Wednesday, August 15, 2007

FORT LEE, Va. (AP) — A soldier charged with brutally beating an Iraqi detainee with a baseball bat and attempting to cover it up was convicted yesterday, one day after his court-martial began.

Authorities had charged Sgt. 1st Class Timothy L. Drake with striking an Iraqi detainee with a bat and kicking a detainee, encouraging another soldier to beat a detainee, impeding the investigation of the accusations and making false statements to investigators.

A six-person military jury found Drake guilty of assault and two counts of making false statements, but acquitted the soldier on the charges of impeding the investigation and encouraging a fellow soldier to beat a detainee.

Drake was awaiting his sentence tonight.

Drake, 40, 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 yesterday after putting only one witness on the stand.

Maj. Michael A. Cortines, an Army physician, testified that detainees at Mercury received careful medical inspections when they arrived at the temporary holding facility.

He said the detainees also were examined daily by medical personnel and examined when they left.

“That was around the time Abu Ghraib broke,” Maj. Cortines said. “We were not interested in having similar incidents in our unit.”

Defense attorney Michael Waddington said Maj. Cortines’ testimony supported the claim that no medical evidence existed that anyone was abused at Mercury.

On Monday, Spc. Angel M. Bonilla testified that he saw Drake strike a detainee with the aluminum bat. Afterward, he said Drake told him, “B, come get a piece of this.”

Spc. Bonilla said he grabbed a bat from outside the tent and struck a second detainee. He said he regretted it afterward, but that he felt pressured to do it.

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

The military judge dismissed one of the most serious charges against him Monday.

The dismissal of the bodily injury charge reduced Drake’s maximum possible punishment from 21½ years to 16½ years. He also could get a reduction in rank, a dishonorable discharge and total forfeiture of pay and allowance, the Army said.

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