Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier pictured holding a naked Iraqi detainee on a leash in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that damaged U.S. credibility around the world, will plead guilty next week to most charges against her, her lawyer said on Friday.
The 22-year-old reservist became the face of the Iraq abuse scandal after the leash picture and others showing her posing before humiliated Iraqi prisoners were published last year, but the lawyer said she was just a pawn in the affair.
She will plead guilty to seven of nine charges on Monday before a Fort Hood, Texas military court in a deal that could bring a maximum sentence of 11 years, the lawyer, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, told Reuters.
“Justice is being done based on the evidence that has been brought forward at this point,” he said by telephone from Fort Hood where he met with prosecutors on Friday.
He said the prosecutors had become increasingly amenable to her case. “I think they recognize her ultimate role in this is not what it was initially thought to be. She was a pawn.”
The Abu Ghraib photos, many of which were taken on a single night in November 2003, shocked the world and badly damaged America’s reputation in a world already skeptical about the U.S.-led invasion earlier that year.
England will be the seventh low-level guard at the prison to plead guilty to abusing prisoners.
More senior officers have been exonerated of blame by the U.S. military despite concern that a drive to squeeze information out of detainees initiated at a high level created the atmosphere in which such abuses could occur.
England’s plea deal means the drama of her trial next week will come at the penalty phase in which her attorneys will argue that England suffered mental health problems. “What you’re going to hear about is a history of severe mental deficits,” Crisp said.
England faced a total of 16-1/2 years in prison under the original charges. Crisp said he hoped her ultimate punishment would be lower than the 11-year maximum.
“Monday she’s going plead to two specifications of conspiracy, four specifications of cruelty and maltreatment and one specification of indecent acts,” he said. “They are dismissing two of the charges.”
The most serious of the dropped charges alleged she engaged in a sex act with her then boyfriend Charles Graner — who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the abuses — as another sergeant took a picture.
Crisp said Graner — who fathered a child with England — would be brought from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth to appear under a grant of immunity.