By Emily Howard
Killeen Daily Herald
Court-martial proceedings for Spc. Charles Graner, a soldier charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib scandal, are set to begin Friday on Fort Hood.
Graner is one of four soldiers from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company being tried at the post. Sgt. Javal Davis, Spc. Sabrina Harman and Pfc. Lynndie England are also awaiting trial.
Graner is charged with five violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, all occurring at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad from October to December 2003. Charges against him include conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault, committing indecent acts, obstruction of justice and adultery.
The trials were moved to Texas to bring together several cases stemming from the prisoner abuse scandal, the Army said in a statement.
Consolidating the cases at Fort Hood will conserve resources and ease logistical constraints for witnesses, the statement said.
During Graners pre-trial hearing in December, his attorney, Guy Womack, tried to persuade the court to dismiss all charges. He argued there had been unlawful command influence on potential jury members in the form of statements from superiors in the military chain of command. The motion was denied.
Graners defense suffered another blow when the court rejected a request to permit Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, to appear as a witness. Womack argued that Sanchez was essential to his case because he would testify that he got the ball rolling on the interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison.
The judge denied allowing Sanchez as a witness, stating the general was too far removed from the situation to give valid testimony.
After the hearing, Womack said that plea bargaining was not an option for his client.
In the court-martial process, an accused cannot plead guilty unless he is guilty, and Spc. Charles Graner is not guilty, he said.
It was also decided at his hearing that Graners trial will have an enlisted jury, one-third of which will be enlisted personnel of higher rank than the defendant. The member selection was expected to be complete by Christmas.
Of the seven military policemen charged in the scandal, three have pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from demotion to eight years in prison.
Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Chip Frederick II was sentenced Oct. 21 to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts the most severe sentence so far.
Spc. Megan Ambuhl pleaded guilty at a summary court-martial in Baghdad to reduced charges of dereliction of duty for failing to prevent or report the maltreatment.
Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits was sentenced to one year in jail and a discharge after pleading guilty in May to three counts.
Spc. Armin Cruz, a military intelligence soldier, also was sentenced to eight months and a discharge for his part in the scandal.
Contact Emily Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org