An Army colonel investigating Pfc. Lynndie R. England's involvement in detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has recommended that the soldier face a general court-martial on 17 counts of abuse and indecent acts, though the officer cited England's youth and impressionability as possible explanations for her role in the alleged crimes.
Col. Denise J. Arn -- who presided over England's pretrial hearings last month at Fort Bragg, N.C. -- wrote in a Sept. 6 report that she also recommends dropping two counts of assault on detainees and another blanket charge of "maltreatment and cruelty." If convicted on the remaining charges, some of which show England engaged in sex acts with another soldier, England could face 37 years in prison.
Though not surprising that Arn recommended a full-scale military trial for the soldier who appeared in digital photos holding a detainee on a leash and pointing at hooded detainees' genitals, Arn notes that England, 21, responded "without hesitation, to the suggestions of other, older soldiers in the group," according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post.
"It does not escape notice that Pfc. England was one of the younger participants, if not the youngest, in the incidents that gave rise to the allegations against her," Arn wrote. "From my review of the evidence, it is apparent that Pfc. England was, at the time of the offenses, the kind of person who was easily led."
Arn also said England's relationship with Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. heavily influenced her conduct. Officials have called Graner, who is 12 years older than England, a ringleader of the abuse. Graner's lawyer has said that the MPs were following orders from military intelligence officials, a claim bolstered in part by recent Army and Pentagon reports.
A spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg said Arn has submitted the report to her superiors. Gen. John R. Vines ultimately will decide what, if any, charges against England should proceed to a court-martial.