Two more Soldiers sentenced for Abu Ghraib abuse
By Spc. Matthew Chlosta
Left, Sgt. Javal Davis, 372nd Military Police Company, walks into the Lawrence J. Williams Judicial Center Feb. 3 flanked by Paul Bergrin, Davis' civilian defense attorney, right, for the third day of his sentencing hearing during court-martial proceedings at Fort Hood.
Sgt. Brandon Krahmer
Sgt. Javal Davis, 372nd Military Police Company, was sentenced by a military panel of four officers and five enlisted Soldiers to: six months in a military prison; reduction in rank to private (E-1) and a bad conduct discharge upon completion of his prison time.
Three days earlier, Spc. Roman Krol, Company A, 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, pleaded guilty Feb. 1 to conspiracy and maltreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Krol had made a pretrial plea agreement with prosecutors, and chose to have his sentence decided by a military judge. He was sentenced to reduction in rank to private (E-1), a bad conduct discharge and confinement for 10 months.
Davis' court-martial began the same day, Feb. 1, with a defense motion to dismiss charges because of "unlawful command influence."
Judge Col. James Pohl listened to arguments from both sides before he denied the motion.
After Pohl's ruling, Davis pleaded guilty to three charges. Before Pohl could accept the pleas, the judge was required to question Davis to obtain supporting facts for the pleas.
Davis told Pohl he intentionally stepped on the hands and feet of a pile of hooded, handcuffed, naked Iraqi detainees; that he fell with his full weight of 220 lbs. on the detainees, "they were in a gaggle on the floor," Davis said.
"I wasn't trying to hurt them, just trying to scare them," Davis said. "They were zip-tied. They were not a threat to me at the time."
Davis said he lied about his actions to investigators to try to get out of trouble.
When Pohl asked Davis why he had abused the Iraqi prisoners
Davis explained, "I lost it. It didn't justify what I did."
Davis also said he witnessed and failed to report detainee abuse by former Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, 372nd MP Co.
"I should've reported it. I had a duty to stop this," Davis told Pohl.
After the judge was satisfied the guilty pleas were valid, the panel was seated to decide Davis' sentence.
The prosecution team began by presenting their sentencing case, which included playing a portion of Davis' taped testimony.
After the government rested, the defense called 20
witnesses, including numerous family members, Feb. 2-3.
Paul Bergrin, Davis' civilian defense counsel, argued Davis was guilty and had pleaded guilty to take full responsibility for his actions.
But Bergrin tactically elicited testimony from several witnesses who said Davis was "a good Soldier," who had cracked for just 10 seconds.
Compared with former Spc. Charles Graner Jr.'s defense during his court-martial at Fort Hood in January (that military intelligence was in charge and responsible), Davis' contention was the environment and atmosphere at the prison contributed to his actions.
Former Army Sgt. Kenneth Davis described Abu Ghraib to Bergrin and the panel, saying, "It was hell on earth."
One defense witness, Maj. David DiNenna, operations officer, 11th MP Brigade, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib from July 2003 to February 2004 said, "The conditions there (Abu Ghraib) were deplorable. It was always challenging."
Bergrin also had two expert witnesses, one an expert on the various forces and influences leading to violence, testify about what transpired at Abu Ghraib after reviewing official reports.
"Iraqis showed ingratitude while American Soldiers were sacrificing their lives, this devalued the lives of the Iraqi prisoners," Dr. Ervin Staub, professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said.
Both experts cited a famous Stanford study from the 1970s
and drew parallels between that study and how the lawlessness and horrendous conditions at Abu Ghraib set up the potential for prisoner abuse by Soldiers as the atmosphere deteriorated sociologically and psychologically.
"The environment was a kind of anything goes attitude,"
Staub said. "Supervision is crucial in this environment. Rules don't mean very much if you don't enforce them.
"There was tremendous social disorganization at Abu Ghraib," Dr. Stjepan Mestrovic, functional sociologist, professor of Sociology, Texas A&M University. "According to the reports, MI was not sure what MPs could do and vice versa."
Davis made an un-sworn statement before the panel. He described Abu Ghraib as something akin to the "Mad Max" movie come to life.
"There were more detainees than MPs," Davis said. "We were trying to help people and they're trying to kill us.
When talking about his actions on the night of Nov. 8, 2003, Davis broke down in tears on the stand several times and was apologetic in his testimony.
"I'm embarrassed to be sitting up here in front of the world," Davis said. "I don't know what I was thinking. I shouldn't have done that. I am deeply sorry. I am deeply apologetic to the Iraqis I stepped on. I ask for your forgiveness.
"To the gentlemen and NCOs on the panel, I sincerely give my deepest apologies," Davis continued, "I've made some mistakes; I'm here to answer for."
The prosecutor, Maj. Michael Holley, Staff Judge Advocate, III Corps, argued after Davis' statement, "Conditions affected things. We either are or we're not responsible for our actions."
Holley recommended a sentence of: a bad conduct discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 (private), jail time between 12-24 months. Holley conceded Davis should keep his pay and allowances while in prison, so as not to punish his children.
Defense attorney Bergrin offered, "Seven years of honorable service, except for ten seconds. When you're living like an animal it gets to you and to the prisoners."
"He is a father and a man who stood up and took responsibility," Bergrin said. "There is no tomorrow for Javal Davis. We ask for justice. Weigh that 10-second regression against the whole man's life.
"Sometimes you make bad decisions, bad choices," Bergrin argued. "It's an Article 15 type of offense, it truly is."
According to Capt. Chuck Neill, Staff Judge Advocate's Office, III Corps, Davis' pretrial plea agreement capped his maximum sentence at 18 months confinement. The panel members did not know about the pretrial sentencing agreement, so they could independently determine sentencing based on testimony and evidence presented during the case. Davis will serve the lesser sentence meted out by the panel.
In a joint statement released after the sentence, the prosecutors Holley and Capt. Chris Graveline, III Corps, said, "The care and time taken to resolving this Soldier's sentence is indicative of the military's commitment to both maintaining good order and discipline and to protecting the rights of the individual Soldier."
Another case stemming from abuse at Abu Ghraib convened a pretrail hearing at Fort Hood Feb. 6. The government dropped a specification of an indecent acts charge against for Spc. Sabrina Harman, 372nd MP Company. She is still facing charges of conspiracy, maltreatment and dereliction of duty.
The dismissed charge immediately shaved her possible maximum sentence from 11.5 years to 6.5 years.
Harman has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Mar. 6. Her court-martial is set to begin the following day.
(Editor’s note: Spc. Matthew Chlosta is a member of the 4th Public Affairs Detachment at Fort Hood.)