Prosecutors have filed a new and reduced set of charges against Army Pfc. Lynndie England in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, cutting by more than half the sentence she could face if convicted of mistreating Iraqi detainees.
England, 22, a reservist who was photographed grinning in pictures of Iraqis in sexually humiliating positions, was initially charged with 19 counts of abuse and indecent acts. Those charges could have put her behind bars for 38 years.
But prosecutors at Fort Hood, Texas, where England’s case has been sent for trial, submitted nine counts to the military court last week that together carry up to 16½ years in prison, her legal team said Friday.
Prosecutors would not explain why so many counts were dropped.
“The best we can figure out, it looks like the new prosecutors in the case decided that these charges more accurately reflected her participation,” said Richard Hernandez, her civilian defense lawyer.
England is now accused of two counts of conspiracy, one count of dereliction of duty, four counts of cruelty and maltreatment and two counts of indecent acts.
Memorable face of abuse scandal
England, a clerk with the 372nd Military Police Company while serving in Iraq, is depicted in some of the most notorious photos taken at the prison in Baghdad.
In one image, she is seen holding a hooded, naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash. In another, she is smiling and pointing at a naked detainee’s genitals while a cigarette dangles from the corner of her mouth. Another photo shows her posing with a group of detainees who had been stripped and stacked into a human pyramid.
The defense has argued that England and others in her unit were acting on orders from military intelligence to “soften up” prisoners for interrogations. But Army investigators testified that England said the reservists took the photos while “they were joking around, having some fun.”
The next step in her case at Fort Hood is a yet-to-be-scheduled Article 32 hearing, the military version of a grand jury proceeding.
An Army officer will hear evidence from prosecutors and the defense before recommending to the Fort Hood commander whether her case should go to trial.
Four guards from the 372nd and two low-level military intelligence officers have struck plea bargains. Their sentences ranged from no prison time to 8½ years.
The only soldier tried in the case so far, Spc. Charles Graner Jr., the alleged ringleader, was convicted last month on all charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Military officials believe Graner is the father of England’s newborn child.