FORT HOOD, Texas – Army Pfc. Lynndie England (search), who said she was only trying to please her soldier boyfriend when she took part in detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib (search) prison, was sentenced late Tuesday to three years behind bars.
England's sentencing wrapped up the last of nine courts-martial of low-level soldiers charged in the abuse scandal, which severely damaged America's image in the Muslim world and tarnished the U.S. military at home and abroad.
The jury of five Army officers needed about 90 minutes to determine their sentence for England, a 22-year-old from rural West Virginia who was the most recognizable of the reservists charged after graphic abuse photos became public.
The charges carried 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.
England, who was convicted Monday on six of seven counts involving prisoner mistreatment, sat with her eyes forward as the verdict was read, occasionally looking down.
She apologized earlier Tuesday for posing for the photos, saying she did so at the behest of Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., the boyfriend who she said took advantage of her love and trust while they were deployed in Iraq.
"I was used by Private Graner," England said. "I didn't realize it at the time."
She appeared in several of the best-known photos taken by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib in late 2003. In one image 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 the corner of her mouth.
England, speaking in response to questions from a defense lawyer, said she was embarrassed by the photos. She 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 contended she is a compliant person who took part in the detainee maltreatment to please Graner, who prosecutors said was the ringleader of the abuse by a group of U.S. troops.
In a calm 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."
Graner and another former guard were also convicted at trial, while six other soldiers struck plea bargains. Graner was sentenced to 10 years.
No officers have gone to trial, though several received administrative punishment.
Graner on Tuesday 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 called as an expert witness by the defense, testified that 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, Xavier Amador, 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.