Lynndie England sentenced to three year prison term
She was found guilty Monday of one count of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners
FORT HOOD, United States – US Army private Lynndie England was sentenced to three years in prison and dishonourably discharged by a military court for her role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
England, who became infamous when photos of the diminutive soldier holding a naked prisoner by a leash were broadcast across the globe, shed silent tears in court after her sentence was announced.
She was found guilty Monday of one count of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, four counts of maltreatment and one count of committing an indecent act.
A visibly shocked England bowed her head as her mother, Terri, walked over and consoled her with a hug after the verdict.
They stood together for several minutes before England, who had pleaded with the court not to separate her from her baby, broke away and gestured for the 11-month-old.
But she was too overcome with emotion to hold the boy, and was barely able to look at him as she leaned against a table with her hands on her thighs.
Military police permitted the young soldier more than 30 minutes with her family before she was led out of the courthouse with her hands and feet shackled.
Her mother used one hand to wipe her eyes with a tissue as she carried the baby out of the courthouse. She drove away before England emerged.
Both England and her attorney declined to comment on the verdict. The prosecution also declined to comment.
England’s lawyers had tried to paint the 22-year-old private as a naive young woman whose learning disabilities allowed her to be manipulated by the ringleader of the abuse, Charles Graner, who she says is the father of her child. He has subsequently married another of the soldiers convicted in the abuse.
They argued that England – who spoke in stilted sentences and paused often during her statement, her head rolling slightly from side to side, her jaw clenching – was incapable of standing up to her lover and friends and say the abuse was wrong.
Only Graner, who received a sentence of 10 years, and Staff Sergeant Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, who got eight years in a plea bargain, received sentences stiffer than England’s. The six other low-ranking soldiers charged in the scandal were sentenced to no more than one year in jail.
England faced a maximum sentence of nine years. She will be eligible for parole after one year and can also have her sentenced reduced by up to six months for good behavior.
No officer implicated in the abuse scandal has been tried, though the prison’s former commander, army reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, and military intelligence officer Colonel Thomas Pappas were punished in nonjudicial proceedings.
Earlier Tuesday, England pleaded with jurors not to separate her from her child even though she had been found guilty of abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners.
“I was scared I’d have to leave him and he wouldn’t know me when I returned and he wouldn’t view me as his mother, he’d view me as a stranger,” England said when her lawyer asked how she felt about her court martial.
But the prosecution argued her child should not be considered a mitigating factor.
“Do we have two standards of military justice?” asked Captain Chris Graveline. “One for those with children and one without?”
The prosecution used previous statements by England to suggest that she was laughing and having a good time while she and other soldiers forced detainees to masturbate, piled them naked into a human pyramid and took pictures of England pointing to the word “rapeist” (sic) scrawled on the naked buttocks of one man.
The defense introduced a number of witnesses who said a breakdown in the chain of command, a blurring of the role of military police and interrogators and confusion about the application of Geneva Conventions created an environment in which deviant behavior became both acceptable and inevitable.
The prosecution argued that England’s actions had tarnished the reputation of the military at a time when it was struggling to win “a war of ideas.”
“Who can think of a person who has disgraced this uniform more?” Graveline asked the panel of five officers.