The highest ranking soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib during a court martial Thursday in Baghdad.
Staff Sgt. Ivan “Chip” Frederick, 38, an Army reservist from Buckingham, Va., was also given a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge. The sentencing came a day after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to eight counts of abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees.
It was the longest prison sentence yet in connection with the scandal that broke worldwide in April with the publication of photos and video that showed U.S. soldiers abusing naked Iraqis in the prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad.
Frederick — a military policeman who is a corrections officer in civilian life — acknowledged his part in the scandal, admitting that he hooked up wires on hook wires on the hands of a detainee who was told he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box and that he forced prisoners to masturbate.
But Frederick also blamed his chain of command, telling the court Wednesday that military intelligence officers ordered prisoners to be publicly stripped and degraded.
Defense calls sentence 'excessive'
He testified that he was given no training or support in supervising detainees and only learned of regulations against mistreatment after the abuses occurred between October and December last year. He said that when he brought issues up with his commanders, “they told me to do what MI told me to do,” referring to military intelligence.
Defense Counsel Gary Myers on Thursday called the sentence “excessive” and said he would seek a reduction.Video: Soldier sentenced in prison scandal
“Punish him yes. But please try to understand the defense’s point of view that there is corporate responsibility,” Myers said. “We discovered that he has no abhorrent tendencies.”
Army Prosecutor Major Michael Holley told the court it was a simple case of right and wrong.
“He’s an adult and capable of telling, as we learned, the difference between right and wrong. How much training do you need to learn that it’s wrong to force a man to masturbate?” he said.
'I shouldn't have done it'
"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.
Frederick is one of seven members of the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372nd Military Police Company 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.
In addition, Spc. Armin Cruz, 24, a military intelligence soldier, was sentenced last month to eight months of confinement, reduction in rank to private, and a bad conduct discharge for his part in the scandal.
A report this year by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said using MPs to break down prisoners may have been a technique imported from the Guantanamo Bay prison and possibly detention centers in Afghanistan used to hold suspected terrorists.
E-mail called for getting tough
During the proceeding, Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Kramer, a military intelligence soldier called
as a witness, referred to an e-mail from the U.S. command in Baghdad telling him to order his interrogators to be tough on prisoners.
“The gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees,” said the e-mail, which was read into evidence. It added that the command “wants the detainees broken.”
Frederick, who was in charge of the night shift at the “hard site” facility at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, said military intelligence soldiers and civilian interrogators told the guards how to treat the detainees.
That included stripping detainees, depriving them of sleep or taking away their cigarettes, Frederick said. Investigators wanted detainees “stressed out, wanted them to talk more,” he said.
Frederick said that from his first day at the prison, he saw detainees “naked, handcuffed to their door, some wearing female underclothes.” He said the first time he witnessed sexual humiliation used as an interrogation technique came late last October when he saw intelligence officers handcuff naked prisoners together.
Intent was to 'humiliate and degrade'
“Nudity was to humiliate and degrade them for military intelligence purposes. It was very embarrassing for an Arabic male to be seen nude by another,” Frederick said.
During an incident last Nov. 4 captured on photos transmitted around the world, Frederick said he helped hook wires on the hands of a detainee who was hooded and told to stand on a box or else he would be electrocuted. An Army investigator encouraged him to abuse the detainee, saying he didn’t care what was done to the prisoner “as long as you don’t kill him,” Frederick said.
In a Nov. 8 incident, Frederick admitted, he joined another soldier in jumping on a pile of seven detainees accused of rioting. He also admitted to stomping on their hands and feet.
“I should have stopped it right there,” he said.
But the detainees then were strip-searched and remained naked, even after female soldiers arrived on the scene — which is against military rules, he said. Frederick said he punched the ringleader in the chest so hard that the prisoner needed medical attention.
Finally, Frederick said, soldiers lined the detainees naked against a wall with bags on their heads and then forced three of them to masturbate.
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