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Lawyer: Soldier in Abuse Probe Is a Scapegoat

An attorney for an Army reservist shown in photographs smiling and gesturing at naked Iraqi prisoners said Monday that the "20-year-old farm girl from West Virginia" is taking the fall for military shortcomings that include a lack of troops.

Pfc. Lynndie R. England (search), 21, of Fort Ashby, W.Va., was charged Friday with mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison (search) in a scandal that has drawn worldwide outrage.

Six other soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company were charged earlier and one of them, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits (search) of Hyndman, Pa., will face a court-martial in Baghdad on May 19.

One of England's Denver-based attorneys, Giorgio Ra'Shadd, said the military was so short of troops in Iraq that untrained people were being used as guards.

"Because there was a shortage of personnel the commander on the scene took people who had no idea how to be MPs and cut them off at the neck from their leadership," he said. "That is crazy."

He said his client was being offered up as a scapegoat for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

"What is offensive to me is that we have generals and the secretary of defense hiding behind a 20-year-old farm girl from West Virginia who lives in a trailer park," Ra'Shadd said.

Asked if his client considered refusing to obey unlawful orders from jail commanders, he said: "She's a private. Privates take orders from privates first class."

Potential penalties for England could range from a reprimand to imprisonment and a punitive discharge. Ra'Shadd and the other lawyers are defending England for free, and he said they plan to meet with her for the first time Tuesday at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Ra'Shadd said his client joined the Army Reserves out of patriotism and to prevent another Sept. 11.

In photographs that have been shown repeatedly in news reports, England is seen smiling, cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side, his face contorted.

Ra'Shadd accused intelligence operatives of staging many of the scenes in order to scare prisoners into talking.

"That is a standard psychological war method," he said. But when it comes to defending his client, he said, "the spooks from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department won't show up when we subpoena them. They will go into hiding."

Ra'Shadd has worked on other high-profile military cases, including that of Spc. Simone Holcomb, who refused to return to Iraq so she could care for her seven children. Holcomb was released from active duty in November.