Soldier Pleads Guilty to Prisoner Abuse

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2004

BAGHDAD, Sept. 11 -- U.S. Army Spec. Armin J. Cruz Jr. pleaded guilty Saturday to charges of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and was sentenced by a military judge to eight months in jail for his role in the scandal.

Cruz, a reservist with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, was the first soldier from an intelligence unit to face a court-martial for taking part in the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody last fall at the notorious prison outside Baghdad. He pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and maltreatment of detainees at the prison.

The military judge, Col. James L. Pohl, also ordered that Cruz, 24, a college student from Plano, Tex., be reduced in rank to private and discharged from the Army for bad conduct.

His civilian attorney, Stephen P. Karns, called Cruz a "war hero . . . who deserves credit for his contribution in liberating Iraq" and said he would appeal the sentence.

Cruz, a first-generation Cuban American whose father was a West Point graduate, was the second soldier sentenced for abuses at the prison but the only military intelligence soldier to be criminally charged.

Seven soldiers from the Army's 372nd Military Police Company have been charged in connection with abuses at Abu Ghraib, which became an international scandal this year after photos emerged showing soldiers beating and sexually humiliating detainees.

Spec. Jeremy C. Sivits, a mechanic assigned to the 372nd, pleaded guilty in May and is serving a one-year prison sentence in Germany.

Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick pleaded guilty to charges of abuse last month and is awaiting a court-martial in late October.

Like Sivits, Cruz agreed to cooperate with Army prosecutors in exchange for a special court-martial, which carries a maximum one-year prison confinement.

Last week the Navy said it had charged four SEALs with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib. The charges against the four sailors include assault, maltreatment of detainees and making false statements.

Members of the military police unit accused of mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib have said the abuses were encouraged by intelligence authorities at the prison.

A report issued last month by Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay found that military intelligence interrogators asked the MPs to use harsh and sometimes illegal tactics. That conclusion contradicted Pentagon statements that the MPs had acted alone in the abuse.

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