake." Mayo is the fourth soldier convicted in the 2007 slayings. Master Sgt. John Hatley, 40, will face a military court next month for his role in the murders.