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Iraq abuse 'before MPs arrived'

Staff Sgt. Frederick appears before the media in front of the U.S. military court at Mannheim Tuesday.
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Abu Ghraib
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MANNHEIM, Germany (CNN) -- Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison was "an environment of criminality and violations" of international law and army regulations before the military police officers charged in the prisoner abuse scandal arrived there, an attorney for one of the MPs said.

Gary Meyer, Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick's attorney, told reporters after a hearing Tuesday that his client had agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges against him but added that it was clear the seven MPs currently facing courts-martial over the matter were not "rogue soldiers."

"What went on at Abu Ghraib was a complete breakdown of discipline and authority, and these are merely specific acts within a sea of a multitude of specific acts," Meyer said.

"And I think after today we will no longer hear that it was just seven rogue soldiers."

Meyer said he could not discuss the agreement reached between the government and Frederick for his guilty pleas, but said other charges would be dismissed. "Those that remain, Staff Sgt. Frederick has taken responsibility for," he said.

Frederick currently faces charges of assault, maltreatment of prisoners, indecent acts, dereliction of duty and conspiracy.

Frederick, stoic in his desert khakis, stood between his attorney and his wife. He did not take any questions.

Meyer also said that Frederick was "concerned about the well-being of" Army Spec. Joseph Darby, the soldier who handed over a CD-ROM full of incriminating photographs to Army criminal investigators, launching the investigation.

Darby, because of threats against him and his family, testified earlier this month by telephone in a hearing for another soldier charged in the scandal, his location kept secret by military officials.

The staff sergeant "asks that those who have made threats to this family stand down and allow this matter to move forward," Meyer said.

Referring to two military reports due out this week that senior officials have said implicate or at least criticize others in the scandal, the attorney said the government's "second line of defense ... appears to be that it was just 28 rogue soldiers."

"I don't know what it will be next week," he said.

"The environment at Abu Ghraib was an environment of criminality and violations of the Geneva Conventions and various Army regulations virtually from the beginning," he said.

"Prolonged nudity, handcuffing to cells, men with women's underwear over their heads -- these things existed even prior to Staff Sgt. Frederick and his company arriving on the scene. It was a quagmire."

But Meyer insisted that torture is too strong a word for the behavior that took place at the prison.

"If you want torture, look at the pictures from My Lai (Vietnam)," he said. "This was humiliation, not torture."

Meyer said that Frederick's next court date was October 20, at which time he will officially enter pleas and begin the sentencing portion of his court-martial. Frederick will be allowed to call witnesses and present "ameliorating circumstances" at that time, he said.

Tuesday's appearance was a pretrial hearing. The judge in the case, Army Col. James Pohl, turned down Frederick's request for a change of venue, but Meyer said he "respects the court's decision."

Earlier the judge ruled that defense could not call top Defense Department officials to testify in the court martial of another military policeman, Sgt. Javal Davis. accused in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, the judge hearing the case ruled Tuesday.

But Col. Pohl said he would reconsider should the defense present evidence more closely linking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the department's undersecretary for intelligence, Stephen Cambone, to the scandal.

Pohl also rejected a motion by attorneys for Sgt. Javal Davis to suppress statements the soldier gave investigators during their initial questioning of him about his role in the scandal.

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