FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Seeking to discredit claims that Pfc. Lynndie England (search) was following orders, prosecutors portrayed her on Tuesday as an out-of-control soldier who was photographed mocking Iraqi prisoners "just for fun."
On the first day of a hearing to determine whether England should be court-martialed for her actions at the prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees shown with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators, abused only for sport.
An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him they were taken while "they were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift."
Arthur said he believed the reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company (search), based on Cresaptown, Md., were responding to the stress of being in a war zone. Just before the pictures were taken in October 2003, there had been a prison riot at Abu Ghraib (search) and some soldiers had been injured.
"It was just for fun, kind of venting their frustration," Arthur testified.
But when asked if that assessment applied to England, Arthur replied: "She never mentioned that she was frustrated. She said it was more for fun."
Defense lawyers have said that the 21-year-old Army reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., was following orders from higher-ups and that the U.S. government has made her a scapegoat for an incident that stirred outrage in the Arab world.
They spent much of the Article 32 hearing's first day grilling investigators on how aggressively they questioned military intelligence operatives at the prison. The hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury session.
Arthur said that England initially told him military intelligence officers allowed the reservists to take the photographs for use in interrogating other prisoners, but there was no indication that ever happened.
"No one said they were going to turn them over to military intelligence," he testified.
A second Army investigator, Warren Worth, testified that England never indicated she was an unwilling participant in the photos, and that she even took some of the pictures herself.
He added that her job was in another part of the prison complex, and she had been warned that she didn't belong in the area where the pictures were taken.
Worth also described other photos that show England engaging in "oral sodomy" with a soldier, posing nude on a beach or pool, and waving her breasts in the face of a sleeping soldier. When asked whether England ever expressed unease at doing these things, Worth responded: "At no time did she say that."
England, visibly pregnant beneath her woodland camouflage uniform, sat impassively with her elbows on the defense table and her hands folded in front of her. Her mother, Terrie England, sat behind her, folding her arms across her chest and wringing her hands as witnesses described the graphic photos.
One of the prison photos shows England 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 on a cellblock floor, his face contorted.
England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.
Arthur said he was alerted to problems at the prison on the night of Jan. 13, when Spc. Joseph Darby of the 372nd gave him a computer disk containing the now-infamous photos and told him that prisoners were being abused.
He said England claimed to have gotten permission from military intelligence to "rough up" a couple of rape suspects, but later noted she was the only member of the 372nd to tell him of the orders by military intelligence.
The hearing adjourned for the day at midafternoon and was to continue Wednesday.
England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.
Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, another soldier in England's unit, also has been charged with abuses and was involved in a romantic relationship with England; he faces adultery charges for allegedly having sex with England last October. England's lawyers have said she is pregnant with Graner's child.