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Soldier gets lenient sentence for beating

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

FORT LEE, Va. (AP) — A soldier charged with beating an Iraqi detainee with a baseball bat and trying to cover it up received the lightest possible punishment Tuesday night after being convicted of lesser charges earlier in the day.

A six-person military jury convicted Sgt. 1st Class Timothy L. Drake, 40, of battery and making false statements but acquitted him of impeding the investigation and encouraging a fellow soldier to beat a detainee.

The jury sentenced Drake, who originally faced more than 20 years in prison when his court-martial began Monday, to be reprimanded, defense attorney Michael Waddington said late Tuesday. Drake will not serve jail time or be reduced in rank.

"Considering the fact that on Monday when we went in there he was facing over 20 years and he was charged with fracturing somebody's skull with a ball bat ... he was happy with the result," Mr. Waddington said.

A reprimand is a formal, written censure that almost inevitably ends any chance for career advancement, but is considered an extraordinarily light sentence in a general court-martial.

During the sentencing phase, Drake apologized for "disgracing the corps." He said the stress of combat operations and the recent death and injury of friends caused him to hit the detainee.

"What I did was wrong. I know that," Drake told the jury.

Mr. Waddington said Drake, who is from Laurel, will remain in the military, but hopes to be transferred from Fort Lee.

Drake was accused of striking the detainee in December 2003 at Forward Operating Base Mercury, near the Iraqi town of Fallujah.

The defense rested its case Tuesday after putting only one witness on the stand — an Army physician whose testimony Mr. Waddington said supported claims of no medical evidence of abuse at the base.

Drake, a senior food-service sergeant at that time, did not testify.

The military judge on Monday had dismissed a charge of bodily injury, one of the most serious counts. The dismissal reduced Drake's maximum possible punishment from 21½ years to 16½ years.