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Case against woman in abuse scandal delayed

Sources: Lawyer for Pfc. Lynndie England in plea bargain talks

From Jim Polk

Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (Contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.)

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Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- Court-martial proceedings against Pfc. Lynndie England, charged in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, have been delayed until next month, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said Monday.

England's lawyer, Richard Hernandez, said last week that she is open to discussing a plea bargain, and sources told CNN that plea bargain discussions were initiated Monday.

"A plea is always a possibility, if for nothing else, to avoid the possibility of a court-martial and a longer sentence," Hernandez said last week.

An Article 32 hearing, comparable to a preliminary hearing in a civilian court, was scheduled to start Tuesday but was postponed by mutual agreement of the parties, the Army spokesman said. It is now scheduled to take place the week of July 12.

England is one of the female soldiers shown in some of the notorious photographs from Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. In one, she is holding a leash tied to an Iraqi prisoner's neck; in another, she is pointing to the genitals of a detainee who is naked but for a hood.

The leash photo is the basis for one of the most serious charges against England: conspiring to commit maltreatment of a detainee.

She also faces three counts of assault against Iraqi detainees, nine counts of conduct prejudicial to good discipline in the military, and one count of indecent acts with various soldiers and detainees.

The nine improper conduct charges involve additional photos that England either took or posed for.

An Article 32 hearing takes place before an investigating officer, who hears testimony and arguments from both sides and then decides whether to recommend a full court-martial.

England was transferred to the United States after she reportedly became pregnant as a result of an affair with another Abu Ghraib guard charged in the scandal, Spc. Charles Graner.

Like six others charged with abuse, England, 21, who is from Fort Ashby, West Virginia, is a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based outside Cumberland, Maryland, near her hometown.

Her case is the only Abu Ghraib proceeding to be held in the United States.

One guard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison and given a bad conduct discharge. Five others are awaiting possible courts-martial in Iraq.

Prison declared crime scene

In Baghdad on Monday, the judge in three of those cases granted a defense motion to declare the Abu Ghraib site a crime scene and ordered that the prison must not be destroyed while U.S. soldiers are on trial for their roles in the scandal.

In a speech late last month, President Bush said the United States would tear the prison down if the new Iraqi government agreed. Just over a week ago, Iraq's interim president said "demolishing and rebuilding" the facility would be a waste of money.

The motion by Paul Bergrin, the civilian defense attorney for Sgt. Javal Davis, came during pretrial hearings in courts-martial proceedings against Davis and two other U.S. service members. (Full story)

England is now assigned to duties with the 16th Military Police Brigade at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She has told reporters she was simply doing what she was told.

"I was told to stand here, point thumbs up, look at the camera and take the picture," she told a Denver, Colorado, television station last week.

"They just told us, 'Hey, you're doing great. Keep it up.' "

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