FORT HOOD, Texas – Army Pfc. Lynndie England (search) apologized Tuesday for posing for the notorious photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (search), saying she did so at the behest of the soldier boyfriend she loved and trusted.
England, convicted Monday of prisoner mistreatment, directed blame for her conduct toward Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. (search) during her unsworn statement to the five military jurors who began deliberating her punishment late Tuesday.
"I was used by Pvt. Graner," England said. "I didn't realize it at the time."
England, the most recognizable of the nine enlisted soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal after photos of the abuse became public, was convicted on six of the seven counts against her.
The charges against the 22-year-old reservist from rural West Virginia carry up to nine years, but prosecutor Capt. Chris Graveline asked the jury to imprison her for four to six years. The defense asked for no time behind bars.
At the end of her half-hour statement, made by responding to questions from defense lawyer Capt. Katherine Krul, England said she was embarrassed by the photos.
She appeared in several of the best-known images taken by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq in late 2003. In one photo, she held a naked prisoner on a leash, while in others she posed with a pyramid of naked detainees and pointed at the genitals of a prisoner while a cigarette hung from a corner of her mouth.
England also apologized to the detainees and their families, as well as to American soldiers who may have suffered in Iraq for her misguided actions.
"I heard attacks were made on coalition forces because of the photos," she said. "I apologize to coalition forces and their families that lost their life or were injured because of the photos."
England's defense has contended that she is a weak, compliant person who took part in the detainee maltreatment to please Graner, who prosecutors said was the domineering ringleader of the abuse by a group of U.S. troops.
In a calm, deliberate voice, England recounted how her relationship with Graner, 14 years her senior, developed as they prepared for deployment to Iraq with the 372nd Military Police Company in 2003.
"He was very charming, funny and at the time it looked to me like he was interested in the same things I was. ... He made me feel good about myself," she said. "I trusted him and I loved him. ... Now I know it was just an act to lure me in."
England's court-martial was the final trial for low-level soldiers charged with abuse at Abu Ghraib. Graner and another former guard were also convicted at trial, while six other soldiers struck plea bargains. No officers have gone to trial, though several received administrative punishment.
Earlier Tuesday, Graner supported testimony from a defense witness that officers in charge failed to control the guards at the Baghdad prison, creating stressful conditions that disoriented England and led her to take part in the mistreatment.
Graner testified that he, England and others who worked the overnight shift in a high-security section of Abu Ghraib had scant supervision.
"It seems like the junior soldiers were on their own," said Graner, who England has said is the father of her infant son. "We had little leadership."
Graner said he told officers about detainee maltreatment, which he claimed was done by order of military intelligence personnel. And at times, he said, military intelligence officers actually were present for the abuse.
"I nearly beat an MI detainee to death with MI there," he said before Col. James Pohl, the judge, interrupted his testimony.
Stjepan Mestrovic, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University testifying as an expert defense witness, had said England should be punished lightly because of the "poisonous environment" that existed at Abu Ghraib.
"She was caught up in this chaotic situation like everyone else," said Mestrovic, who also testified that officers at Abu Ghraib "knew or should have known what was going on."
A psychologist said England came from an emotionally abusive family, was prone to depression and that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder even before deploying to Iraq.
Xavier Amador said England also had a deviant sexual relationship with Graner that affected her ability to know her actions were wrong.