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Friday, January 14, 2005  

Law: Leader guilty in Iraqi prison case

The U.S. Army finished considering the first of the Iraqi prisoner abuse cases to be contested today. In previous cases, the defendants pled guilty. Specialist Charles A. Graner, considered the coordinator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, maintained he was a patriotic American doing his duty. The jury disagreed, convicting Graner on most of the counts. Graner is perhaps best known as the boyfriend of the notorious Lynndie England, the enlisted woman photographed abusing inmates who became the 'face' of the scandal.

The New York Times reports.

FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 14 - The Army reservist accused of being the ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was found guilty on all charges by a military jury here this evening, a year to the day after the Pentagon began an investigation into photographs that showed Iraqi detainees bound and beaten or forced into sexually humiliating positions.

The jury of 10 soldiers convicted the reservist, Specialist Charles A. Graner, after five hours of deliberation, finding him guilty on all but one count, of aggravated assault, which it reduced to battery.

Specialist Graner and his parents showed no visible reaction in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

The jury immediately began the sentencing phase of the trial tonight, hearing testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses. One side argued that Specialist Graner was a patriot and a devoted son, while the other argued that his violent actions had permanently damaged the military and the nation, as well as the lives of the Iraqis who were abused.

The defense lawyer argued that there was nothing really wrong with the humiliation and torture of detainees that he described as the day-to-day routine at Abu Ghraib. His explanation for Graner's participation was that 'to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.' Civilian attorney Guy Womack said the real crime was not that the abuse occurred, but that information about it was leaked. The major problem with Womack's defense is that it appears the eggs were being broken to entertain Graner and the other soldiers accused -- not to serve any justifiable purpose. The abused inmates were not persons likely to have information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein or other sensitive matters. The impression that the abuse was done for sport was bolstered by Graner's letters and emails home, in which he bragged about humiliating and assaulting prisoners.

Graner, 36, is from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He faces as many as 15 years in prison.

11:10 PM