JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — An Army soldier who pleaded guilty to threatening a reporter’s wife was demoted Thursday during a hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Army Judge Col. Andrew Glass demoted Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera one rank for threatening the wife of a reporter who was investigating Barbera’s role in the shooting deaths of two Iraqi cattle herders seven years ago. He was demoted to staff sergeant and ordered to forfeit $10,000 of his salary over the next 10 months, according to the News Tribune.
The ruling means the 33-year-old can stay in the Army or soon be eligible for early retirement.
Barbera’s lawyer, David Coombs, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
During the hearing, Coombs told the judge that Barbera “should be allowed to get back to what he does best, and that’s lead soldiers,” the News Tribune reported.
Barbera once faced a possible life sentence on charges that he killed two unarmed boys in 2007 in Iraq as they herded cattle. Barbera said it was a combat decision. Those murder charges were dropped in September.
In 2011, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was investigating the shootings as Barbera was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Barbera said he became angry about the newspaper’s interest because he had been reprimanded for the incident after the Army investigated the shootings in 2009. He said he wanted to move on, but when the reporter, Carl Prine, tried to reach him, he said he got angry and made a hasty, bad decision by calling Prine’s house. When Deanna Prine answered, Barbera told her “for your personal safety, you need to tell (Carl Prine) to stop working on the story,” the News Tribune reported.
In a written statement, Deanna Prine said she was disappointed with Barbera’s sentence. She said it was a “pathetic slap on the wrist.”