FORT HOOD, Texas — The reputed ringleader in the Abu Ghraib scandal said he was unhappy that Pfc. Lynndie England pleaded guilty to mistreating Iraqi detainees at the Baghdad-area prison in 2003.
In a handwritten note given to reporters Tuesday, Pvt. Charles Graner said he wanted England to fight the charges.
“Knowing what happened in Iraq, it was very upsetting to see Lynn plead guilty to her charges,” wrote Graner, who was scheduled to testify Wednesday at England’s sentencing hearing. “I would hope that by doing so she will have a better chance at a good sentence.”
Graner continues to argue that he and the other Abu Ghraib guards were following orders from higher-ranking interrogators when they abused the detainees.
Slideshow: Abu Ghraib images
England, 22, pleaded guilty Monday to seven counts of mistreating prisoners. She told the court that the physical beatings and sexual humiliation were done for the guards’ entertainment and took responsibility for the smiling, thumbs-up poses she struck for photographs that made her the face of the prisoner abuse scandal.
In one of the photos, England held a leash looped around the neck of a hooded, naked prisoner. Another showed her next to nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid, while a third depicted England pointing at a prisoner’s genitals.
Her lawyers sought leniency Tuesday from the Army jury of five men and one woman that will determine her punishment.
A school psychologist from Mineral County, W.Va., who worked with England when she was a child testified that she was oxygen-deprived at birth, speech impaired, and had trouble learning to read.
Thomas Denne said England’s learning disabilities were identified when she was a kindergartner, and though she made progress in school, she continued needing special attention.
“I knew I was going to know Lynndie England for the rest of my life,” Denne said.
When asked by judge Col. James Pohl whether England knew right from wrong, Denne said she had a compliant personality and tended to listen to authority figures.
'A different mental capacity'
Rick Hernandez, a defense lawyer, said the psychologist’s testimony helped England by establishing that her ability to reason was lower than that of her comrades.
“She is clearly in a different mental capacity... than any of the others accused,” he said.
Capt. Chris Graveline, the lead prosecutor, told jurors in opening statements that England and a half-dozen other soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company took great pleasure in humiliating the prisoners.
Graveline said England and Graner, believed to be the father of England’s infant son, knew it was wrong to mistreat the detainees and take the photos, “but they did it anyway for their own amusement.” The prosecution rested its case without calling any witnesses.
The charges carry up to 11 years in prison. Prosecutors and the defense reached an agreement that caps the sentence at a lesser punishment; the length was not released. She will get the lesser of the military jury’s sentence or the term agreed on in the plea bargain.
Four other Abu Ghraib guards and two low-level military intelligence officers have entered guilty pleas in connection with the scandal, with sentences ranging from no time to 8½ years. Spc. Sabrina Harman, a former Abu Ghraib guard, is scheduled to go to trial at Fort Hood next week.
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