Sgt. Javal Davis, who admitted abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003, was sentenced Friday to six months in a military prison and given a bad-conduct discharge from the Army.
A nine-man military jury deliberated for about 5½ hours before sentencing Davis, a former Abu Ghraib guard who earlier this week confessed to stepping on the hands and feet of a group of handcuffed detainees and falling with his full weight on top of them.
After the verdict was read, Davis’ mother sobbed uncontrollably in the courtroom. Davis gave his father a long hug while a tear rolled down Davis’ face.
“All of you who aren’t my family can leave now,” Davis snapped at spectators after judge Col. James Pohl and the jury left the courtroom.
Davis will also be reduced in rank to private while serving his sentence, which could be as short as 4½ months for good conduct in prison and credit for time served.
The 27-year-old reservist from Roselle, N.J., faced up to 6½ years in prison for battery, dereliction of duty and lying to Army investigators. A deal with prosecutors, however, reportedly capped his sentence at 18 months.
Davis said he saw detainees being physically mistreated and sexually humiliated by other guards, but that he failed to help them or report the abuse, as required under military law. He also admitted lying to an Army investigator by denying his misdeeds at the Baghdad prison.
Stiffer sentence sought
Maj. Michael Holley, one of the prosecutors, had asked the nine jurors to sentence Davis to 12 to 24 months in prison. Holley said Davis’s misdeeds have tarnished the image of American soldiers in the world’s eyes and endangered forces serving in Iraq.
Holley issued a brief written statement calling the jury’s sentence “appropriate.”
Defense lawyer Paul Bergrin implored the jury of four Army officers and five senior enlisted men to go lightly on Davis, saying he has already been punished enough for a brief lapse in judgment.
Bergrin blamed the judge for refusing to let him pursue a defense that the Army jury pool had been tainted by comments condemning the Abu Ghraib defendants by President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top military leaders.
The judge ruled that such comments were not prejudicial because they didn’t mention any of the accused by name.
Bergrin also said military intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib should also face charges for their role in allegedly directing the abuse by prisons guards as a way to soften up detainees for interrogation.
“They all had their hand in this pie and should have been sitting in the same seat that Javal Davis was sitting in,” Bergrin said. “But I don’t believe we’ll ever see them. They’ve been too insulated.”