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A father says MP son ‘did what he was told’

Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, would have gotten in trouble had he not followed orders to photograph the prisoners abused at Abu Ghraib prison, said Sivits' father in a recent interview.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Yellow ribbons adorned the front porch Sunday at the home of the first U.S. soldier to face a court martial in connection with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, will face court martial May 19 in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Sunday in Iraq.

The family didn’t answer their front door Sunday and wouldn’t comment when reached by phone.

Earlier, his father, Daniel Sivits, said his son was trained as a truck mechanic, not a prison guard, and would have gotten in trouble had he not followed orders to photograph the abused prisoners.

“Apparently, he was told to take a picture and he did what he was told,” Daniel Sivits told The Associated Press in an interview late last month. “He was just following instructions.”

Sivits grew up in a military family and “knows how to follow instructions,” his father said.

Neighbors said Sunday that Daniel Sivits is a veteran of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and is a member of the VFW.

Daniel Sivits, in an April 30 interview, said he thought the abuse scandal stemmed from a lack of leadership.

“All it is [is] lack of leadership, lack of instruction and lack of standard operating procedure and everyone at the top is covering their butts,” Daniel Sivits said. “My only question is this: Where was the leadership?”

Jeremy Sivits was charged with conspiracy to maltreat subordinates and detainees, dereliction of duty for negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse and cruelty and maltreatment of detainees, Kimmitt said.

If convicted of all charges, he could face one year in prison, reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for a year, a fine or a bad conduct discharge, military officials said.

Sivits’ hometown of Hyndman has about 1,000 people and is some 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. It’s only about 30 miles from the field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, as passengers fought with hijackers.

It’s also close to the Quecreek Mine, where nine miners were trapped hundreds of feet below ground for three days in July 2002.

In 2002, Sivits married Holly Louise Sivits, whom is believed to be staying with her parents. A man who answered the phone at their number Sunday said the family had no comment.

Jeremy Sivits’ best man and former baseball coach — 32-year-old Jamey Ringler of Hyndman — said Sunday he thought that because Sivits grew up in a military family that he had believed following orders was the right thing to do.

“I’m sure he feels he was in the wrong, but it was beat into his head that he had to follow orders. So in a sense, in his mind, that was right,” Ringler said.

Mayor Dell Biller said Sunday that Sivits would do “a little devilish thing” once in a while when growing up but he was “a wonderful kid.” Biller said he spoke on Saturday with the Sivits, who said they don’t know where their son is.

“They have heard nothing since practically day one ... and it ain’t right,” Biller said. “I can’t think this boy would have done something like this without being forced to.”

“He wasn’t that kind of a boy. I feel there was somebody else behind it,” said Thomas V. Cunningham, a neighbor and a former mayor.