May 2, 2005
FORT HOOD, Texas - Pfc. Lynndie England, who appeared in some of the most graphic photographs depicting physical mistreatment and sexual humiliation of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, pleaded guilty Monday to charges arising from her role in the abuse scandal.
The 22-year-old Army reservist entered her pleas to two counts of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, four counts of maltreating prisoners and one count of committing an indecent act.
In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop another count of committing an indecent act and one count of dereliction of duty.
If the plea agreement is accepted by the judge, Col. James Pohl, a jury of officers and enlisted soldiers will decide her punishment following a sentencing hearing expected to last several days.
England repeatedly answered "Yes, sir" as Pohl questioned her to make sure she understood her legal rights and the consequences of her pleas.
Defense lawyer Rick Hernandez said last week that the defense will present evidence during sentencing that England has severe learning disabilities and mental health problems.
The plea agreement, which came the day before England was scheduled to go to trial, lowers her maximum possible sentence from 16 1/2 years in prison to 11 years.
England, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., is one of seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at Abu Ghraib. She became a central figure in the scandal after photos of her surfaced.
One image showed her smiling and posing with nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid while giving a thumbs-up. Another showed her holding a hooded, naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash, and one showed her smiling and pointing at a naked detainee's genitals while smoking a cigarette.
Hernandez said his sentencing witnesses include Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., the reputed ringleader of the Abu Ghraib abuses. Graner, said to be the father of England's infant son, was convicted in January on a range of abuse charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Hernandez said there has been no decision on whether England will testify.
England's lawyers have argued that she and others in her unit were acting on orders from military intelligence to "soften up" prisoners for interrogations. But Army investigators testified during hearings last summer that England said the reservists took the photos while "they were joking around, having some fun."
The Abu Ghraib scandal, which went public in April 2004, damaged the image of America's military leadership at home and sparked outrage around the world. Several government investigations have been conducted, but so far only low-level soldiers have been charged, although the defendants and other critics have alleged that high-level officials condoned the abuse.
Four other members of the 372nd and two low-level military intelligence officers have entered guilty pleas, with sentences ranging from no time to 8 1/2 years. The only soldier to stand trial so far is Graner. Spc. Sabrina Harman, a former Abu Ghraib guard, is scheduled to go to trial at Fort Hood next week.