England Will Fight Prison Abuse Charges

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Army Pfc. Lynndie England (search) will abandon her earlier courtroom strategy and fight charges that she was a key participant in detainee abuse by guards at Iraq's Abu Ghraib (search) prison, her lawyer said.

The 22-year-old reservist, who appears in a series of graphic photos taken inside Abu Ghraib, was to go on trial Tuesday at Fort Hood, Texas, on seven counts of mistreating prisoners.

She will be the last of a group of junior enlisted soldiers charged with Abu Ghraib abuses to have their cases resolved. Two have been convicted at trial, while six others made plea deals and received prison sentences of up to eight years.

Three months after England's attempt at a plea agreement fell apart, her lead defense lawyer, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, said "there's not going to be a deal."

Crisp said he plans to base much of his defense on England's history of mental health problems that date back to her childhood.

He said he also will focus on the influence exerted over England by Pvt. Charles Graner (search), the reputed abuse ringleader. Graner, who England has said fathered her young son while they were deployed, is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted at trial in January.

"I wouldn't say it's 'Blame Graner,'" Crisp said of his trial strategy, which includes calling Graner as a witness. "But certainly Graner is involved as far as what was going on."

England pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy, maltreating detainees and committing an indecent act — the same charges she faces this week — in exchange for an undisclosed sentencing cap. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 11 years.

But judge Col. James Pohl (search) abruptly threw out the deal and declared a mistrial during the sentencing phase when testimony by Graner contradicted England's guilty plea.

Graner, called as a defense witness, said pictures he took of England holding a prisoner on a leash were meant to be used as a training aid. But in her guilty plea, England said the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of the guards.

Prosecutors, who declined to talk about the trial, are expected to rely on the photos that have made England the scandal's most recognizable figure.

A ruling by Pohl in July, however, tossed out a key piece of the prosecution's case — statements to Army investigators in which England implicated herself in the abuse.

The judge said that he believed England did not fully understand the consequences when she waived her rights against self-incrimination before speaking to the investigators in January 2004.