- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army dog handler charged with abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners was part of a small crew of corrupt soldiers who enjoyed tormenting detainees, a prosecutor at his court-martial said in an opening statement yesterday.

“This is a case about military policemen who were trained better and knew better and decided to do otherwise,” Maj. Matthew Miller said.

But a defense attorney said Sgt. Santos A. Cardona followed the law and obeyed orders at a time when the Pentagon was demanding intelligence from Iraq through a fractured chain of command.

“No one had any earthly idea who controlled whom,” lawyer Harvey Volzer said.

Compounding the problem, he said, was the absence of Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, then commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who was in charge of military prisons in Iraq but who Mr. Volzer said was rarely at Abu Ghraib.

“You’re looking for a chain of command that just doesn’t exist,” he said.

Gen. Karpinski was relieved of her command, reprimanded and demoted to colonel for her role in the scandal.

Sgt. Cardona, 32, of Fullerton, Calif., is accused of letting his tan Belgian shepherd, Duco, bite a detainee and competing with another dog handler to frighten detainees into soiling themselves in late 2003 and early 2004. He also is accused of using his dog to harass and threaten another detainee in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Sgt. Cardona faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Maj. Miller said Sgt. Cardona harassed prisoners for “nothing more than the entertainment of the accused and the enjoyment of the other corrupt cops serving on the night shift at Abu Ghraib.”

The night shift supervisor, former Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II, testified yesterday that he saw Sgt. Cardona’s dog bite the detainee twice after the prisoner “attacked” former Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. in a prison hallway.

Frederick, now a private serving an eight-year sentence for his role in the scandal, said that the MPs probably could have subdued the prisoner without the dogs but that he thinks the canines were used properly.

“I’ve thought about it and thought about it and, my opinion, I thought it was justified,” he said.

Frederick also testified that Sgt. Cardona had told him that he and another dog handler, Sgt. Michael J. Smith, were having a contest to see how many detainees they could make urinate on themselves.

Smith, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was convicted at a court-martial in March of maltreatment, conspiracy, dereliction and an indecent act. He was sentenced to 179 days in prison.

Ten low-ranking soldiers have been convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, in many cases by forcing them to assume painful or sexually humiliating positions while being photographed.

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