Soldier Pleads Guilty in Iraq Prison Abuse

The top-ranking soldier facing charges in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison scandal pleaded guilty at a court martial that opened today in Baghdad to five counts of abusing Iraqi inmates.

U.S. Army reservist Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick II said in August that he would admit to several charges but never said which ones until today, when he confessed to assault, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, allegations of conspiracy and committing an indecent act.

Frederick, whose attorney said that several other allegations were dropped under a plea agreement, has agreed to testify in upcoming trials and will cooperate with authorities in other investigations. He is expected to be sentenced Thursday.

Frederick, an Army reservist from Buckingham, Va. who formerly worked as a night supervisor in the civilian prison, was one of seven U.S. soldiers charged in the scandal. The first two pleaded guilty and received sentences that ranged up to one year in jail in a scandal that caused a furor worldwide.

Iraqi prisoners were forced to perform humiliating sexual acts, and were beaten, abused and threatened with attack dogs in photos and on videos, sometimes with Frederick or other soldiers present.

Frederick, 38, was alleged to have witnessed Iraqi inmates being forced to masturbate while other soldiers snapped pictures. He admitted to being involved in jumping on several detainees who were formed in a pyramid, and stomping on their fingers and feet. One inmate was punched so hard in the chest that he needed medical attention to help him breathe.

Frederick, who previously worked in a prison in Virginia, also was said to have been involved in placing a hood over an inmate, making him stand on a box with wires attached and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell.

At the trial today, Frederick admitted his role in the incident and said he was trying to scare the prisoner into cooperating with the interrogator.

"Did you think what you were doing was right?" the judge asked.

"I was wrong about what I did and I shouldn't have done it," Frederick said. "I knew it was wrong at the time because I knew it was a form of abuse."

When asked about stamping on detainees hands and feet, Frederick said, "I should have stopped it right there." He agreed that the acts and pictures were "indecent", but said he was trying "just to humiliate" the prisoners.

Gary Myers, Frederick's lawyers, has previously said there was a "complete breakdown in authority" at Abu Ghraib that violated Geneva Convention rules on how prisoners should be treated.

Frederick, he added, "has, unlike many, accepted the responsibility of corrupt behavior generated by circumstances at Abu Ghraib. He's a good person. A good father and a good man."

Times wire services contributed to this report.