September 21, 2004
Military judge recommends court-martial for England
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — A military judge has recommended a court-martial for Pfc. Lynndie England in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but said the young Army reservist was “easily led” and had been “heavily influenced” by an ex-boyfriend who is also charged in the case.
Army Reserve Col. Denise J. Arn, who presided over England’s military pretrial hearing, recommended that England be tried on 17 counts, including abuse and indecent acts stemming from photographs showing her smiling and gesturing at naked and hooded Iraqi prisoners at the Baghdad prison.
Arn found insufficient evidence for two assault charges and rejected a prosecution request to add a charge of “maltreatment and cruelty” against the 21-year-old personnel clerk.
While finding there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, Arn said it “does not escape notice that Pfc. England was one of the younger participants, if not the youngest, in the incidents that gave rise to the allegations against her.”
Arn specifically mentioned co-defendant Spc. Charles Graner Jr., the reputed father of the child she is carrying. England is about eight months pregnant.
“From my review of the evidence, it is apparent that Pfc. England was, at the time of the offenses, the kind of person who was easily led,” Arn wrote in the report. “I have little doubt that her conduct was heavily influenced by her personal relationship with Cpl. Graner, a forceful, dominant, self-centered individual at least 12 years her senior.”
Arn said England also was influenced by other soldiers, including Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, who has said he will plead guilty in the case next month.
Arn’s recommendations, dated Sept. 6, were based on testimony in August during an Article 32 proceeding.
Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, Fort Bragg’s overall commander, will decide whether England is court-martialed.
England is one of seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged in connection with abuse that occurred at the prison late last year. Photographs of England posing with men stacked in a nude pyramid and holding a naked detainee by a leash became emblematic of a prison system run amok.
Lori Hernandez, wife of lead defense attorney Rick Hernandez and a paralegal in his law office, said Tuesday that England took news of the court-martial recommendation well.
“Lynndie’s doing fine,” Hernandez said. “She’s still working and status quo.”
England has been assigned a desk job at Fort Bragg while her case is pending.
Douglas C. McNabb, a Houston-based defense attorney who handles military cases, said it is rare for a commanding officer to disregard a court-martial recommendation, though it’s not uncommon for specific charges to be dropped.
England’s attorneys argue that she posed for the pictures on orders from higher-ups to “soften up” Iraqi prisoners. They sought unsuccessfully to call such high-level witnesses as Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Military prosecutors portray the abuse as the work of a renegade band of reservists.
England stands charged with 13 counts of abuse and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos not involving detainees. She faces up to 38 years if convicted.