Soldier guilty in Iraq abuses

Reservist in W. Md. unit admits Abu Ghraib acts

Possible 11-year prison term

Iraqi details humiliation and thoughts of suicide

October 21, 2004|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - A member of the Maryland-based Army Reserve unit charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq pleaded guilty in a Baghdad courtroom yesterday to five charges after a former prisoner tearfully described his abuse at the hands of soldiers and thoughts of suicide.

Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, 38, of Buckingham, Va., pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault and committing an indecent act. He was expected to be sentenced today, according to officers, who said the soldier could receive up to 11 years in jail, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

The former detainee, who was accused of stealing a car and participating in a riot, described how he and seven others were mistreated, sometimes crying and screaming, as they were stacked in a naked human pyramid at the prison. He said Frederick punched him and later forced him to masturbate.

"I was crying. I wanted to kill myself," the man told the court through an interpreter. "I felt humiliated, but I had nothing to kill myself with."

Under a plea deal, several other charges against Frederick were dropped, said his attorney, Gary Myers. Frederick has agreed to cooperate in future investigations and to testify in trials. At a hearing in August, military officials said they were considering charges against intelligence officers at the prison.

Yesterday, Frederick, a 20-year Army veteran who was put in charge of the prison's night shift because of his experience as a corrections officer in Virginia, accused a soldier attached to the Criminal Investigation Command and a civilian contractor of encouraging abuses to soften up prisoners for questioning.

Though most of those abused turned out to be petty criminals, or innocent, intelligence officers thought they could provide information to quell the growing insurgency in Iraq last fall.

Frederick is one of seven members of the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372nd Military Police Company charged in the prisoner abuse scandal and the highest-ranking soldier implicated.

Another, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., is serving a one-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in May to three counts. A military intelligence soldier, Spc. Armin Cruz, was sentenced last month to eight months' confinement, reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge.

The most dramatic testimony against Frederick came when the former Iraqi detainee took the stand. He entered his name into the record, but the Army requested that he not be identified for his own safety.

The former prisoner was overcome by emotion, at one point putting his head down on the witness stand and halting his testimony. After a moment, he said that when the soldiers finished abusing detainees they took them to cells that were flooded with water and told them to sleep naked with bags on their heads.

Frederick admitted in court that he punched one Iraqi detainee. "I stood him up and punched him in the chest," Frederick testified. "I was angry. They told me he was the ringleader. He hit a female soldier in the face with a rock."

He also admitted jumping on a pile of detainees, stomping their hands and bare feet, and placing wires in a detainee's hands and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box. That photo of a hooded detainee clutching the wires would become an iconic image of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

During yesterday's court-martial, Frederick said he regretted his actions but stressed that there were no regulations or procedures to follow at Abu Ghraib. He said that when he arrived at the prison outside Baghdad last fall, detainees were kept naked or handcuffed to their doors, some wearing female underwear.

Frederick repeated allegations that prisoners were abused on the orders of the Army's military intelligence officers at the prison, the investigator for CID and the civilian contractor.

"What we're saying is, there's corporate responsibility here and the sentence should reflect corporate responsibility," Myers said in a phone interview from Baghdad.

Frederick said the CID investigator, Sgt. Ricardo Romero, told him and other soldiers that he wanted the hooded prisoner "stressed out, wanted him to talk more." Frederick said he was told that the prisoner had valuable information on the remains of four American soldiers and that he had asked how to proceed.

"Romero said, "I really don't give a [expletive] as long as you don't kill him," recounted Frederick, who said he came up with the idea to threaten the detainee with electrocution on his own.

Chris Grey, a spokesman for CID headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., said Romero "has been suspended from investigative duties pending the outcome of the investigation." Grey said the incident has been under investigation since May after The Sun reported that an unnamed CID agent was described in Frederick's diary as encouraging abuses.

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