Army Reservist Convicted in Afghan's Abuse
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Army Reservist Convicted in Afghan's Abuse

Associated Press | August 17, 2005
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL

FORT BLISS, Texas -- A military jury convicted an Army Reserve private Wednesday of beating one of two Afghanistan detainees who later died.

The jury found Pfc. Willie Brand guilty of assault, maltreatment, false official swearing and maiming. It acquitted him of similar charges involving the second man.

Brand's sentencing hearing begins Thursday, and he could face anything from no punishment to up to 16 years in military prison.

As the verdict was read, Brand, 26, wiped tears from his face. His attorney, John P. Galligan, said the conviction will be appealed.

"When you send a man who has been to war back with a conviction, that's punishment enough," Galligan said.

Military prosecutors did not comment.

Brand, an Ohio reservist with the 337th Military Police Company, was accused of repeatedly beating two detainees while working as a guard at a detention center at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan in December 2002 and then lying about it. The detainees died later that month.

The conviction was for abuse of a prisoner known as Dilawar. An Air Force medical examiner had testified the man was injured so severely that his leg muscles were split apart. Homicide charges were dropped earlier this year.

Prosecutors asked the jury of four enlisted soldiers and three officers to reject Brand's claim that he just did what he was told and taught.

"It's an excuse that comes up when you are caught," 1st Lt. David Trainor said. "He was not confused about it (his orders); he lied about it."

Trainor also urged jurors to ignore defense claims that Brand, who according to official statements admitted hitting the detainee, did not know what he was doing was abusive.

Brand repeatedly said that the knee strikes were used to gain the detainees' compliance so he could shackle them or put hoods over their heads.

Defense lawyers argued that the reservist MP was poorly trained and not ready for war when he deployed to Afghanistan. Galligan said Brand was something of a scapegoat.

"This case, sadly, is one where it appears that someone needs to step up to the plate," Galligan said. "We've got to pin this on someone and all eyes are on Pfc. Brand."

Galligan also argued that those above Brand in the chain of command, including at least two officers who have not faced criminal charges, should be held liable for any abuses before Brand.

"Don't ask that he be a better leader than those who led him," Galligan said.

The only defense witness, a reserve military police officer with Brand, testified Wednesday that training was "fuzzy" and "inadequate."

Former Army Sgt. James P. Boland told the jury that before leaving for Afghanistan in the summer of 2002, he was unsure when or how he could use force against a prisoner.

 

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