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England's guilty plea tossed out, mistrial declared

AP / AFP | May 6, 2005

A military judge on Wednesday threw out Private First Class Lynndie England's guilty plea to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, saying he was not convinced that she knew her actions were wrong at the time.

Colonel James Pohl entered a plea of not guilty for England to a charge of conspiring with Private Charles Graner Jr. to maltreat detainees at the Baghdad-area prison.

The mistrial for the 22-year-old reservist, who appeared in some of the most notorious photographs from the 2003 abuse scandal, kicks the case back to the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.

The action came after Graner, the reputed ringleader of the abuse, testified as a defense witness at England's sentencing hearing that pictures he took of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash at Abu Ghraib were meant to be used as a legitimate training aid for other guards.

When England pleaded guilty on Monday, she told the judge she knew that the pictures were being taken purely for the amusement of the guards.

Pohl said the two statements could not be reconciled.

"You can't have a one-person conspiracy," the judge said before he declared the mistrial and dismissed the sentencing jury.

Under military law, the judge could formally accept her guilty plea only if he was convinced that she knew at the time that what she was doing was illegal. By rejecting the plea to the conspiracy charge, Pohl canceled the entire plea agreement.

In related news, a US Marine who was videotaped shooting an unarmed Iraqi lying still inside a mosque during an attack on Fallujah last year was cleared of any wrongdoing after investigators determined that he acted in self-defense, NBC News reported late on Wednesday.

Lieutenant General John Sattler ruled that the corporal would not face court martial because he fired his weapon in self-defense, sources told NBC.

US forces taking part in the fierce battles in Fallujah had been warned that the enemy would fake death and booby-trap bodies to lure Marines to their deaths, the sources told NBC.

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