- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

From combined dispatches

FORT HOOD, Texas — Pfc. Lynndie England yesterday surrendered her right to challenge the seven charges she faces in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, moving her one step closer to a new military trial.

Her defense attorney, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, would not provide many details about why he decided not to go forward with the Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. He said only that it was part of an “evolving trial strategy” and not part of a deal with prosecutors.

“She is waiting to move forward with her life and put this behind her as quickly as possible,” Capt. Crisp said. “This certainly will speed up the process.”

He said he did not think the sides would reach another plea agreement after Pfc. England’s initial guilty plea was rejected by a judge this month.

Now the decision on charges against Pfc. England goes to Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, Fort Hood’s commanding general. He will decide whether she will face any or all of the charges.

Pfc. England, wearing camouflage fatigues and sunglasses, did not comment as she entered the courthouse at Fort Hood.

Maj. Rose Bloom, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, said Pfc. England’s trial likely would take place any time from a few weeks to a few months from now. She added that the government did not make any concessions to have Pfc. England waive her Article 32 hearing.

The reservist soldier had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence at her trial earlier this month. But Judge James Pohl declared a mistrial after Pfc. England’s former lover, Charles Graner, testified that he was acting as her superior when he told her to hold a leash to a prisoner.

That testimony from the father of Pfc. England’s child, who has since married another woman implicated in the scandal, undermined Pfc. England’s plea contention that she knowingly abused prisoners and was not following orders.

A photo of Pfc. England holding an Iraqi prisoner by a leash was one in a series of images in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Pfc. England also was seen jeering at prisoners’ genitals in other photographs.

Last week, Capt. Crisp said he expected to call Graner, the ringleader now serving a 10-year sentence, and others already convicted of abuses at this week’s hearing. To date, six soldiers have pleaded guilty and two have gone to trial and been found guilty.

Capt. Crisp said Pfc. England’s case resembled that of Sabrina Harman, sentenced a week ago to six months in prison for abuses including being photographed in front of a pyramid of naked prisoners, more than it did that of ringleader Graner.

Under the charges now under consideration, Pfc. England could be sentenced on conviction to 11 years in prison.

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