Charles Graner

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Image:Lynndie-chair.jpe Charles A. Graner, Jr., (born 1968) is a U.S. Army reservist and one of several soldiers charged by the Army in connection with the 2003–2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Graner, with other soldiers, is accused of allowing and inflicting sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war in Abu Ghraib, a notorious prison in Baghdad. Graner has been accused of being a torturer, sadist, and war criminal.

Graner held the rank of specialist[1] in the 372nd Military Police company during his tour of duty in Iraq. While in Iraq, Private First Class Lynndie England, also implicated in the prisoner scandal, allegedly became pregnant by him.

Graner was found guilty of all charges on January 14, 2005, including conspiracy to maltreat detainees, failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty, and maltreatment, as well as charges of assault, indecency, adultery, and obstruction of justice, and sentenced to ten years in federal prison the next day.

Contents

Birth and early life

His parents, Brian and Giorgina Jean Graner, still live in his childhood home. Friends recall "Chuck," as Graner was known, as a "desperate virgin" at Whittier High School, interested in art and drama. In high school, Graner was a member of the Student Council, Student Council Executive Board, Drama Club and Math League. John Castaneda, a family friend for 30 years, was quoted as saying:

"I feel so bad. He was a real good guy. I have nothing but good things to say about Chuck. Never once did Chuck give anyone a problem. It was always 'Yes, sir' or 'No, sir.' He wouldn't even call my wife and me by our first names. It was always 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.'"

After graduating in 1986, Graner attended the University of La Verne for two years before dropping out to join the U.S. Marines in April 1988 and had the Marine eagle emblem and the letters "USMC" tattooed on his buttocks. In June 1990, he married Alicia Q. Donahue in Downey, California. Trained as a military police officer, he served in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. He was in the Marines until May 1996, when he left with the rank of Lance Corporal.

Allegations of misconduct in Pennsylvanian prisons

Later, he moved to Butler, a coal mining area of 12,500 people in southwestern Pennsylvania after his marriage, because his wife's family lived there. From 1990 to 1994, he worked as a school custodian. In 1994, he began working as a guard during the afternoon shift at Fayette County Prison. The Washington Post remarked: "Unlike the night shift, which was typically sleepy, or the morning shift, which was busy with prisoner transfers to court hearings, the afternoon shift had a no-nonsense reputation."

Here, Graner played a practical joke on Robert Tajc, a new guard, by putting Mace (spray) in his coffee [2]. No disciplinary action was taken against Graner during his employment at the county jail.

Starting on May 17, 1996 (some sources say May 20), Graner worked at State Correctional Institution-Greene, a maximum-security state prison in Greene County. The Los Angeles Times described the prison: It was built for 1,500 of Pennsylvania's hardest-core prisoners, including about 985 on death row, and had the perks of modern corrections, such as central air conditioning and cable TV. But it was not immune from the age-old tensions of such institutions. While almost 98% of the inmates were black, many from big cities, SCI-Greene was in a rural part of the state near the West Virginia border, and more than 95% of the guards were white.

In the state prison, several allegations involve Graner. The first occurred on July 29, 1998, Horatio Nimley, convicted of perjury, was eating mashed potatoes when his mouth started bleeding and he spat out a razor blade. According to a May 1999 federal lawsuit brought by Nimley against Graner, five other guards, and the prison nursing supervisor, Graner first planted the blade in his potatoes, ignored him, and finally brought him to the nurse, where they punched, kicked, and slammed Nimley on the floor. Nimley also alleges that when he screamed, "Stop, stop," Graner told him, "Shut up, nigger, before we kill you."

Graner denies these allegations. A federal magistrate in Pittsburgh, however, ruled that the charges have "arguable merit in fact and law." However, when Nimley was released from prison in 2000, he disappeared, and the case was dismissed, leaving much of what happened still in question. Nimley is now in Graterford prison in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for burglary.

A second lawsuit involving Graner was brought by a prisoner who claimed that guards made him stand on one foot while handcuffed and tripped him. This allegation, however, was ruled to have been made too late.

During his time at Greene, Graner was connected with several incidents of a violent nature. The Washington Post reported that "abuse allegations had become common at Greene ... Guards beat prisoners, spit in their food, showered them with racial epithets and wrote 'KKK' in one beaten prisoner's blood. The allegations weren't without merit: In 1998, two dozen guards were fired, suspended, demoted or reprimanded." A prison spokesman said none of the allegations involved Graner.

