FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) – Army Pfc. Lynndie England apologized yesterday for posing for the notorious detainee abuse photos at Abu Ghraib prison, saying she did it at the behest of the soldier boyfriend she loved and trusted.
England, convicted Monday of prisoner mistreatment, directed blame for her conduct toward Pvt. Charles Graner during her unsworn statement to jurors who will determine her punishment.
“I was used by Pvt. Graner,” England said. “I didn’t realize it at the time.”
England, the most recognizable of the nine enlisted soldiers charged in the scandal after photos of the abuse became public, was convicted on six of the seven counts against her.
England testified yesterday during the sentencing phase of her trial. The 22-year-old reservist from rural West Virginia faces a maximum nine years in prison.
The defense has contended that England took part in the detainee maltreatment at the Iraq prison to please Graner, whom prosecutors have labeled the ringleader of the abuse by a group of U.S. troops.
Earlier yesterday, defense witness Stjepan Mestrovic, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University who has interviewed England, said officers in charge failed to control the guards, creating stressful conditions that disoriented her and led her to take part in the mistreatment.
“She was caught up in this chaotic situation like everyone else,” said Mestrovic, who also testified that officers at Abu Ghraib “knew or should have known what was going on.”
That testimony was later supported by Graner, who’s now serving a 10-year sentence.
He said he once severely beat a detainee while military intelligence personnel watched.
England was photographed at Abu Ghraib holding a naked prisoner on a leash. In other images, she posed with a pyramid of naked detainees and pointed at the genitals of a prisoner while a cigarette hung from the corner of her mouth.
Her court-martial was the last of the nine. Two Abu Ghraib guards were earlier convicted, and six other soldiers struck plea bargains. No officers have gone to trial, though several have received administrative punishment.
Graner testified that he, England and others who worked the overnight shift in a high-security section of Abu Ghraib had scant supervision.
“It seems like the junior soldiers were on their own,” Graner said. “We had little leadership.”
Graner said he told officers about detainee maltreatment, which he claimed was done on orders from military intelligence personnel. And at times, he said, the intelligence personnel were actually present for the abuse.
“I nearly beat an MI detainee to death with MI there,” he said before Col. James Pohl, the judge, interrupted his testimony.
Also yesterday, a New York psychologist said England came from an emotionally abusive family, was prone to depression and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder even before she was sent to Iraq.
Xavier Amador said England also had a deviant sexual relationship with Graner that affected her ability to know her actions were wrong.
“It changes your view of what’s OK and what’s not OK,” he said. “You don’t recognize indecent acts as readily as you would have.”
During her trial England was depicted as having an overly compliant personality who wanted to please Graner, who she says fathered her baby.