Sabrina Harman convicted in Abu Ghraib scandal gets six months in prison

An Army reservist who appeared in several of the most infamous abuse photos taken by guards at Abu Ghraib prison was sentenced to six months in prison for her role in the scandal that rocked the U.S. military's image at home and abroad.

The sentence for Spc. Sabrina Harman came a day after she was convicted on six of the seven counts she faced for mistreating detainees at the Baghdad lockup in late 2003. She faced a maximum of five years in prison, though prosecutors asked the jury to give her three years.

With credit for time served, Harman's actual sentence is just more than four months. She will be reduced in rank to a private and receive a bad conduct discharge after she finishes the sentence.

Harman, 27, of Lorton, Virginia, was the second U.S. soldier tried and convicted in the scandal.

During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, she tearfully apologized for mistreating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"As a soldier and military police officer, I failed my duties and failed my mission to protect and defend," Harman said, her voice cracking. "I not only let down the people in Iraq, but I let down every single soldier that serves today.

"My actions potentially caused an increased hatred and insurgency towards the United States, putting soldiers and civilians at greater risk," she continued. "I take full responsibility for my actions ... The decisions I made were mine and mine alone."

Defense lawyer Frank Spinner said his client was offered the chance to plead guilty last year with a two-year sentencing cap, but Harman turned down the proposal.

"I felt very strongly in Sabrina Harman," said Spinner. "I feel she's a very naive, very innocent person ... She didn't know how to react to that experience (at Abu Ghraib)."

Prosecutors said in a written statement that they were pleased to bring Harman's case to its conclusion "as we strive to air all the facts regarding Abu Ghraib."

Earlier in the day, witnesses testified that the former pizza shop manager was kindhearted and helpful while serving in an Iraqi city.

When other U.S. soldiers just wanted to sit in the shade after a long workday, Harman ran around in the hot sun, playing games with Iraqi children, witnesses said.

Much of the defense testimony during sentencing focused on her behavior while at the Iraqi city of Hillah, where the 372nd Military Police Company was based for several months before moving to Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad.

Two Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, whose testimony was read into the record, said Harman's gentle treatment was unique among the guards in the part of the prison reserved mostly for detainees believed to have intelligence value.

"She has no cruelty in her," said Amjad Ismail Khalil al-Taie through an interpreter. "Even though she is an American woman, she was just like a sister."

The only other soldier to be tried in the scandal, Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., was convicted in January and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sentences for the Abu Ghraib guards who struck plea bargains ranged from no time behind bars to eight years. Pfc. Lynndie England, the most recognizable Abu Ghraib defendant, also made a deal with prosecutors, but it was thrown out by a judge last week.

T.A. BADGER, Associated Press Writer

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