Private England Pleads Guilty to Abuses
By NATHAN LEVY
Published: May 3, 2005
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KILLEEN, Tex., May 2 - Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the Army reservist who
personified the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal by gleefully posing with
naked Iraqi detainees, pleaded guilty on Monday to seven of nine criminal
counts, telling a military court, "I knew it was wrong."
Standing just over five feet tall and speaking almost inaudibly, with little
emotion, Private England testified in court at Fort Hood that she went along
with the demands of a fellow soldier, Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr.,
thinking "it was just for his personal amusement."
Private England, 22, who appeared at her court-martial in her dress green
uniform and clutching a maroon beret, could receive up to 11 years in
prison. But as part of an expected plea deal, she should face no more than
30 months behind bars, people involved in the prosecution of the abuse
cases, who could not speak publicly because of military rules, said last
Hearings on her sentence are scheduled to begin here Tuesday before a jury
of up to nine officers and enlisted personnel.
Private England is one of seven soldiers implicated in the abuse scandal,
which erupted in 2003 with the emergence of photographs showing American and
coalition troops humiliating stripped Iraqis in disturbing and sexually
suggestive poses. All seven were reservists with the 372nd Military Police
Company based in Cresaptown, Md.
Specialist Graner, 36, who has been identified as Private England's former
lover in Iraq and the father of the baby boy she gave birth to in October,
went on trial here in January. He was found guilty of all charges and
sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Specialist Graner has married another of the accused, Megan Ambuhl, who
pleaded guilty in exchange for dismissal from the military. Three other
soldiers have pleaded guilty and been given prison terms of six months to
eight years, and one more is scheduled to go on trial here next week.
Often swiveling absent-mindedly in her chair between her two lawyers, Capt.
Jonathan Crisp and Rick Hernandez, a civilian, Private England spoke
haltingly when questioned by the military judge, Col. James L. Pohl, who
also presided over the other Abu Ghraib cases.
Judge Pohl asked her about a series of photographs central to the charges of
conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of subordinates and indecent
acts. They showed Private England holding a leash around the neck of a naked
Iraqi prisoner, posing with a group of naked Iraqis who had been forced to
simulate masturbation and with a pyramid of naked detainees, pointing at the
genitals of a prisoner, and standing by another prisoner with the word "rapeist"
written on his exposed buttocks.
"Did you think any of this was wrong?" the judge asked. "Why were you doing
At first Private England spoke so quietly that the judge prompted her to
speak up, complaining that his court reporter could not hear.
"He asked me to," she said, referring to Specialist Graner.
Asked about the episode with the leash, Private England contended it was for
her fellow soldiers' amusement. But she said, "It was not only morally
wrong, it was legally wrong."
Pressed by Judge Pohl why she thought it was wrong, she said, "Because it
was humiliating him."
When he asked her about the human pyramid, she said Specialist Graner had
come up with the idea "as a way to control them."
The judge also asked about the image showing her pointing at a prisoner's
"I refused at first," she said. "No, no way. I didn't want to point at his
He interjected, "Then why did you change your mind?"
"They were being very persistent, bugging me," she said, "so I said, 'O.K.,
Judge Pohl asked who "they" were.
"I can't remember which one," she replied.
Throughout the questioning, Private England held whispered consultations
with her lawyers, answering the judge at one point, "It was more or less
At times Judge Pohl appeared exasperated with her answers. "Could you have
chosen to walk away?" he asked.
"I could have," she said, repeating, "I was yielding to peer pressure."
He continued to press her. "Do you believe any of this conduct was in any
way encouraged by a chain of command?" he asked.
"No, sir," she said.
The two military prosecutors, Capt. Chris Graveline and Capt. Chuck Neill,
made no presentation but objected to a defense move to introduce witnesses
in the sentencing phase to back up claims that Private England had learning
disabilities and mental health problems. The judge said he would rule on
Walking past a crowd of photographers, cameramen and reporters, Private
England made no comment entering or leaving the Lawrence J. Williams
Judicial Center, the command prosecuting the charges.