FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Lawyers for Pfc. Lynndie England moved Wednesday to throw out statements she made when first questioned about Iraqi prisoner abuse, including that reservists were just "joking around, having some fun."
The motion was one of five taken up by military judge Col. Stephen Henley in a hearing in advance of England's Jan. 18 court-martial on abuse charges stemming from photos of her pointing and smiling at naked detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib (search) prison.
Paul Arthur, an Army special investigator, testified that England was aware of her rights, including to have a lawyer present, when she was interviewed for more than four hours early the morning of Jan. 14 — three months before the photos became public.
Arthur testified that England was brought in for questioning — without a lawyer present — because investigators had obtained several pictures of her, including the now-infamous shot of her holding a naked detainee by a leash.
He said England was cooperative and did not appear fearful, and if she had asked for a lawyer he would have ended the interview. At the end of the questioning, he said, she wrote and signed a statement detailing her actions.
In a hearing this summer, Arthur said England told him the reservists took the photos 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) were responding to the stress of being in a war zone. 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."
England, a 21-year-old reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., was one of seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at the Baghdad prison. She became a focal point of the scandal after the photos surfaced.
During testimony at a pretrial hearing, defense attorneys maintained that England was being used as a scapegoat for a military run amok.
England has said she and the others were following orders from military intelligence operatives to "soften up" prisoners for interrogations. The defense sought unsuccessfully to call Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in an attempt to show that those directives came from or were known to the highest echelons of the Bush administration.
Military prosecutors argued that there were no such orders. England faces up to 38 years in prison if convicted.
The hearing Wednesday was England's first court appearance since giving birth to a son in October. Attorneys have said the father is another soldier charged in the case, Spc. Charles Graner Jr. (search)
Graner, pegged in testimony as the ringleader in the abuse, is scheduled for trial Jan. 7 at Fort Hood, Texas. Three co-defendants have pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from reduction in rank to eight years in prison.