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England's lawyers lose crucial ruling

Prosecution allowed to use statements about Abu Ghraib abuse

From Susan Candiotti and Jim Polk

Pfc. Lynndie England leaves the XVIII Airborne Corps Staff Judge Advocate Building at Fort Bragg on Thursday.
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Crime, Law and Justice

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (CNN) -- A military judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors can use two written statements by Pfc. Lynndie England describing incidents of physical abuse and sexual degradation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The 22-year-old mother from West Virginia faces a court-martial at Fort Bragg in January. She is charged with 19 counts of assault, conspiracy, improper conduct and indecent acts, and could be sentenced to as many as 38 years in prison.

When first questioned in January, on the night investigators discovered the now-notorious Abu Ghraib photos, England allegedly admitted taking part in several incidents of humiliation.

The first agent to talk with her quoted England as saying it was "just for fun."

Prosecutors say that on January 14 and 15 England meticulously wrote out the two statements by hand, signed them and swore to their veracity.

Investigators testified she had been read her rights and declined the opportunity to ask for a lawyer.

Col. Stephen Henley, who will preside over her court-martial, denied a defense motion to throw out the statements.

But Henley ruled that prosecutors cannot use a third statement England made in May after arriving at Fort Bragg, because four days after the first round of questioning in January she stopped talking and requested a lawyer.

Still to be decided is a second defense motion that would prevent the worst of the Abu Ghraib photos from becoming evidence in England's trial.

In them, England is shown dragging a nude Iraqi detainee on a dog leash, mocking the private parts of a row of naked prisoners, and smiling behind other nude Iraqis stacked in a human pyramid.

Henley said he wants to review the photos before ruling on them. He scheduled another hearing on that issue for December 22.

England's trial is scheduled to begin January 18.

Four others accused in the Abu Ghraib scandal have pleaded guilty. Three more defendants are yet to be tried separately at Fort Hood, Texas.

Among those awaiting court-martial at Fort Hood is Spc. Charles Graner, the Abu Ghraib guard who attorneys say is the father of the baby boy England gave birth to seven weeks ago. (Full story)

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