Nick Yarris, a former inmate who was recently released after DNA tests cleared him of rape and murder charges, spent 22 years on Death Row in SCI Greene. Yarris confirms the type of abuse Nimley alleged, recounting an incident in May 1998 when Yarris saw Graner and four other guards pull an inmate who purposefully flooded the toilet out of his cell and dragged him away. Yarris says Graner was holding a can of pepper spray and said "We're going to go get some." Yarris says the inmate was severely bruised the next time he was seen.

Yarris also said Graner "bragged about taunting anti-death-penalty protesters who would gather outside the prison, used racial epithets and once told a Muslim inmate he had rubbed pork all over his tray of food." In another interview, he said Graner was "responsible for moving prisoners within the facility and was 'violent, abusive, arrogant and mean-spirited.' "

Graner was fired from his job in July 2000 for walking off the job and not working a mandatory overtime shift on June 16. After filing a grievance, an arbitrator ruled after a July 2002 hearing that the firing was inappropriate, reducing it to a three-day suspension and ordering Graner reinstated with back pay. According to records, at 4:30 a.m. that morning, a supervisor informed Graner that another employee was ill and he would have to work the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift in addition to his normal shift, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. At that time, Graner did not say he could not accept the additional work, but later he told supervisors the shift would conflict with the weekly custody exchange of his children.

At the time his employment was terminated, Graner had been disciplined six times: two written reprimands (one in December 1997 for being unreliable), a one-day suspension (in October 1998 for tardiness), two five-day suspensions (March 1999 and February 2000 for tardiness and absenteeism), and his dismissal. Despite the more serious claims against Graner listed above, all disciplinary actions taken against Graner were for tardiness, absenteeism, and improperly scheduling leave, except the dismissal itself.

Domestic disputes and Persian Gulf War

On June 15, 1990, Graner married Staci M. Dean, a 19-year-old from Ohiopyle. The marriage took place in Farmington after she become pregnant with the first of their two children, Brittni. On the marriage license application, Graner listed his occupation as "construction worker."

Later, Graner was deployed during the Persian Gulf War, serving with the 2nd MP Co, originally of 4th FSSG, 4th Marine Division, a Marine Reserve unit based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On January 16, 1991, he arrived in Saudi Arabia, taking part in Operation Desert Storm during. From here, he traveled to the largest prisoner-of-war camp near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. Graner worked for at the camp for "about six weeks." The Los Angeles Times interviewed Ross Guidotti, whom Graner served with:

"About eight football fields long and ringed by thick razor wire, it handled perhaps 20,000 captured Iraqis during the war. Among those were 4,000 who threatened to riot on the night Guidotti describes as 'scary as hell' for him, Graner and about 110 other Marines standing guard.
The bedraggled Iraqis panicked when a fierce rain and wind storm blew apart a makeshift mess hall where they were being fed. "They were pushing their own soldiers into the wire. We were on the other side. They were screaming in Arabic, 'Kill us! We're dogs! We're going to die anyway!' Guidotti recalls. 'I got a shotgun loaded up with ammo and I'm thinking, 'I'm dead.'"
It was one of those moments when someone could have set off a massacre. But no one did get killed, he recalled, because they were disciplined and their commanders were there to order a few warning shotgun blasts over the heads of the Iraqis. Then they found more rations to feed the enemy, a simple solution to the crisis that made it into the official Marine history of Desert Storm. (...)
In Desert Storm, the first President Bush ordered a cease-fire by the end of February 1991, and "Chuck, me and a whole bunch of guys," Guidotti recalls, 'we came home May 15.'
He'll never forget that moment.
"Before Chuck Graner ever became known as this sadistic criminal, I'm going to tell you what I saw - the last image of Chuck Graner burned into my mind: I guess he's 22, his eyes red with tears, crying, holding his little girl with his wife beside him.
"That's the last memory I got of Chuck Graner...the happiest moment, I would imagine, of his life."

On January 21, 1991, Graner's daughter Brittni Stacia was born. On February 9, 1993, Dean Charles Graner, the couple's second child, was born. On May 29, 1997, Staci Graner filed for divorce and the couple separated. On June 16, 1997, Common Pleas Judge Ralph Warman issues a first order of protection against Graner to Staci Dean. This resulted from Graner's comment to Dean that "she could keep his guns, because he did not need them for what he was going to do to the plaintiff." Warman also ordered Graner not to have any contact with his ex-wife for six months except for exchanging their children for child custody exchanges, which he ordered to take place at Uniontown's police station.

