By MATTHEW COLE
The U.S. soldier who was the first to come forward about the alleged sport killings of Afghan civilians last year has reached a plea agreement in his case, according to a person familiar with the agreement.
Adam Winfield, a member of the Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, is one of five soldiers charged in connection with the deaths of three Afghan civilians that occurred in southern Afghanistan between January and May 2010. Prosecutors allege that Winfield, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II, and Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes participated in one or more of the murders and staged them to make unarmed Afghans appear to be armed insurgents.
Winfield, who told his parents while deployed that members of his unit had planned and executed the killings for sport, had been charged with murder for his part in the third and final murder in May of last year.
In the deal, Winfield will plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and a minor drug charge. The involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Winfield's lawyers have argued that their client was ordered to fire on an unarmed civilian but had fired high, and had not been responsible for the death. Winfield's original charge carried a maximum sentence of life without parole.
Military prosecutors are hoping Winfield's testimony in exchange for the plea agreement will help convict Gibbs, who is charged in all three Afghan deaths and believed to be the ringleader of the group.
READ: 'Repugnant' Photos Emerge of U.S. Soldiers Accused of Sport Killings
Winfield and Morlock, who pleaded guilty last March to helping murder the three Afghans, have told Army investigators that Gibbs developed and rehearsed the murder of unarmed Afghans and later ordered his men to help him carry them out. Gibbs, Wagnon and Holmes have each pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lawyers for Gibbs, Wagnon and Holmes have previously assailed Morlock's testimony against their clients, noting he requested investigative documents prior to testimony.
"I was wondering how can you make Morlock any less credible," Colby Vokey, the defense attorney for Wagnon, told McClatchy News. "It would be giving him copies of transcripts and having prosecutors tell him what to say."
Video: Soldier Describes 'Crazy' Sergeant's Plan
In a confession taped last year and obtained by ABC News, Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, admitted the team's role in the murders of three unarmed civilians, but told Army investigators that his unit's "crazy" sergeant had hatched the plan.
READ: Confession Video: U.S. Soldier Describes Thrill Kill of Innocent Afghans
Morlock, described how Gibbs had the men in his unit pick out civilians at random and then kill them with grenades and rifle fire.
"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.
"Gibbs called it like, 'Hey you guys wanna, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?' And you know, he set it up, like, he grabbed the dude."
Morlock said that killing people came "too easy" to Gibbs. "He just really doesn't have any problems with f---ing killing these, these people, to be honest."
News of the agreement comes the same day Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told reporters that American troops in Iraq must be given immunity from any future prosecution as part of any agreement to keep them there beyond the end of this year.
Such a deal, which would have to be passed by the Iraqi parliament, would include "privileges and immunities for our American men and women in uniform," Mullen said, according to a report by The Associated Press.