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Female Reservist Guilty of Abu Ghraib Abuse

Times Staff Writers

Lynndie R. England, the Army Reserve private who became a symbol of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal after she was photographed holding a dog leash attached to a naked Iraqi detainee, was convicted Monday on six of seven charges at a military court-martial.

She faces as many as 10 years in a military prison. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for today at Ft. Hood, Texas, where her court-martial was held.

England was the ninth Army reservist convicted in response to the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq. The scandal has embarrassed the Bush administration, hampering its diplomatic efforts in Muslim nations, and marred the U.S. image abroad.

England, 22, was found guilty on one conspiracy charge, four counts of mistreating detainees, and one count of committing an indecent act for her role in the sexual abuse and humiliation of the detainees. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count.

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Military prosecutors pointed to numerous photos in which she was shown smiling and flashing thumbs up, or posing in front of naked and bound male detainees.

Her defense attorneys maintained that she was easily manipulated. They said she came under the influence of Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., who emerged in a series of military prosecutions as the ringleader of much of the abuse on Tier 1A at Abu Ghraib, the area where the most infamous conduct occurred. The prison outside Baghdad, once a torture facility used by agents of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, was taken over by the U.S. military as a central holding area for suspected insurgents.

England, who was a military clerk, often joined Graner at night in the prison block where the most troublesome detainees were held, although she had no clearance to be near prisoners. The photos that became synonymous with the scandal became prosecution evidence in England’s trial.

Referring to England’s statement in January 2004 to Army investigators that the mistreatment was a form of amusement for military guards, Capt. Chris Graveline, the chief prosecutor, said: “The accused knew what she was doing. She was laughing and joking. She is enjoying, she is participating, all for her own sick humor.”

England’s attorney, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, said the diminutive private from Fort Ashby, W.Va., was trying to amuse Graner.

“She just did whatever he wanted her to do,” Crisp said.

England had planned to plead guilty in May. But a judge threw out the plea after Graner’s testimony contradicted England’s.

Graner was convicted at Ft. Hood in January and received a 10-year prison term, the harshest punishment of the reservists sentenced so far.

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Spc. Megan Ambuhl, who pleaded guilty, received the least punishment -- no prison time, but a discharge from the Army.

Graner and Ambuhl are now married. England has identified Graner as the father of her son.

Two other soldiers who worked as dog handlers at the prison are awaiting courts-martial. No officers were charged or subject to court-martial, although some were reduced in rank and their military careers were cut short.

The scandal widened last week when an Army captain offered new accounts of abuse of prisoners held in Fallouja that occurred just as the Abu Ghraib reports were emerging.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.


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