Army dog handler focus of Abu Ghraib probe

He is accused of abusing five detainees at prison

June 15, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - The second of two Army dog handlers accused in the Abu Ghraib scandal is emerging as the lead defendant, with criminal charge sheets obtained yesterday accusing him of abusing five Iraqi detainees, including a pair of juvenile prisoners, in a macabre game to frighten inmates at the American-run prison outside Baghdad.

Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith, expected to appear soon at a preliminary hearing at Fort Myer, Va., is one of two soldiers accused of using trained military dogs to assault prisoners by scaring them into urinating and defecating on themselves.

His alleged victims include three Iraqi prisoners and two juvenile detainees. His alleged collaborator, Army Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, was charged with abusing two prisoners.

According to official charge sheets obtained yesterday by the Los Angeles Times, on Jan. 13, 2004, Smith committed "an assault on two juvenile detainees by unlawfully threatening them with a means or force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm, to wit: an unmuzzled military working dog." The juveniles were not identified.

He also is accused of threatening adult prisoners Ashraf Abdullah Al-Juhayshi, Kamel Miza'l Nayil and Mohammed Bollendia.

Smith also is charged with lying to an Army investigating officer when he told Special Agent Warren Worth that he had "never heard of a game where dog handlers were using their military working dogs to get detainees to urinate on themselves."

He also is charged, along with Cardona, of conspiring with Cpl. Charles Graner, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick and civilian interrogator Steve Stefanowicz. Graner and Frederick subsequently were demoted in rank and are serving prison sentences for abusing prisoners. Stefanowicz, who worked for a private company, has not been charged with a crime.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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