March 23, 2011 — -- An American soldier accused of being part of a "kill team" that murdered innocent Afghan civilians for fun was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington.
"The plan was to kill people, sir," Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 23, told a military judge after pleading guilty to five counts. Morlock reached a deal with Army prosecutors last month, said his civilian attorney, Geoffrey Nathan, in which he would plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery and one count of illegal drug use.
In a confession taped last year and obtained by ABC News, Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, admitted his role in the murders of three unarmed civilians, but told Army investigators that his unit's "crazy" sergeant had hatched the plan. Earlier this week the German magazine Der Spiegel published a photo of a smiling Morlock posing with the body of one of the alleged victims.
CLICK HERE to watch Morlock's taped confession.
Morlock, a member of the Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, is one of five soldiers charged in the deaths of three Afghan civilians that occurred in Southern Afghanistan between January and May 2010. Prosecutors allege that Morlock, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, Spc. Adam C. Winfield, Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II, Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes and Morlock participated in one or more of the murders and staged them to make unarmed Afghans appear to be armed insurgents.
On the confession tape, shot in May 2010 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Morlock told investigators that Gibbs planned the killings.
"He just really doesn't have any problems with f---ing killing these people," Morlock said, and then laid out the scenario he said the sergeant used to make it seem the civilians were killed in action.
"And so we identify a guy. Gibbs makes a comment, like, you know, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?" Morlock told investigators.
Morlock: Gibbs Carried Russian Grenade
Morlock said Gibbs gave orders to open fire on a civilian at the same time Gibbs threw a hand grenade at the victim.
"He pulled out one of his grenades, an American grenade, you know, popped it, throws it, tells me where to go to whack this guy, kill this guy, kill this guy," said Morlock.
Morlock said Sergeant Gibbs carried a Russian grenade to throw next to the body of the dead Afghan, to make it seem he was about to attack the American soldiers.
The corporal said he opened fire as directed, fearful of not following Gibbs' orders.
"It's definitely not the right thing to do," Morlock told the investigators. "But I mean, when you got a squad leader bringing you into that, that type of real, that mindset, and he believes that you're on board with that, there's definitely no way you wanted him to think otherwise."
The investigator asked Morlock, "Because you felt maybe the next shot might be coming your way?"
"You never know. Exactly," answered Morlock. "I mean Gibbs talked about how easy it is, people disappear on the battlefield all the time."
A lawyer for Gibbs declined to comment to ABC News. Gibbs, Winfield, Wagnon and Holmes are in military custody and face life sentences if convicted.