Is Lynndie England a Victim or Victimizer?
Defense Psychologist Says Army Reservist Was Depressed
May 2, 2005
Pfc. Lynndie England, the U.S. Army reservist at the heart of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from the scandal. But at the time she was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash, England was in thrall to an older soldier and so depressed that she was "thinking about suicide," a defense psychologist told ABC News.
England, 22, pleaded guilty in a military court in Fort Hood, Texas, to two counts of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, four counts of maltreating prisoners and one count of committing an indecent act. A military jury will meet Tuesday to begin determining her punishment.
Although she could receive 11 years in prison, ABC News has learned that as part of today's plea agreement, England will receive no more than 2 Â½ years in prison
Despite her guilty plea, England and her defense team have long maintained she was a pawn of higher-ups.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Xavier Amador, the psychologist for England's lawyers, says she was clinically depressed and in tears every day during the time the photos were taken.
"She couldn't think clearly," Amador said. "She was wishing she was dead, thinking about suicide."
'She Had Absolutely No Idea'
Confronting her with the photos today, an Army judge questioned England about the incident in which she held a hooded, naked prisoner by a dog leash. England said it was her colleague and former boyfriend, Spc. Charles Graner, who put the strap around the detainee's neck and then handed it to her so he could take the picture.
"I assumed it was OK," England said, "because he had a background as a corrections officer."
In a May 2004 interview with CBS affiliate KCNC-TV in Denver, England said: "I was instructed by persons in a higher rank to stand there, hold this leash, they took a picture for psy-op [psychological operations]. That's all I know."
Asked if England was aware of her actions at the time, Amador said, "At the time and when I first met her, I think she had absolutely no idea."
A History of Learning Disabilities
According to Amador, England did not speak until she was almost 8 years old. Diagnosed as "electively mute," she was placed in special education. Some thought she was autistic.
England got married shortly after graduating from high school in West Virginia, but the marriage ended in divorce after just a few months. At the time of her marriage, Amador said, England was a virgin and an evangelical Christian who was disgusted by pornography.
But in Iraq, Amador said, England was manipulated by Graner. She began a sexual relationship with Graner in Iraq, and later became pregnant by him, Amador said. He said England began doing things she believed would please her lover.
"Graner took pictures of her -- not only nude pictures of her -- he took pictures of her having sex with him," said Amador. "He had another soldier who was older and outranked her take a camera and they had sex together while this soldier took a picture. She felt humiliated. She thought it was perverted. She felt it was wrong. So I asked her why she did it, and she said, 'I didn't want to lose him.' "
Eager to Close the Case?
England was one of seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad. England became a sort of poster child for the abuse scandal after photos depicting the abuse of inmates surfaced. In addition to the leash photo, one photo showed England smiling and giving a thumbs-up sign as she posed beside a pyramid of nude prisoners. Another showed her smoking a cigarette, smiling and pointing at a naked inmate's genitals.
Graner was convicted of abuse charges in January and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Although he is said to be the father of England's son, last month he married another Abu Ghraib defendant, former Spc. Megan Ambuhl. Ambuhl and three other members of the 372nd have pleaded guilty in the case. The final defendant, Spc. Sabrina Harman, is scheduled to go to trial at Fort Hood next week.
The plea agreement spares England a potentially much longer sentence and a humiliating trial that would have forced her to defend those pictures yet again. But Scott Silliman, a professor at the Duke University School of Law, said the military likely was also anxious to close her case with as little drama as possible.
"You've got a young lady with a child," said Silliman. "It's not the best case for the government to prosecute -- not nearly as good as Graner's case. I think they'd like to move past this case, close out these courts-martial on Abu Ghraib, and move on to other things."
ABC News' Bob Woodruff filed this report for "World News Tonight."