By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD An Army reservist on Monday was found guilty on six of seven counts for her role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
The panel of eight Fort Hood soldiers deliberated for 3 hours to find Spc. Sabrina Harman guilty of conspiracy, dereliction of duty and four of five counts of maltreatment of detainees at the prison near Baghdad.
Sentencing is scheduled to begin today in III Corps courtroom at Fort Hood. Harman now faces up to 5 years in prison.
Harman showed no reaction as the jury foreman read the verdict. She and her attorneys left without comment.
The 27-year-old former pizza delivery assistant manager from Lorton, Va., is among nine junior-ranking soldiers charged in the scandal that erupted in April 2004 after pictures were aired by a television network showing detainees being abused and forced to pose naked in sexually humiliating and suggestive positions.
Harman is seen smiling broadly, giving a thumbs-up, in some of the more notorious scenes shot between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, 2003, on Tier 1-A, a clandestine wing of the Saddam Hussein-era prison now run by U.S. military intelligence.
In one photograph, Harman is seen crouching behind a group of naked, hooded detainees stacked in a human pyramid and was found guilty of taking pictures of other abuse. She also is photographed with a prisoner on whose leg she was accused of writing rapeist and was found guilty of helping to place a hooded detainee on a box with wires attached to his hands and warning him he would be electrocuted if he fell.
In his closing arguments, defense attorney Frank Spinner said it was ironic that the pictures were being used by the government against his client. He noted a letter written to her friend and roommate on Oct. 20, days before the first abuse occurred, in which Harman said she was increasingly disturbed by what she was seeing and felt a need to document it with photographs.
I cant handle whats going on. I cant get it out of my head, Harman wrote Kelly Bryant. The only reason I want to be there is to get the pictures to prove that the U.S. is not what they think.
At times it appeared the prosecutions case was struggling as Spinner pointed out contradictions in statements by the governments witnesses and questioned their motives for testifying.
In the end, Spinner told the jury, the scandal should not be pinned on his client when many other soldiers and officers had failed to report the conduct, or did so anonymously out of fear of retaliation.
Shame on the Army, Spinner said. Shame on the Army for putting in an ill-equipped, ill-trained specialist in a prison where she has to challenge her NCO leadership. ... This is not one of the Armys highest moments.
It is the pictures that matter and what they portray, countered lead prosecutor Capt. Chris Graveline.
She was entirely into this maltreatment, Graveline said in his rebuttal. Dont let the defense take your eye off the ball.
Nine junior-ranking soldiers have been charged in the abuse scandal. Six soldiers have pleaded guilty under plea deals with the government and received their sentences ranging from six months to eight years.
Spc. Charles Graner, the convicted ringleader, was the first to go on trial in January at Fort Hood. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His former lover, 22-year-old Pfc. Lynndie England, earlier this month attempted to enter a guilty plea under a deal with the government. The plea was scuttled after conflicted testimony from Graner. The judge declared a mistrial and the case has since been referred back to an Article 32 hearing, the militarys equivalent of a grand jury investigation.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com