By T.R. Reid and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the woman seen holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash in the iconic photo from the Abu Ghraib prison, will plead guilty to seven charges stemming from abuse of prisoners there, her attorney said yesterday.
With a general court-martial scheduled to begin Monday at Fort Hood, Tex., England agreed to a plea agreement yesterday, Rick Hernandez said. The deal will reduce the maximum sentence she faces to 11 years in prison. On Monday, he said, England will make a personal appeal to a military jury for a lighter sentence.
Army prosecutors agreed to drop two of nine charges against England, the lawyer said. If convicted on all the original charges, she could have faced 16 1/2 years in prison.
The 22-year-old Army reservist from rural Fort Ashby, W.Va., will plead to two counts of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating prisoners and one count of dereliction of duty, Hernandez said.
She will be the seventh enlisted soldier to face criminal penalties in the Abu Ghraib case. No commissioned officers at the prison, and no senior officer in the chain of command, has been charged.
The abuse at the prison, near Baghdad, became an international scandal a year ago with the release of scores of photographs that showed Iraqi prisoners, some of them naked, hooded and shackled, being taunted and harassed by Army prison guards and snarling dogs. The pictures prompted denunciation of the U.S. military around the world. An insurgent group in Iraq kidnapped and killed an American civilian, saying it was retaliation for mistreatment of Iraqis in the prison.
Defense lawyers had argued that England, a records clerk who had no training as a prison guard when the Army sent her to Iraq's toughest prison, was following orders of officers and CIA agents at the prison when she took part in the abuse. One lawyer said England's commanders ordered her to pose for the leash picture. "They picked her to get the smallest, youngest, lowest-rank woman they could find, and that would increase the humiliation for an Iraqi man," Rose Mary Zapor said.
But the just-following-orders defense has not worked for other soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse. Six enlisted soldiers have entered guilty pleas in the case. Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., who faced a court-martial in January, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison despite his assertion that senior officers directed and approved the actions of guards in cellblock One-Alpha.
The White House and the Pentagon have said that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was the fault of a few low-ranking enlisted soldiers.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that the Army's inspector general concluded that no Army generals in the chain of command should face charges stemming from the Abu Ghraib abuse. The only general officer expected to face sanction is Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, a reservist called to active duty for the war, who may receive a written reprimand.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, testified to Congress that he was responsible for the prison abuse that occurred in his command. The inspector general reportedly concluded that Sanchez should face no sanctions.