BAGHDAD, Iraq—The highest-ranking soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal pleaded guilty Wednesday to punching and sexually humiliating Iraqi inmates, according to testimony from his military hearing at a U.S. base in Baghdad.
Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, 38, of Buckingham, Va., was a key figure in the scandal that drew worldwide condemnation and exposed the violence and chaos of U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq. Frederick, an Army reservist, is scheduled for sentencing Thursday on counts of dereliction of duty, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault and indecent acts.
Frederick told the judge, Col. James Pohl, he was following orders from superior officers to prepare detainees for interrogation in a hostile, dangerous prison where there was no clear leadership. Frederick said he knew the actions were wrong, but did not report the abuse because he "didn't think anyone cared what happened to detainees as long as they didn't die."
Under the plea agreement, Frederick must cooperate with future investigations and testify in the courts-martial of other soldiers attached to the 372nd Military Police Company out of Cresaptown, Md. Several other counts were dismissed as part of the deal.
Frederick, who was in charge of the part of Abu Ghraib where the mistreatment occurred, testified he was involved in several of the incidents crystallized in graphic photos that surfaced publicly in April. The photos showed Iraqi inmates forced to simulate sex acts, cowering before a dog, jumbled in a human pyramid and in several other disturbing poses.
Last Nov. 8, Frederick testified, seven prisoners accused of rioting were hooded and piled into a human pyramid. Frederick said he and a co-defendant, Sgt. Javal Davis, stomped on the inmates' hands and feet.
On another day, detainees were strip-searched and remained naked even as female soldiers arrived—against military rules. Frederick said he singled out one man and punched him so hard he required medical attention.
"I was angry," Frederick said in court. "They told me he was the ringleader. He hit a female soldier in the face with a rock."
In the same incident, Frederick forced other detainees to masturbate as they lined up naked against a wall. One former Iraqi prisoner who was present during the incident described the abuse in court.
Frederick said intense stress from the chaotic environment at Abu Ghraib contributed to the abuse.
He described a system in which CIA and military intelligence agents roamed the halls with U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, with no one quite sure who was in charge.
He said the Iraqi police who worked in the prison were corrupt and smuggled in contraband, including a pistol given to a Syrian detainee who opened fire on guards.
Without the mustache he wore earlier this year, Frederick appeared calm and consulted with his attorneys before answering the judge's questions. In nearly every response, he acknowledged his role in the abuse.
"Did you think what you were doing was right?" the judge asked.
"No, your honor," Frederick replied. "I was wrong about what I did and I shouldn't have done it. I knew it was wrong at the time because I knew it was a form of abuse."
Seven soldiers, including Frederick, were charged in the scandal. Two have been sentenced.
Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., is serving a one-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in May to three counts. Spc. Armin Cruz, a military intelligence soldier, was sentenced last month to eight months' confinement, reduction in rank and a bad-conduct discharge.
(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): GHRAIB
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