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New hearing for soldier over Abu Ghraib charges

Military judge declared her first court-martial a mistrial


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(CNN) -- U.S. military officials announced they have scheduled the equivalent of a grand jury hearing next week for a reservist whose guilty plea in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was rejected earlier this month.

The Article 32 hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England will be held next Tuesday to determine whether the reservist will face a retrial over the scandal.

An Article 32 investigation is the U.S. military equivalent of a grand jury investigation, the investigative process that evaluates whether enough evidence exists for a military trial. An officer will receive evidence and then recommend whether to send the case to a court-martial, or military trial.

A military judge declared a mistrial on May 4 in the first court-martial of England, throwing out the reservist's guilty plea. The judge declared a mistrial after doubts were raised over whether England knew she was doing anything wrong while stationed at Abu Ghraib.

England had pleaded guilty to seven criminal counts: two of conspiracy, four of abusing detainees and one of committing an indecent act. In photographs that were seen around the world, England appeared smiling with naked Iraqi prisoners who were forced into humiliating positions.

The testimony that led to the mistrial came May 4 from England's former boyfriend and supervisor, Pvt. Charles Graner, who was convicted in the incidents and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Graner testified that he placed a dog leash around an Iraqi prisoner's neck and asked England to use it to lead the man from his cell -- a legitimate technique for doing so, he said. England, who was photographed holding the leash, was just following orders, Graner said.

After Graner gave that testimony, Judge Col. James Pohl excused the jury and gave defense attorneys a tongue-lashing. Graner's testimony, he pointed out, contradicted England's guilty plea Monday to seven criminal counts -- each based on a photograph that showed her posing next to naked Iraqi prisoners in humiliating positions.

In making her plea for the first trial, England admitted her participation and said she knew it was wrong. If she had just been following orders, Pohl said, she should have pleaded not guilty.

Following a recess, defense attorneys told Pohl that England wished to enter a plea of not guilty, and Pohl declared a mistrial.

Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, the commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, ordered an Article 32 investigation May 6 in the case -- in effect, restarting the court-martial process.

A statement from the public affairs office at Fort Hood, Texas, said the Article 32 hearing -- similar to a civilian grand jury -- is expected to last for one or two days.

Graner, who is said to be the father of England's infant son, Carter England, born in October, is now married to Spec. Megan Ambuhl, one of four guards who pleaded guilty in the scandal.

After his conviction, Graner was demoted from the rank of specialist, and is to be dishonorably discharged when he is released from prison.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.


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