In February 1998, Staci Dean filed another complaint in court, writing that Graner had been sneaking around her home at night:

"Charles picked me up and threw me against the wall...I just don't think this is normal behavior, and he does frighten me."

Dean also said that Graner "set up a video camera in my house without my knowledge and showed me the tapes." A second order of protection against Graner was issued to Dean.

In March 2001, Police were called to Staci Dean's home after her ex-husband allegedly came into the rooms where she was sleeping. According to Fayette County court papers, Graner entered the room where Staci Dean was sleeping and attacked her, banging her head against a wall. Later that year, Staci Dean filed a five-page, handwritten affidavit stating that Graner had "yanked me out of bed by my hair, dragging me and all the covers into the hall and tried to throw me down the steps," which Graner had admitted to. The affidavit also says that Graner "set up a video camera in my house without my knowledge and showed me the tapes." Criminal charges were not filed, and a third order of protection against Graner was issued to Dean.

Abu Ghraib

  • 2002: Graner joins the Army Reserve. A neighbor, Tom Zavada, was quoted as saying, "Some people get into the Reserves because there is some good money. Others got into it because they figure it's their duty. He's the latter."
  • May 5, 2003: Graner called to active duty in Iraq.
  • 2003–2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse:
Specialist Sabrina Harman testified as to Graner's assignment:
"It is Graner and Frederick's job ... to get these people to talk" for military intelligence officers and for 'OGA,' short for 'Other Government Agency,' a nickname for the CIA." [3]
Graner appears in several pictures with his fellow guards Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman, giving the thumbs up in front of nude prisoners. Witnesses have reportedly seen him strike prisoners.
In one photo, Graner poses over the dead body of Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner; a small patch of blood can be seen on his right temple and his eyes are sealed closed with tape. According to Spc. Jason Kenner's testimony, al-Jamadi was brought to the prison by Navy SEALs in good health; Kenner says he saw that al-Jamadi looked extensively bruised when he was brought out of the showers, dead. According to Kenner a "battle" took place among CIA and military interrogators over who should dispose the body. Captain Donald Reese, company commander of 372nd Military Police Company, gave testimony about al-Jamadi's death, saying that he saw the dead prisoner. Reese was quoted as saying that "I was told that when he was brought in, he was combative, that they took him up to the room and during the interrogation he passed ... (the body) was bleeding from the head, nose, mouth." Reese stated that the corpse was locked in a shower room overnight and the next day was fitted with an intravenous drip. The body was then autopsied, concluding that the cause of death was a blood clot from trauma. Reese stated that this was an attempt to hide what occurred from other inmates; many believe it was part of a cover-up to hide the death from the outside world.
According to testimony from Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, who was a prisoner at Abu Ghraib:
"Hilas told investigators that he asked Graner for the time one day because he wanted to pray. He said Graner cuffed him to the bars of a cell window and left him there for close to five hours, his feet dangling off the floor. Hilas also said he watched as Graner and others sodomized a detainee with a phosphoric light. 'They tied him to the bed,' Hilas said (...)
One day, the detainee said, American soldiers held him down and spread his legs as another soldier prepared to open his pants. 'I started screaming,' he said. A soldier stepped on his head, he said, and someone broke a phosphoric light and spilled the chemicals on him.
'I was glowing and they were laughing,' he said.
The detainee said the soldiers eventually brought him to a room and sodomized him with a nightstick. 'They were taking pictures of me during all these instances,' he told the investigators (...)
He also said Graner repeatedly threw the detainees' meals into the toilets and said, 'Eat it.'" [4]
Spec. Joseph M. Darby, who reported what was happening in the prison, was quoted as saying this:
"He said that he asked the MP in charge of the tier's night shift, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., if he had any photographs of the cell where the shooting took place.
Darby said Graner handed him two CDs of photographs.
'I thought the discs just had pictures of Iraq, the cell where the shooting occurred,' Darby told investigators.
Instead, Darby viewed hundreds of photographs showing naked detainees being abused by U.S. soldiers.
'It was just wrong,' Darby said. 'I knew I had to do something.'
He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'" [5]
Julie Scelfo and Rod Nordland of Newsweek reported:
"One military investigator wrote in his notes on Graner: 'the biggest S.O.B. on earth,' a comment he underlined twice." [6]
In addition to the above, several other incidents are attributed to Graner:
  • On October 23, 2003, Graner photographed Lynndie England holding a leash around the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner.
  • Graner is said to have ordered an accused prostitute to pull her shirt up to her neck.
  • A woman known as Noor was forced to expose her breasts and genitalia while giving a smile to Graner, who photographed her.
  • Later all the charges were dropped except for conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault and committing indecent acts, making the maximum penalty 17.5 years instead of 24.5 years.

