By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD The military on Thursday announced a court date for Pfc. Lynndie England, the last of nine soldiers charged in the Armys Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, after she waived her right to the equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.
England, a 22-year-old Army reservist from West Virginia, is scheduled to appear in a III Corps courtroom on May 2 for a pre-trial hearing. Her court-martial is set to begin May 3, a Fort Hood news release stated.
England is charged with conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees and the commission of indecent acts, all violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the release stated. All of the offenses allegedly occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq, between October and December 2003.
A clerk at the prison, England was photographed smiling with a cigarette in her mouth as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. In one of the scandals more notorious shots, she is pictured holding a naked detainee at the end of a leash.
England has repeatedly insisted that her actions were dictated by persons in my higher chain of command. She said was ordered to pose for the photographs and felt kind of weird doing it. She has remained at Fort Bragg, N.C., and gave birth to a child whose father reportedly is Charles Graner, who is serving 10 years at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for his role in the scandal.
In August, England app-eared before a military grand jury hearing, known as Article 32 within the military justice system. That hearing was convened by the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.
Soon after, the proceedings were switched to the jurisdiction of the Fort Hood-based III Corps when Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz became the convening authority after he took the helm of U.S.-led ground forces in Iraq last year.
When they changed the court-martial convening auth-ority from the 18th Airborne to III Corps, everything that went down at Fort Bragg was erased, said Dan Hassett, a III Corps spokesman at Fort Hood. They were going to go through a complete new Article 32.
In August at Fort Bragg, Englands attorneys had argued that their client was a pawn in a widespread policy of abusive military intelligence procedures.
She was working under military intelligence interrogation procedures, said Richard A. Hernandez, Englands lead civilian attorney.
This was not a rogue band of soldiers, Hernandez said. This is clearly something that went beyond this individual and beyond these accused.
The claim has been a common theme for the defendants in the Abu Ghraib cases.
The scandal erupted in April after photographs surfaced showing naked detainees at Abu Ghraib being abused and posed in sexually humiliating positions.
The abuse is said to have taken place in late 2003 after military police from the 372nd Military Police Company took over guard duties at the prison. The pictures were taken during the night shift for Tier 1 Alpha, a clandestine wing controlled by military intelligence.
So far, only junior enlisted soldiers have been accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
On March 1, the American Civil Liberties Union and the group, Human Rights First, sought to link U.S. military commanders to the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in lawsuits filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and three Army commanders on behalf of former detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Graner, the alleged ringleader, was the first of the military police reservists to go to trial. He was convicted by a Fort Hood panel in January and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Six other soldiers have pleaded guilty under plea deals and have received sentences ranging from demotion to eight years in prison in the prison abuse scandal.
A court-martial for Spc. Sabrina Harman was postponed until May 11 at Fort Hood.
Harman is facing charges of conspiracy, dereliction of duty and five counts of maltreatment of detainees.
Harmans team has requested enlisted jurors. The panel is scheduled to be seated May 12. The presentation of the government case is expected through May 14. The defense case could begin May 16.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com