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Sergeant pleads guilty to 3 Abu Ghraib charges

Army Sgt. Javal Davis arrives Monday at the courthouse in Fort Hood, Texas, where his case is heard.Eric Gay / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former Abu Ghraib guard pleaded guilty Tuesday to battery and two other charges in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal as part of a deal with prosecutors on the eve of his trial.

Sgt. Javal Davis, 27, also pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty and making a false official statement to Army investigators after photographs of naked and abused prisoners became public last spring. Davis, from Roselle, N.J., will not be tried on two other charges he had faced: conspiracy and maltreating prisoners.

Defense attorney Paul Bergrin told The Associated Press last week that Davis was working on a deal with prosecutors that would cap his possible sentence at 18 months.

Capt. Chuck Neill, a prosecution spokesman, acknowledged that a deal was made, but would not comment on its terms.

A jury of officers and soldiers will be selected Wednesday for sentencing. Neill said the jury’s sentence recommendation will be compared to the deal offered to Davis, and that the lesser sentence will be served.

“We intend to present a very, very aggressive sentencing trial such that this panel will give him no punishment at all,” Bergrin said, adding that Davis will likely testify during the hearing.

‘I just lost it’
Davis admitted Tuesday that he stepped on the hands and feet of some of the seven detainees brought into his section of Abu Ghraib for punishment after a November 2003 disturbance in a prison tent camp nearby. He said he also fell with full weight on top of them.

Davis, serving with the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company, said he was upset because a female soldier had been hit in the face with a brick during the tent camp incident, and that he took out his anger on the prisoners.

“It hurt me on the inside and I just lost it,” said Davis, who stands about 6-foot-1 and weighs nearly 220 pounds. “I wasn’t trying to hurt them. I was just trying to scare them, but I did it.”

Davis, who did not appear in any of the notorious Abu Ghraib photos, also said he saw others abusing prisoners, but he did not come forward.

Admits witnessing abuses
Davis told the judge that he saw what he believed to be military and civilian intelligence personnel physically mistreating prisoners and, among other things, using unmuzzled dogs to terrify prisoners before questioning.

The pleas were entered after Col. James Pohl, the judge, rejected efforts by Davis to get all the charges dismissed.

The three charges to which Davis pleaded guilty carry a maximum punishment of 6½ years in prison. Davis had faced up to 8½ years.

Last month, Charles Graner Jr., of Uniontown, Pa., was sentenced to 10 years in prison and his rank was reduced from specialist to private after being convicted on the same charges faced by Davis, as well as committing indecent acts.

Four other soldiers have already pleaded guilty in the Abu Ghraib case, and each testified at Graner’s week-long trial. Two others — Spc. Sabrina Harman and Pfc. Lynndie England — still face trial.

Davis’ plea deal requires him to testify against Harman and England if requested by prosecutors.