FORT BLISS, Texas – A military jury convicted Pfc. Willie Brand (search), an Army reservist, on Wednesday of abusing one of two Afghanistan detainees who later died.
The jury, which deliberated for two hours, found Brand guilty of assault, maltreatment, false official swearing and maiming in connection with the beating of a detainee known as Dilawar. It acquitted Brand on similar charges involving Habibullah, a second detainee who also died.
As the verdict was read, Brand wiped tears from his face. His wife, who has been at the trial throughout, wept and hugged her mother-in-law.
Homicide charges against Brand, an Ohio reservist with the 337th Military Police Company (search), were dropped earlier this year.
The sentencing portion of the trial was to begin Thursday. Brand faces a range from no punishment up to 16 years in military prison.
Brand was accused of repeatedly beating two detainees while working as a guard at a detention center at Bagram Air Field (search) in Afghanistan in December 2002 and then lying about it. The detainees died later that month.
Prosecutors had asked the all-male military jury of four enlisted soldiers and three officers to reject Brand's claim that he just did what he was told and taught.
"It's an excuse that comes up when you are caught," 1st Lt. David Trainor told jurors, referring to Brand's defense. "He was not confused about it (his orders); he lied about it."
Trainor also urged jurors to ignore defense claims that Brand, who according to official statements admitted hitting the detainee, did not know what he was doing was abusive.
"I have a 13-year-old son. If someone put him in an isolation cell and struck him 30 times I would have little trouble (concluding) that was abuse," Trainor told the jury. "Thirty hits in the leg: Is that abuse? What's to quibble about?"
According to Brand's statements to military investigators, he hit Dilawar "somewhere in the area of 37 (times) but less than 40 for sure."
But he repeatedly said that the knee strikes were used to gain the detainees' compliance so he could shackle them or put hoods over their heads.
Brand's defense lawyers argued again Wednesday that the reservist MP was poorly trained and not ready for war when he deployed to Afghanistan.
John P. Galligan, a retired Army colonel and former military lawyer, told the jury that Brand was something of a scapegoat.
"This case, sadly, is one where it appears that someone needs to step up to the plate," Galligan said. "We've got to pin this on someone and all eyes are on Pfc. Brand."
Galligan also argued that those above Brand in the chain of command, including at least two officers who have not faced criminal charges, should be held liable for any abuses before Brand. "Don't blame him for the deficiencies of others," Galligan said. "Don't ask that he be a better leader than those who led him."
The only defense witness, a reserve military police officer with Brand, testified Wednesday that training was "fuzzy" and "inadequate."
Former Army Sgt. James P. Boland told the jury that before leaving for Afghanistan in the summer of 2002, he didn't have a clear mission and was unsure when or how he could use force against a prisoner.
Boland was a reserve military police officer with Brand.