US Army Specialist Jeremy Sivits pleaded guilty today to three counts of abuse in the first court-martial stemming from the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Sivits was charged with maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment and maltreating one prisoner by escorting him “to be positioned in a pile on the floor to be assaulted by other soldiers.”
Captain Scott Dunn, Sivits’ lawyer, entered the plea on his behalf in the military courtroom at the Baghdad Convention Centre, in the heavily guarded Green Zone.
The court formally found Sivits guilty of all three charges.
As part of the plea bargain, Sivits is likely to get a year in a military prison and be reduced to the ranks.
He expressed concern about the huge media coverage of the trial, asking “can you make a fair decision?”
The judge, Colonel James Pohl, replied: “Just because it’s on TV, it doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Dunn also told the judge that Sivits had reached a pre-trial agreement with the prosecution, presumably to testify against others accused in the case.
Earlier, three other accused – Sergeant Javal Davis, 26, of Maryland, Specialist Charles Graner, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick of Buckingham, Virginia – appeared for arraignment in the same court.
All three waived their right to have the charges read in court and deferred their pleas pending another hearing on June 21.
“Graner punched the detainee in the head or temple area,” Sivits said. “I said. ‘I think you might have knocked him out.”’
Sivits also said: “Graner complained that he had injured his hand and said, “Damn, that hurt.“’
Sivits said all prisoners were then stripped and forced to form a human pyramid.
In an emotional description of the events that took place in the Abu Ghraib prison on the evening of November 4, Sivits said he was asked by Staff Sgt Frederick to accompany him to the prison facility.
Sivits appeared to hold back tears and struggled to describe the events, pausing while telling the judge what happened.
He said he was on detail outside Abu Ghraib and had done some maintenance work on generators when Frederick asked him to accompany him to the prison.
Sivits took a detainee with him and when he arrived at the scene where the crimes took place, there were seven other detainees there.
“I heard Corporal Graner yelling in Arabic at the detainees,” he said. “I saw one of the detainees lying on the floor. They were laying there on the floor, sandbags over their heads.’
Davis and another soldier, Private Lynndie England, were ”stamping on their toes and hands.”
Sivits quoted one of the other six accused soldiers, whom he did not identify, as saying guards were “told to keep doing what they were doing by military intelligence.”
He added, however, that he did not believe the soldier.