HYNDMAN, Pa. – Hometown friends of Army Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits (search) said he was "a sacrificial lamb" after learning Wednesday that he pleaded guilty for taking photos of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Some residents of this tiny southwestern Pennsylvania town said they hope high-ranking officials are held accountable for what happened to detainees at Abu Ghraib (search) prison in Iraq. Sivits pleaded guilty Wednesday in a court-martial (search) in Baghdad.
"I feel he's been bargained with to plead this way. I feel he was forced to take the brunt of this. He's intelligent enough to know he's in a no-win situation so he went ahead and agreed with it," said Jamey Ringler, Sivits' former baseball coach and best man at his wedding.
Sivits, a member of the reserves, took photos of the abuse and humiliation of prisoners at the detention center. He cooperated with Army prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lesser charges than those lodged against some of his colleagues at Abu Ghraib.
Sivits was sentenced to a maximum one year in prison.
Thomas V. Cunningham, the former mayor of Hyndman, said he hoped Sivits wouldn't accept anything other than an honorable discharge. "Everybody on the street knows he's the sacrificial lamb," Cunningham said.
On Tuesday night, more than 200 residents wore yellow ribbons and clutched small American flags during a candlelight vigil in support of Sivits. Yellow ribbons were stapled to utility polls and a poster near Sivits' home read "Jeremy Sivits, our hometown hero."
His father, Daniel Sivits, made a brief statement Tuesday night.
"I want to make explicitly clear, Jeremy, no matter what, is still my son. We still love him," the father said. "I am a veteran of the Vietnam War and I want to say one thing — Jeremy is always a vet in my heart and in my mind."
The Rev. Mark Blair, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Hyndman, said he had hoped Sivits would get only six months in jail.
"Jeremy wouldn't be doing this unless he was told," Blair said. "He was never a leader. He was a follower."
In New Jersey, the father of accused Sgt. Javal S. Davis said his son wants to proceed with a court-martial to clear his name. At a hearing in Baghdad, Davis deferred a plea on abuse charges and a new hearing was scheduled next month.
"Shawn is innocent," the father said Wednesday, using his son's middle name. "The whole thing is kind of hard to swallow. It's like, 'You pull me to duty, you make me fight and do all this, and then you say I'm wrong and that I'm an animal when I'm following what you ordered me to do.'"
The two soldiers are members of the Army Reserves' 372nd Military Police Company based in Cumberland, Md., where a vigil was held Tuesday. Families prayed for strength, troop protection and forgiveness for any who sinned.
Tom Landaker, chaplain of the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, asked that the reservists not be ostracized as many Vietnam vets were.
"With all the negative worldwide media coverage that the 372nd Military Police Company has received, I pray that these troops do not receive the same treatment when they come home," he said to applause.