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Law

Sentencing phase begins in Abu Ghraib case

England pleads guilty, admits role in prisoner abuse was 'wrong'


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Lynndie England pleads guilty in the Abu Ghraib case.
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FORT HOOD, Texas (CNN) -- Pfc. Lynndie England who has pleaded guilty to her role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal arrived at Fort Hood on Tuesday for a hearing that will determine her sentence.

England said Monday that photographs of her with naked Iraqi detainees were taken to embarrass the prisoners and that "it was wrong."

Through her military attorney, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, England asked that a jury be seated to decide her penalty. Selection of that jury, a panel of nine officers and enlisted personnel, starts Tuesday.

The jury could lower England's jail time as it did earlier this year for Sgt. Javal Davis, who made a deal giving him 18 months in prison. The jury, however, reduced his sentence to six months.

During Monday's hearing, England told the judge, Col. James Pohl, that she succumbed to peer pressure.

"I had a choice, but I chose to do what my friends wanted me to do," the Army Reserve soldier said.

Asked why she thought the others were participating, she said, "They did it for their own amusement."

England pleaded guilty to seven charges: two counts of conspiracy to mistreat prisoners, four counts of abusing detainees and one count of committing an indecent act.

Pohl accepted the plea after questioning England about the photographs -- at times pointedly.

"You feel by doing these things you were setting conditions for interrogations ... if you embarrassed these guys?" Pohl asked.

"No, sir," she replied.

"So, this was just a way to embarrass them?"

"Yes, sir."

She said Charles Graner, who was then her superior and her boyfriend, asked her to pose in some photos, even though she wasn't comfortable with it.

"He asked you to do something, even though you knew it was wrong?" Pohl asked.

"Yes, sir," England replied. "It was wrong."

CNN has learned that England, 22, could face as little as two years in prison on the seven charges under terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors. She could have faced as many as 11 years in prison.

England pleaded not guilty to two other counts: dereliction of duty and committing an indecent act. The prosecutor has agreed not to pursue those charges.

The latter charge involves Graner, who is believed to be the father of England's infant son. Graner was convicted in January in the Abu Ghraib scandal, sentenced to 10 years in prison and reduced to the rank of private. Afterward he said he had no apologies for his actions. (Full story)

England, a reservist from rural West Virginia, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy based on a photograph of a pyramid of naked detainees and another in which she is shown with a naked detainee on a dog leash.

The four counts of abuse were based on two photos, one in which naked prisoners are arranged to simulate a sex act and another in which she posed with a detainee who had the misspelled word "rapeist" written on his leg.

The charge of participating in an indecent act was based on the photograph of a row of naked prisoners lined up against a wall and ordered to masturbate.

All the acts except two took place on England's 21st birthday, November 7, 2003, when she came to a cell block to visit Graner. England was a clerk, not a guard.

The detainees in the photos were suspected of starting a riot in another area of the prison and had been brought to the cell block for further questioning.

Graner is the only guard to stand trial so far. Four other guards have pleaded guilty, as have two military intelligence operatives at the prison.

Graner is married to Army Spc. Megan Ambuhl, who was one of the four guards to plead guilty.

Another female Army reservist who was at Abu Ghraib, Spc. Sabrina Harman, also faces court-martial at Fort Hood. Harman's case is to be tried May 12.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.


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