Lawyers for the only Army officer charged with abusing Abu Ghraib detainees rested their case at his court-martial Thursday after defense witnesses testified he was a helpful administrator, but he wasn’t the commanding officer.
The 10-member military jury will hear closing arguments Monday and begin deliberating the fate of Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, 51, of Fredericksburg, Va.
Jordan faces up to 8½ years in prison if convicted of four counts stemming from his stint as director of an interrogation center at the Iraqi prison in 2003. He didn’t appear in any of the infamous photos of prisoner humiliation by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib, but investigators concluded that as the highest-ranking officer, he fostered an atmosphere conducive to abuse.
Defense attorneys maintain that Jordan, a civil affairs reservist with a military-intelligence background, took no part in interrogations and had no chain-of-command responsibility for the 11 military intelligence and military police already convicted.
They asked the military judge to acquit Jordan of all charges, but the motion was denied.
Short defense testimony
In less than 90 minutes of testimony Thursday, defense witnesses supported their claims and praised Jordan for working to improve living conditions at the prison, even after being wounded in a mortar attack within days of his arrival in September 2003.
“He got us tables, chairs, extra fans, TV, VCR — things to make life better for us,” said Stephen Pescatore, who worked as a civilian interrogator. “He seemed to be about the only senior officer who really cared about the troops there at Abu Ghraib.”
On Wednesday, his attorneys hammered at the flawed memory of the government’s last witness, Maj. Gen. George Fay.
Fay, an assistant deputy chief of staff at the Pentagon, investigated the role of military intelligence soldiers at the prison.
His report concluded that Jordan fostered an atmosphere conducive to abuse as director of the prison’s interrogation center in the fall of 2003.
Two charges dropped
At the outset of the trial Monday, prosecutors dropped two of the most serious charges — both alleging Jordan lied in statements to Fay — after Fay remembered that he forgot to read Jordan his rights before interviewing him in spring 2004. The revelation contradicted Fay’s testimony at a hearing in March.
Dropping those charges reduced Jordan’s potential prison term by eight years.
The most serious charge Jordan faces — punishable by up to five years in prison — involves disobeying an order from Fay not to talk to others about the investigation.
He also is charged with failing to obey a regulation by ordering dogs to be used for interrogations without higher approval, punishable by up to two years; cruelty and maltreatment for allegedly subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs, punishable by up to one year; and dereliction for allegedly failing to properly train and supervise soldiers in interrogation rules. The latter carries a six-month maximum prison sentence.
Jordan is the only officer among the 12 people charged in the scandal, and the last to go to trial. Eleven enlisted soldiers have been convicted of crimes, with the longest sentence, 10 years, given to former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., of Uniontown, Pa., in January 2005.