- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military judge yesterday threw out Pfc. Lynndie England’s guilty plea to abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, saying he was not convinced the Army reservist who appeared in some of the most notorious photos in the scandal knew her actions were wrong at the time.

The mistrial sends the case back to the beginning.

The case will be reviewed again by Fort Hood’s commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who will decide what charges, if any, Pfc. England should face. If she is charged, the case will go back to a military equivalent of a grand jury hearing, an Article 32 proceeding, prosecution spokesman Capt. Cullen Sheppard said.

The military judge, Col. James Pohl, entered a plea of not guilty for Pfc. England on a charge of conspiring with Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. to maltreat detainees at the Baghdad-area prison and a related charge.

The mistrial came after Graner, the reputed ringleader of the abuse, testified as a defense witness at Pfc. England’s sentencing hearing. He testified that pictures he took of Pfc. England holding a naked prisoner on a leash at Abu Ghraib were meant to be used as a legitimate training aid for other guards.

Other photos showed Pfc. England smiling while standing next to nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid and pointing at a prisoner’s genitals.

When Pfc. England pleaded guilty Monday, she told the judge she knew the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of the guards.

Col. Pohl said her statement and Graner’s could not be reconciled.

“You can’t have a one-person conspiracy,” the judge said before he declared the mistrial and dismissed the sentencing jury.

Under military law, the judge could formally accept her guilty plea only if he was convinced she knew at the time that what she was doing was illegal.

By rejecting the plea to the conspiracy charge, Col. Pohl canceled the entire plea agreement. The agreement had carried a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison, but the prosecution and defense had a deal that capped the sentence at a lesser punishment, the length of which was not released.

Neither prosecution nor defense attorneys would speak to reporters after the deal was discarded. Pfc. England, shielded by her defense team, would not comment outside the courtroom.

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