FORT HOOD, Texas – Army Pfc. Lynndie England, whose smiling poses in photos of detainee abuse at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison made her the face of the scandal, was convicted Monday by a military jury on six of seven counts.
England, 22, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count.
The jury of five male Army officers took about two hours to reach its verdict. Her case now moves to the sentencing phase, which will be heard by the same jury beginning today.
England tried to plead guilty in May to the same counts she faced this month in exchange for an undisclosed sentencing cap, but a judge threw out the plea deal. She now faces a maximum of nine years in prison.
England, wearing her dark green dress uniform, stood at attention Monday as the verdict was read by the jury foreman. She showed no obvious emotion afterward.
Asked for comment after the verdict, defense lawyer Capt. Jonathan Crisp said, “The only reaction I can say is, ‘I understand.”’
England’s trial is the last for a group of nine Army reservists charged with mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, a scandal that badly damaged the United States’ image in the Muslim world despite quick condemnation of the abuse by President Bush. Two other troops were convicted in trials and the remaining six made plea deals. Several of those soldiers testified at England’s trial.
Prosecutors used graphic photos of England to support their contention that she was a key figure in the abuse conspiracy. One photo shows England holding a naked detainee on a leash. In others, she smiles and points to prisoners in humiliating poses.
The conspiracy acquittal came on a count pertaining to the leash incident; she was found guilty of a maltreatment count stemming from the same incident.
Beyond the sordid photos, prosecutors pointed to England’s statement to Army investigators in January 2004 that the mistreatment was done to amuse the U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib.
“The accused knew what she was doing,” said Capt. Chris Graveline, the lead prosecutor. “She was laughing and joking. … She is enjoying, she is participating, all for her own sick humor.”
Crisp countered that England was only trying to please her soldier boyfriend, then-Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., labeled the abuse ringleader by prosecutors.
“She was a follower, she was an individual who was smitten with Graner,” Crisp said. “She just did whatever he wanted her to do.”
England, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., has said that Graner, now serving a 10-year sentence, fathered her young son.
The defense argued that England suffered from depression and that she has an overly compliant personality, making her a heedless participant in the abuse.
England’s earlier attempt to plead guilty under a deal with prosecutors was rejected by Col. James Pohl, the presiding judge. Pohl declared a mistrial during the sentencing phase when testimony by Graner contradicted England’s guilty plea.
Graner, a defense witness at the sentencing, said pictures he took of England holding a prisoner on a leash were meant to be used as a training aid. In her guilty plea, England had said the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of Abu Ghraib guards.
Late Monday, Pohl rejected a request by Crisp to allow testimony during the sentencing phase by an Army captain who has reported similar prisoner abuse by other U.S. soldiers at a camp near Fallujah around the same time as the Abu Ghraib incidents.
Crisp said testimony by Capt. Ian Fishback would provide evidence of a command breakdown in Iraq that might have led England and other soldiers to think detainee mistreatment was condoned by military leaders.
But the judge ruled that he saw no proof that the two abuse situations were related, or that abuse elsewhere would in any way lessen the blame England might deserve for Abu Ghraib.
Pohl also ruled that prosecutors could use part of a deposition by Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a senior officer in Iraq when the Abu Ghraib abuse took place, in which Kimmitt said England’s conduct threatened the U.S. military mission in Iraq.