September 12, 2004 in Nation/World

Army specialist pleads guilty in Abu Ghraib abuse

Associated Press
 

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A U.S. Army specialist pleaded guilty Saturday to abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, the first Military Intelligence soldier to stand trial in the scandal that has so far focused on prison guard reservists.

Spc. Armin J. Cruz, of Plano, Texas, was assigned to the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion at the grim facility on the western edge of Baghdad. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to maltreatment of prisoners.

The military judge, Col. James Pohl, sentenced Cruz to eight months confinement, reduction in rank and bad conduct discharge.

The prosecution alleged Cruz, 24, forced naked prisoners to crawl along the floor and later handcuffed the men together. The soldier broke down in tears as he told the judge that the abuse occurred a month after a mortar attack killed his sergeant and another American soldier.

Defense attorney Stephen P. Karns argued that Cruz was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Chief prosecutor Maj. Michael R. Holley said Cruz was not forced to take part in the abuse and that his actions contributed “to the tarnishing of the reputation and the image of U.S. forces.”

Cruz became the second soldier convicted so far in the prison scandal, which broke last spring when CBS’ “60 Minutes II” broadcast photos of Iraqi prisoners enduring sexual and other humiliation at the hands of grinning American guards.

In May, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits pleaded guilty to four counts of abuse at his court-martial and was sentenced to a year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.

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