By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Military jurors on Tuesday sentenced Spc. Sabrina Harman to six months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge for abusing prisoners in 2003 at the Armys Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq.
The sentence was reached after more than three hours of deliberation and a day after the 27-year-old Army reservist from Lorton, Va., was convicted of six of seven counts of conspiracy, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of prisoners.
Harman had faced up to five years. Prosecutors had sought three years and a dishonorable discharge. With credit assessed for her time at Camp Victory in Iraq and good behavior, she is likely to spend about 109 days behind bars.
In a brief unsworn statement read to jurors that afternoon, an emotional Harman apologized for her actions and absolved her command of responsibility.
I first wish to apologize to any and all detainees I failed to protect from any form of maltreatment that I may have witnessed and been part of, Harman said. As a soldier and military police officer, I failed my duties and failed my mission to protect and defend.
Defense attorney Frank Spinner said Harman was extremely relieved at the sentence.
We wish she had not received any time, he said. But after the government asked for three years, were pleased with a six-month sentence.
Spinner said a two-year deal offered by prosecutors more than a year ago was rejected. A second deal, believed to have been a year in prison, also was turned down.
The Fort Hood panel of four officers and four noncommissioned officers found Harman guilty of a series of abuses portrayed in pictures aired in April 2004 by a news network that showed soldiers gloating over naked detainees being forced to pose in sexually humiliating positions between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, 2003.
In some of the more notorious shots, Harman is seen smiling broadly behind a group of naked and hooded detainees stacked into a human pyramid. She also was found guilty of maltreating a hooded prisoner forced to stand on a box with wires attached to his hands. The man was warned he would be electrocuted if he fell. In another photo, she is seen smiling over a detainee after having written the word rapeist on this thigh.
I take full responsibility for my actions. I do not place blame on my chain of command or others I worked with during this time, said the former pizza delivery assistant manager. The decisions I made were mine and mine alone.
The statement was compiled by Harman, Spinner said.
That is pure Sabrina Harman, said Spinner, adding that he had come to view his client almost like a daughter.
Although disappointed by the verdict, Spinner said the sentence was a win for the defense.
During the sentencing phase, witnesses said Harman was a caring soldier who had become popular with the Iraqis and played with the children at Hillah, the units first assignment.
Youd hear them holler Sabina, Sabina just when the trucks went by, said Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski, the 372nd Military Police Companys former first sergeant. She presented a very positive image, a very caring image.
Two detainees at Abu Ghraib described their former prison guard through an interpreter as a peaceful and kind woman who was regarded by one as just like a sister.
What you see out there is not the true Sabrina Harman, said Kelly Bryant, who said she was Harmans best friend, roommate and partner. The truth needs to be told.
Testing showed Harman to be suffering from anxiety, depression and dependency, said Dr. Stjepan Mestrovic, a psychologist and expert witness for the defense. The chaotic conditions at the prison contributed to Harmans poor judgment calls, including the decision to pose for the camera and not report the abuse.
That is not a sadistic smile, Mestrovic said about the pyramid photograph. It is the smile of somebody who is pretending to go along with it because they are afraid.
Nine junior-ranking soldiers have been charged in the scandal that has sparked worldwide outrage.
Six of them have pleaded guilty under plea deals with the government and received their sentences. Spc. Charles Graner, the convicted ringleader, was the first to go to trial in January at Fort Hood. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His former lover, Pfc. Lynndie England, is scheduled to face the militarys equivalent of a grand jury investigation early next week after her deal was scuttled earlier this month by conflicting testimony offered by Graner.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com