Court-martial

Article 39a hearing

Image:Charles Graner Courtroom Sketch.JPG Image:Charles Graner Courtroom Sketch 2.JPG Due to security problems with holding pre-trial hearings in Baghdad, the case was transferred to Germany. On August 23, Graner appeared before military judge Colonel James Pohl at a high-security Army base in the city of Mannheim in southwest Germany. On that day, Article 39a hearings were held. These preliminary hearings usually function as an arraignment and allow the judge to hear and decide on motions made by the prosecutor and the defense. Graner appeared with Specialist Megan Ambuhl, along with his civilian attorneys and appointed military defense lawyers.

During the Article 39a hearing, attorneys for Harman and Graner made discovery motions. Pohn set a deadline of September 10 for the government to provide the defense team with the documents requested. Pohn also complained of delays by the government in prosecuting the case. Though Pohn rejected a motion to compel Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to testify, he threatened to grant the motion or even "seriously reconsider" a motion made to dismiss Graner's case if military police investigators do not turn over more than 100,000 files of evidence stored on a secret military computer to the defense.

Pohl also ordered the release of a U.S. Army report performed by the Criminal Investigational Division on investigative procedures, as well as the Schlesinger panel report.

Graner's attorney (as well as attorneys for several others charged) also moved to suppress evidence of statements made to Army investigators during interrogations, as well as seizure of a computer. Also requested was a change of venue, because some witnesses could not be compelled to come to Iraq to testify. In addition, the defense sought immunity from prosecution for several people so they may testify for the defense. The judge denied all three motions, and also ruled that video testimony and depositions could be used as evidence.

October 22 hearing

Another pre-trial hearing was held on October 22 at Camp Victory in Baghdad, with Pohl again presiding as judge. Pohl set January 7, 2005, as the trial date and again denied a defense motion to grant immunity to several witnesses so they could testify without fear of incrimination. On November 11, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Taylor, a judge advocate in the regional defense counsel's office at Camp Victory, ordered that all further hearings in the case will be held at Fort Hood, Texas.

Not guilty plea and jury selection

The trial officially began on January 7 with jury selection at the Williams Judicial Center in Fort Hood, with Colonel James Pohl presiding. A ten-member, all-male jury was seated, consisting of four officers and six enlisted men—all of whom had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Under military law, seven jurors must vote guilty to convict a person of each charge.

Graner entered a not-guilty plea to each of the five charges. He was dressed in a jacket and tie, dark green military fatigues, black boots, and a black dress beret. Two possible jury members were removed from the panel—Colonel Allen Batschelet for saying he was embarrassed as an Army officer after seeing the photos and had strong views about the case, and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Kormos by the prosecutors for no reason given.

During the session a list of potential witnesses was also made public. It incuded three other soldiers in Graner's unit from western Pennsylvania: Captain Donald Reese of New Stanton, Specialist Jeremy Sivits of Bedford County, and Sergeant Joseph Darby of Somerset County. Reese was the unit commander and had been reprimanded in connection with Abu Ghraib; Sivits had already pled guilty in a plea bargain; Darby was the soldier who first reported the situation at Abu Ghraib. At the hearing several other possible witnesses were listed, including the prerecorded video depositions of three Iraqi prisoners—two for the prosecution and one for the defense. Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, said he was not sure whether Graner would testify for himself.

After the hearing journalists interviewed Graner outside the courtroom, where Graner expressed a positive attitude. Paul Peirce of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote:

"Whatever happens here is going to happen. I still try to stay positive. I still feel the same (about my service) as I always have," Graner said as he left the military courthouse. "The sun is still shining, the sky is blue, we're in America," he said, trying to emphasize an enthusiastic outlook for next week's trial.

Testimony

Opening statements began on January 10. During this hearing, witness testimony began. Three soldiers in Graner's unit testified; the first was Specialist Matthew Wisdom, who first reported the situation at Abu Ghraib. Wisdom said that Graner had enjoyed beating inmates (saying that he had laughed, whistled, and sung) and was the one who first thought of arranging the prisoners in naked human pyramids and other positions. On this day the judge-advocate, Michael Hunter, banned any further reporting of the hearing.

