Sergeant sentenced in Abu Ghraib prison scandal

Md. Army reservist given six-month term for `10 seconds' of abuse

February 05, 2005|By HOUSTON CHRONICLE

FORT HOOD, Texas - Sgt. Javal Davis, a seven-year Reservist from Maryland's 372nd Military Police Company who claimed he had abused inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison for only 10 seconds, was sentenced to six months in prison yesterday by a military jury.

Davis, 27, of Roselle, N.J., pleaded guilty on Tuesday to dereliction of duty, making false official statements and battery in connection with the case.

He is the seventh soldier to be punished for the 2003 scandal.

Although his crimes carry potential punishments of more than six years, his maximum sentence was capped at 18 months under his agreement with prosecutors.

The seven-year Army Reserve soldier admitted stomping on the fingers and toes of several handcuffed, nude and hooded detainees who were transferred into the prison wing he guarded after they rioted at another part of the sprawling Abu Ghraib complex.

He asked for forgiveness from the Iraqis and pleaded with jurors for leniency, but prosecutors said Davis deserved at least a year in prison for having "tarnished" the reputation and honor of the Army.

"Civilians have no idea what that means," said military prosecutor Maj. Michael Holley. "That reputation was earned by the blood of your brothers," he told the jury of officers and enlisted men. "There must be consequences for those actions."

The harsh atmosphere at Abu Ghraib, both for inmates and guards, "does not excuse crimes," Holley said. And even though soldiers who have fought in combat may harbor hatred toward some Iraqis, as human beings "they had a right not to be brutalized ... It was a brutal assault. It was also cowardly," Holley said.

Defense attorney Paul Bergrin urged jurors not to punish Davis further for a "10-second regression" that he had taken responsibility for long ago. He admitted his wrongdoing in a Jan. 15, 2004, interview with investigators, but that was two days after initially denying intentionally stomping on the detainees. He then spent the rest of 2004 doing menial tasks and hard labor in Iraq as he awaited trial.

Davis said because he has a federal felony conviction, he can't return to his civilian job as a Black & Decker Corp. salesman, which he needed to support his wife, who is an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy, and their two children.

The completion of Davis' trial leaves two other MPs, both females, awaiting adjudication for alleged crimes at Abu Ghraib. PFC Lynndie England has not been formally ordered to stand court-martial, while Spc. Sabrina Harman has a March 7 trial date and a pretrial hearing set for today. Both appeared in the widely circulated photos that depicted abuses at the prison.

Although some commanders remain under investigation, Davis is the second-highest ranking soldier to be convicted in the Abu Ghraib case. Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II was sentenced to eight years in prison; Spc. Charles Graner Jr., 10 years; Spc. Jeremy Sivits, one year; Spc. Roman Krol, 10 months; and Spc. Armin Cruz, eight months. All received either bad-conduct or dishonorable discharges from the Army. Spc. Megan Ambuhl was reduced in rank and given an other-than-honorable discharge.

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