Thursday, May 05, 2005

Judge Rejects Pfc. Lynndie England Guilty Plea

A military judge on Wednesday threw out the guilty plea for Army Pfc. Lynndie England, a public symbol of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq. Judge Col. James Pohl entered a not guilty plea for England after suspending the proceedings Wednesday morning as Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., England's former boyfriend and supervisor, was testifying. England had pleaded guilty to seven charges: two counts of conspiracy to mistreat prisoners, four counts of abusing detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. The maximum punishment for the counts to which England pleaded guilty would be 11 years in prison. Graner, who was convicted separately in the scandal and sentenced to 10 years in prison, testified England was just following orders by placing a dog leash around an Iraqi prisoner's neck and leading the detainee out of his cell. The technique was legitimate, Graner said. Pohl excused the jury and admonished the defense team because Graner's testimony, he said, contradicted England's guilty plea Monday. In making that plea, she admitted her participation and said she knew it was wrong. If she was just following orders, Pohl said, she should be pleading not guilty. A military judge must establish guilt before formally accepting a defendant's plea. Graner, who is said to be the father of England's infant son, Carter England, born in October, is now married to Spec. Megan Ambuhl, one of the four guards to plead guilty in the scandal. England's mother carried Carter into court Wednesday. In the morning, she removed the baby's hood for photographers; when she left for lunch, he was covered by a blanket. Graner was also busted from a rank of specialist following his conviction, and is to be dishonorably discharged when he is released from prison. Leaving court on Tuesday, Graner handed out a written statement saying he found England's guilty plea "upsetting" but hopes it will bring her an easier sentence. England, however, appeared resentful toward Graner. As the courtroom sketch artist, Pat Lopez, was drawing him, England leaned over to her and said, "Don't forget the horns."
Army Pfc. Lynndie England holds her infant son, Carter England