Female MP to face all 19 charges

General at Fort Bragg orders court-martial in Abu Ghraib inmate abuse

September 28, 2004|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

An Army commander at Fort Bragg, N.C., has ordered Pfc. Lynndie R. England to face a military court-martial on 19 charges connected to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, overriding an earlier recommendation that some counts against the young Army reservist be dropped.

The Army announced yesterday that Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, referred England to trial by a general court-martial. Her trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 17, is for now the only one arising from the scandal to play out inside the United States.

England, 21, of Fort Ashby, W.Va., became one of the most visible figures in the scandal after she posed in photographs, grinning, next to naked detainees and then returned from Iraq pregnant by another soldier from her unit, the Western Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company.

She faces up to 38 years in prison if convicted on all counts. At her arraignment Friday, England deferred entering a plea, the Army announcement said.

Vines referred the charges against England without comment.

A military judge who presided over a five-day hearing in England's case this summer had recommended earlier this month that England be court-martialed on 17 counts of abuse and indecent acts, saying that two counts should be dropped because of concerns about the "sufficiency of proof of the allegations."

The hearing officer, Col. Denise J. Arn, suggested in her Sept. 6 report that England's actions were heavily influenced by other soldiers in her unit, especially England's wartime boyfriend, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr.

"From my review of the evidence, it is apparent that Pfc. England was, at the time of the offenses, the kind of person who was easily led," Arn said in her report.

"I have little doubt that her conduct was heavily influenced by her personal relationship with [Graner], a forceful, dominant, self-centered individual at least 12 years her senior."

England is pregnant by Graner, according to her lawyers, and is expected to give birth next month.

The one-time couple were among the seven soldiers from the 372nd to face charges when the abuse scandal unfolded last spring. Company member Pvt. Jeremy C. Sivits has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison; Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick II is expected to plead guilty to some of the charges against him at a hearing in Baghdad next month.

Lawyers for England did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

At court proceedings over the summer, they sought to portray the abuse as being directed by higher-ranking military intelligence officers - a strategy bolstered by two Pentagon reports faulting high-ranking military leaders in the scandal.

But testimony in England's case from Army investigators and fellow soldiers portrayed her as an out-of-control desk clerk who disobeyed orders and sneaked out at night to visit Graner when he was on duty at the prison's cellblock.

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