Testimony continued the next day, as Syrian foreign fighter Ameed al-Sheikh told the court in video testimony that Graner has beaten him while he was recovering from a bullet wound. Al-Sheikh described Graner as the "primary torturer" and said that he had forced him to eat pork and drink alcohol, told him to thank Jesus for keeping him alive, and had threatened to kill him. Al-Sheikh also gave testimony about interrogations at the prison, saying that Americans known only as "Mikey" and "Steve" told him that Graner would beat him if he did not cooperate.

On January 11, military prosecutors also presented evidence not publically released, including a video of forced group masturbation and a picture of a female prisoner being forced to show her breasts.

Following orders

The main defence was that Graner was just following orders from senior officers. Graner and others testified that many senior officers were aware of the activities and actively supported them. This is why he was not worried about taking and distributing the photographs which were later used against him. Referring to military intelligence, Graner testified "I nearly beat an MI detainee to death with MI there" before he was cut off by Judge Pohl.[7]

A formal complaint about the abuse was filed by Specialist Matthew Wisdom in November 2003 but was ignored by the military. Private Ivan Frederick (previously convicted of abuse) said he had consulted six senior officers, ranging from captains to lieutenant-colonels, about the guards' actions but was never told to stop.

The prosecution did not call any senior officers to testify. Womack suggests that this was not because they "just forgot" to do so.

Bush's white house counsel Alberto Gonzales had issued a memo which defined torture very narrowly as "intentionally causing permanent damage to vital organs or permanent emotional trauma". This would have excluded Graner's acts of intimidation.

However the prosecution argued that even if he was following orders from senior officers, he should have known that the orders were illegal.

Verdict

On January 16th Graner was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, a dishonorable discharge, and the loss of all benefits.

No senior officers have been charged.

Defense lawyer Guy Womack said his client and the six other Abu Ghraib guards charged with abuses were being scapegoated. For example, the Washington Post reported in 2004 that a stress position known as a "Palestinian hanging", where a prisoner is suspended by their hands behind their back, was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations (termed an "enhanced interrogation technique" by the CIA). An Iraqi in custody with Graner, and photographed dead with Graner, died while being submitted to such a "Palestinian hanging", though it is doubtful that Graner would have been found innocent even if such a technique was sanctioned by the CIA.

Graner's mother, Irma Graner said "You know it's the higher-ups that should be on trial ... they let the little guys take the fall for them. But the truth will come out eventually" ([8]).

Life post-trial

In 2005, while serving time for his role in the Abu Ghraib scandal, Graner married fellow Abu Ghraib guard Megan Ambuhl. Ambuhl previously pleaded guilty to two minor charges but served no jail time and was able to remain in the military.

Sources

  • Amon, Michael, and Christian Davenport. "Three to be arraigned in prison abuse." The Washington Post: May 19, 2004: 1A. [9]
  • Badger, T.A. "Jury seated in Graner prisoner abuse case." Associated Press. January 7, 2005.
  • Cauchon, Dennis. "Lawyer wants Rumsfeld to testify in prison-abuse case." USA Today: June 13, 2003. [10]
  • "Currently employed SCI-Green prison guard supervised torture of prisoners in Iraq." The Jericho Movement. [11]
  • Dao, James, and Paul Von Zielbauer. "Guard left troubled life for duty in Iraq." The New York Times: May 13, 2004. [12]
  • Fuoco, Michael A., et al. "Suspect in prisoner abuse has a history of troubles." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: May 8, 2004. [13]
  • Higham, Scott, and Joe Stephens. "New details of prison abuse emerge." The Washington Post: May 21, 2004. 1A. [14]
  • Lieberman, Paul, and Dan Morain. "Unveiling the Face of the Prison Scandal." Los Angeles Times: June 19, 2004. [15]
  • Lin, Judy. "Soldier target of prior abuse allegations." Associated Press: May 13, 2004. [16]
  • Peirce, Paul. "Graner remains positive before trial." Pittsburg Tribune-Review. January 8, 2005.
  • Serrano, Richard A., and Greg Miller. "Prison intelligence officers scrutinized." The Los Angeles Times: May 23, 2004. [17]
  • Sheehan, Charles. "MP Investigated in Iraq was at Pa. prison during abuse scandal, but not implicated." Associated Press: May 7, 2004. [18]
  • Womack, Guy. "Prosecuting abuse." Interview with Ray Suarez. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." PBS. May 10, 2004. [19]
  • United States Army. Preferred charges against Charles Graner. [20]de:Charles Graner

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