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Two Marines Plead Guilty to Iraqi Abuse

Months after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse, two 19-year-old Marines pleaded guilty to giving electric shocks to an Iraqi prisoner at another detention facility, military officials said.  

A lawyer for one of the men's family said the Marines condoned the abuse at the Al Mahmudiya prison -- and only lodged charges after the larger scandal at Abu Ghraib was exposed.


Pfc. Andrew J. Sting of Bradner, Ohio, and Pfc. Jeremiah J. Trefney entered their pleas at a May 14 court-martial in Iraq, according to a statement by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. It was released Thursday.


Sting and Trefney were infantrymen with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and attached to the 1st Marine Division based at Pendleton.


Sting's father, Jeff Sting said in a telephone interview Thursday his son was following orders, and that he would try to get the conviction thrown out.


According to the military statement, the pair and two other Marines in early April wanted to discipline the detainee for throwing trash outside his cell and speaking loudly the temporary holding facility south of Baghdad.


The Marines attached wires to a power convertor, which delivered 110 volts of electricity to the detainee as he returned from the bathroom, the statement said.


Sting pleaded guilty to charges of assault, cruelty and maltreatment, dereliction of duty, and conspiracy to assault. He was sentenced to a year in prison, a reduction of rank, forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge.


The family's lawyer, Thomas Sobecki, said the Marines initially gave Sting a reprimand, but charged him after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal unfolded. He said there was no investigation and a quick plea bargain.


The abuse at Abu Ghraib occurred between October 2003 and January 2004.


"In fact, the Marine Corps condoned what he did," he said. "Andrew was not given the opportunity to face a real trial where he would raise a defense of following a lawful order."


Sting's father does not dispute his son shocked the detainee -- twice. He said his son told him the detainee laughed, and that his son wondered whether he was even shocked.


Jeff Sting said a sergeant ordered his son to shock the detainee; his son had the order reconfirmed by another sergeant and a corporal, the father said.


Trefney pleaded guilty to cruelty and maltreatment, dereliction of duty, false official statement, violating a lawful order, and conspiracy to commit assault. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, reduction of rank and forfeiture of all pay, and he will also receive a bad-conduct discharge.


The Marine statement did not say where Trefney is from. The Patriot-News reported Thursday that he is from Swatara Township, Pa.


The two other Marines, who were not identified, are awaiting court action.


The Al Mahmudiya prison held about 300 detainees and was guarded since late March by active-duty Marines and reservists, Marine officials said.


(China Daily via agencies, June 4, 2004)

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