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Plea deal expected for U.S. soldier in Afghan crimes case

SEATTLE (Reuters) - One of five U.S. soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians last year has agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and drug use, a source close to the case said on Monday.

Specialist Adam Winfield has signed an agreement with military prosecutors and will enter his guilty plea during a hearing on Friday, the source told Reuters.

Winfield, of Cape Coral, Florida, is among five members of an infantry unit formerly called the 5th Stryker Brigade charged with murder in connection with three Afghan civilian slayings prosecutors say were staged to look like legitimate combat casualties.

An Army spokesman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord could not immediately be reached for comment.

The source did not say if prosecutors had agreed to a sentence for Winfield, who is currently charged with premeditated murder, or if he would be required to testify against other defendants in the case.

The man prosecutors say was the ringleader in the killings, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, remains in custody and faces a court martial later this year.

Private Jeremy Morlock, 23, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in March after he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

Private Andrew Holmes was released from pretrial detention in June after an Army judge recommended that the charge against him be reduced to manslaughter.

Specialist Michael Wagnon has also been released from pretrial confinement and awaits a decision on whether his case will be referred to court martial.

(Reporting by Laura L. Myers, Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)