Reservist sentenced to 8 years in Abu Ghraib abuse

Frederick pleaded guilty to mistreating prisoners

October 22, 2004|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - A soldier from a Maryland-based Army Reserve unit was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison for his part in humiliating and abusing detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison last year, admitting that what he did was wrong but continuing to say that he was instructed by Army personnel to soften up the detainees so they would provide valuable intelligence.

Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, 38, an Army reservist from Buckingham, Va., who served with the 372nd Military Police Company of Cresaptown, was also punished with a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge. The sentencing, in a Baghdad courtroom, came a day after he pleaded guilty to eight counts of abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees.

It was the longest prison sentence yet in connection with the scandal that became public in April with the publication of photos and video that showed U.S. soldiers abusing naked Iraqis in the prison on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

Frederick is one of seven members of the Western Maryland unit charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., is serving a one-year sentence after pleading guilty in May to three counts.

"I was wrong about what I did, and I shouldn't have done it," Frederick told the judge, Army Col. James Pohl. "I knew it was wrong at the time because I knew it was a form of abuse."

He pleaded guilty to eight counts of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault and committing an indecent act. And he has agreed to testify against other soldiers.

He said that when he brought up issues with his commanders, "They told me to do what MI [military intelligence] told me to do."

Frederick, a 20-year Army veteran and a military policeman, is a Virginia state corrections officer in civilian life. He acknowledged his part in the scandal, admitting that he punched one detainee, forced several to masturbate, and hooked up another detainee - standing on a box and hooded - to long wires, telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off. Frederick then snapped a photograph.

It was one of the most reproduced photos of the scandal, appearing in newspapers and on TV stations around the world, and even was depicted in murals painted on buildings in the Arab world, where the prisoner is sometimes referred to as "the statue of liberty."

The scandal spurred several investigations, temporarily hampered U.S. efforts to gather intelligence from prisoners, further damaged the United States in the Muslim world and could end the careers of several officers, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top American military officer in Baghdad.

Defense counsel Gary Myers called the sentence "excessive" and said he would seek a reduction, adding that Frederick's chain of command must share in the blame.

"Yes, this one individual has committed crimes. But there are aiders and abetters who got him to this point," Myers told the court.

Army prosecutor Maj. Michael Holley, who sought the maximum penalty of 11 years in jail, responded that it was a simple case of right and wrong, dismissing Frederick's talk of not receiving sufficient training.

"As the soldier in charge of the night shift, Frederick could have stopped the others abusing prisoners when he saw them," said Holley. "He's an adult and capable of making decisions. How much training do you need to learn that it's wrong to force a man to masturbate?"

Motion hearings are coming in Baghdad for three other soldiers from the unit - Spc. Charles A. Graner, Spc. Megan Ambuhl and Sgt. Javal S. Davis, a one-time Morgan State University student. No dates have been set for courts-martial, officials said.

More soldiers could be charged in the scandal, including higher-ranking officers, specifically in the Army intelligence units operating at the prison, prosecutors say.

Moreover, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, based at Fort Belvoir, Va., has suspended one of its agents, Sgt. Ricardo Romero, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib, pending an investigation. Frederick singled out Romero as pressuring soldiers to soften up detainees for interrogations.

Capt. Donald Reese, commander of the Maryland-based military police company, also testified this week and echoed Frederick's description of the prison.

"It was very dangerous," he said. "We had very little support. There was mortar fire. It was overcrowded." He also said employees of the CIA, FBI, military police and military intelligence all were drifting around the prison, some in uniform and others in civilian dress.

"It was very confusing as to who was in charge of the place," he said.

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