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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Judge Declares Mistrial in Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse Case

The New York Times :

FORT HOOD, Tex., May 4 - A United States Army judge declared a mistrial in the court martial of Pfc. Lynndie England today after expressing doubts about whether she had been aware that she was committing a crime when she abused Iraqi prisoners.

The mistrial means that Private England's deal with military prosecutors, under which she agreed to plead guilty, is invalid. Her case goes next to Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of the Army's Third Corps at Fort Hood, who has a wide range of options, including ordering a nonjudicial punishment or directing that the case be reinvestigated. General Metz has jurisdiction in the case because he was the commander of ground forces in Iraq at the time the abuse occurred.

Before declaring a mistrial, the judge, Col. James L. Pohl, had halted the proceedings briefly after a witness, Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., testified that photographs of naked prisoners taken at Abu Ghraib Prison near Baghdad had a legitimate training use for guards. Private Graner also said he had ordered Private England to hold a leash around the neck of a detainee and said that the leash had become attached to the prisoner's neck by accident.

Private Graner's explanation contradicted Private England's testimony earlier this week, when she told the judge that she knew that the photographs of naked prisoners were intended solely for the amusement of American military guards, including herself, and that she understood her actions were wrong.

Testimony by Private England and other witnesses speaking on her behalf was intended to mitigate her actions and secure a shorter prison term, but Colonel Pohl warned several times that it was verging on a statement of her innocence.

"If you don't want to plead guilty, don't," the judge told her this morning. "Am I missing something here?"

Yes. It's that she didn't know those pictures "were intended solely for the amusement of American military guards."

Somebody thought this was a good idea.

In other news:

Army misses April recruiting goal by 42 percent

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes.

With the Iraq war straining the U.S. military, the active-duty Army has now missed its recruiting goals in three straight months, with April being by far the worst of the three, and officials are forecasting that it will fall short again in May.

The all-volunteer Army is providing the majority of the ground forces for an Iraq war in which nearly 1,600 U.S. troops have died.

The active-duty Army signed up 3,821 recruits last month, falling short of its goal of 6,600 for April, Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said. That left the Army 16 percent behind its year-to-date goal, officials said.


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