FORT HOOD, Texas – An Army reservist tearfully apologized for her role in the Abu Ghraib (search) prison scandal, saying she failed in her duties and took full responsibility for her actions.
Spc. Sabrina Harman's (search) voice cracked as she spoke during the hearing, where she was sentenced to six months in prison for mistreating detainees.
"As a soldier and military police officer, I failed my duties and failed my mission to protect and defend," said Harman, 27. "I not only let down the people in Iraq, but I let down every single soldier that serves today.
"My actions potentially caused an increased hatred and insurgency towards the United States, putting soldiers and civilians at greater risk," she continued. "I take full responsibility for my actions. ... The decisions I made were mine and mine alone."
Harman was the second low-level soldier from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company (search) to go to trial on Abu Ghraib charges. Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. (search) was found guilty in January and is serving a 10-year sentence. Four other soldiers from the 372nd made plea deals with prosecutors, as did two soldiers from a military intelligence unit operating at Abu Ghraib.
Pfc. Lynndie England (search), the best-known defendant in the scandal, could face trial after her effort at a plea deal fell through earlier this month.
Harman, of Lorton, Va., was convicted on six of the seven counts she faced for mistreating detainees at the Baghdad-area lockup in late 2003. Among other things, she was found guilty of taking part in a photographed incident in which a hooded Iraqi was threatened with electrocution while standing on a box with electrical wires in his hands.
Harman had faced a maximum of five years, though prosecutors asked the jury to give her three years. With credit for time served, her actual sentence is just more than four months. She will be reduced in rank to a private and receive a bad conduct discharge after she finishes the sentence.
Prosecutors said in a written statement that they were pleased to bring Harman's case to its conclusion "as we strive to air all the facts regarding Abu Ghraib."
Defense lawyer Frank Spinner said his client had the chance to plead guilty last year with a two-year sentencing cap, but Harman turned down the proposal.
"I felt very strongly in Sabrina Harman," Spinner said. "I feel she's a very naive, very innocent person ... She didn't know how to react to that experience (at Abu Ghraib)."
Witnesses testified that the former pizza shop manager was kindhearted and helpful while serving in an Iraqi city.
Much of the defense testimony during sentencing focused on her behavior while at the Iraqi city of Hillah, where the 372nd Military Police Company was based for several months before moving to Abu Ghraib.
Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski, who served with Harman's unit, said she was widely known by her first name and her kind deeds among those living in Hillah.
"She presented a very positive image, a very caring image," Lipinski testified. "They were a country very much in need and she filled some of the gaps."
Two Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, whose testimony was read into the record, said Harman's gentle treatment was unique among the guards in the part of the prison reserved mostly for detainees believed to have intelligence value.
"She has no cruelty in her," Amjad Ismail Khalil al-Taie said through an interpreter. "Even though she is an American woman, she was just like a sister."