Jan. 16, 2005 -- Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr. was sentenced to 10 years behind bars Saturday for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, but his parents still insist that their son was merely following orders and has become a scapegoat for higher-ups in the military.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Tom Abrahams, who has been following this story for KTRK-TV in Houston, the Graners had harsh words for the U.S. military.
"Let me tell you something, 'Mamas, don't let your sons grow up to be soldiers,'" said Charles Graner Sr. "It is just not worth it. You join the Army, you obey orders and you go to jail."
Mother Calls Trial Unfair
Irma Graner said she was "heartsick" about the sentence and what she called an unfair trial.
"He followed orders and he got court-martialed, and the higher-ups will get promoted," she said. "And the seven rogue MPs, as they call them, are going to pay the price."
Graner, 36, faced 10 counts under five separate charges -- assault, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts and dereliction of duty. He was found guilty on all counts, except that one assault count was downgraded to battery. He could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Graner is in a Texas county jail awaiting a transfer to a military prison. He did not testify on his own behalf, but he did take the stand during the sentencing phase to repeat his claim that he was following orders from intelligence officers to mistreat Iraqi prisoners to make them talk.
That defense clearly did not resonate with the jury, and Irma Graner said the trial was unfair from the start.
"I just want to say there is no way that my son could have gotten a fair trial this week in that courthouse. It was just so biased, it was unreal," she said.
Graner, who grinned in photos of Iraqi prisoners being sexually humiliated, told jurors, "I didn't enjoy what I did there."
But after the sentence was handed down yesterday, Graner was laughing and joking with family members in the courtroom. Asked if he felt remorse, he said, "There's a war on. Bad things happen."
'That Was Their Job'
As for the infamous photos, Graner Sr. said his son was trying to document his work in Abu Ghraib. "He wanted other people to know what was going on," said Graner Sr. "What he was doing was showing them how it was done. That was their job ... They wanted to show other people, this is how you handle it. But in retrospect, I am certainly sorry he did take those pictures."
Irma Graner added that the photos allowed the military to further treat her son as a scapegoat.
"I do feel that since the pictures were released that they were making an example out of my son, because the United States got caught in their dirty work and they don't want anyone to know they are doing it," she said.
The Graners, who returned to their home in Pennsylvania today, say their son is not the "monster" he is made out to be.
"He is a truthful person, and he does not lie," said Irma Graner. "If he was ordered to do it, he would do it. There is no way he would have done it on his own."