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Lawyer: Soldier makes Abu Ghraib plea deal

From Susan Candiotti
CNN

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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- One of the U.S. soldiers charged in the Iraq prison abuse scandal has reached agreement on a plea deal with U.S. military officials, according to the attorney for the soldier.

Sgt. Javal Davis is expected to enter guilty pleas Tuesday to charges drastically reduced from the initial ones he faced, said Paul Bergrin, his attorney.

The deal was approved by the commander of ground forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen.Thomas Metz, Bergrin said.

The military court proceedings against Davis will be held at Fort Hood, Texas.

Davis is one of three remaining named defendants in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal whose courts-martial are pending.

Sources said the sentence for Davis will be for 18 months. Citing a gag order, Bergrin would not comment on the agreement.

Davis could have been sentenced to 13 years and six months in a military prison if found guilty of five charges of abuse stemming from an incident in November 2003.

Davis is charged with jumping on a pile of Iraqi detainees and stomping on their hands and feet.

Bergrin said the plea deal drastically reduces the charges: an aggravated assault charge is lowered to simple assault with no intent to cause bodily harm; a charge of lying to investigators about what happened is dropped; and a conspiracy charge is dropped.

Bergrin said his client never intended to hurt the detainees but was acting out of anger and frustration because the detainees had been involved in a riot during which a fellow soldier was injured.

"Based on my 25 years of experience ... based on the charges and specifications of Javal Davis and what he'll plead guilty to ... my objective is that he'll stay in the Army, be honorably discharged and serve no jail time whatsoever. And I believe that will happen," Bergrin said.

The only other Abu Ghraib defendant to receive the same treatment and be allowed to leave the Army without a dishonorable discharge was Spc. Megan Ambuhl, who testified in the recent trial and conviction of Spc. Charles Graner.

Bergrin said he would ask the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that Davis was following lawful orders. (Davis sticks to legal strategy)

The same military judge hearing all the abuse cases has previously rejected such arguments. Without a dismissal, Davis is expected to enter his guilty plea, Bergrin said.

On Tuesday a panel -- similar to a jury in civilian law -- will be selected and hear testimony before sentencing Davis.

Fort Hood spokesman Dan Hassett said that if the panel delivers a sentence more stringent than the one agreed to, the military judge could revert to the plea agreement.

Should the panel deliver a lighter sentence, "He [Davis] could benefit from that decision and get the lower sentence," Hassett said.

Two weeks ago, Spc. Charles Graner received the stiffest sentence of the seven soldiers charged in the prison abuse scandal. A military panel at Fort Hood gave Graner 10 years in prison. (Graner sentenced)

Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, who already has pleaded guilty and testified against Graner, is serving an eight-year sentence.

Graner had taken the stand during the sentencing phase of his court-martial to admit his actions were criminal, and to say he didn't "enjoy them."

But he insisted he was following orders to rough up prisoners to soften them up for interrogations by intelligence agents.

Fellow Army reservist and prison guard Spc. Sabrina Harman and Graner's girlfriend, Pfc. Lynndie England, both have pending courts-martial.

England gave birth last October to a son, Carter. She reportedly has said Graner is the boy's father and that she still loves the reservist.

Bergrin said Davis' parents would be among seven family members who will testify. He said Davis' wife is suffering from cancer.

He also said three detainees will testify that "Javal treated them humanely, justly, and like their own family. He gave them blankets, shared his food, got them copies of the Koran, and when they were depressed, helped them with exercises."


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