Family defends accused soldier
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- Family members of a soldier accused of abusing Iraqi war prisoners said Thursday that he was being made a scapegoat for commanders who gave him no guidance on managing hundreds of Iraqis with just a handful of poorly equipped troops.
Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick is one of six members of the 800th Military Police Brigade facing courts-martial for allegedly humiliating the prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. CBS's "60 Minutes II" broadcast pictures of the alleged abuse and an interview with Frederick Wednesday; the other soldiers' names have not been released.
Frederick's uncle, William Lawson, said the Army was treating his nephew unfairly.
"They're trying to portray him as a monster," said Lawson, of Newburg, W.Va. "He's just the guy they put in charge of the prison."
Frederick's wife, Martha, of Buckingham, Va., said her husband, in Iraq since April 2003, told her his unit wasn't provided proper training and equipment.
"I feel like things are being covered up. What has come to light has fallen on the burden of my husband," Martha Frederick said.
Military officials said Chip Frederick, 37, and at least some of the others are from the 372nd Military Police Company, a unit of the 800th based in Cresaptown, in western Maryland. The charges against them include dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another person.
Some of the soldiers were smiling in the photographs obtained by CBS, which showed naked prisoners stacked in a human pyramid and being forced to simulate sex acts.
At a news briefing Wednesday in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the investigation began in January when an American soldier reported the abuse and turned over evidence that included photographs.
"That soldier said, 'There are some things going on here that I can't live with,'" Kimmitt said.
"60 Minutes II" reported that Frederick will plead not guilty and that he contends the way the Army operated the prison led to the abuse of prisoners.
"We had no support, no training whatsoever, and I kept asking my chain of command for certain things, rules and regulations, and it just wasn't happening," Frederick told CBS. Frederick did not immediately respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Frederick's civilian lawyer, Washington-based Gary Myers, said he has urged the commanding general in Iraq to treat the case as an administrative matter, like those of seven officers who also were investigated.
"I can assure you Chip Frederick had no idea how to humiliate an Arab until he met up" with higher-ranking people who told him how, Myers said.
Myers said Frederick has had his Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. Myers said he will next request a change of venue because "you can't try a case of this magnitude in a hostile war zone environment."
Martha Frederick and Myers said they know who the other accused soldiers are but declined to name them.
In civilian life, Frederick has been a correctional officer for six years at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va., his wife and a state agency spokesman said.
A 20-year reservist, Frederick is "a very passive person," Lawson said. "If nothing else, he, in this situation, was very naive."
Lawson, acting as a family spokesman, said Frederick and the other MPs were ordered to "loosen up the prisoners" for interrogation. Lawson speculated that the MPs took the photographs to show to other prisoners to get them to talk.
"That probably is a violation of some directive, yes it is, I would agree, but if you use it to get information that's going to save American lives, I have to weigh those two things," Lawson said.
He said he doesn't believe Frederick physically harmed anyone.
"If he has violated some regulation in the military, he's willing to take his licks -- but based on a fair trial and the facts, not just some pictures that he may have never seen," Lawson said.
Cresaptown resident Aleta Fogle, whose son, Spc. Robert Weaver, is in the 372nd, said she hopes the charges don't cast "a dark cloud" over the unit. She said her son wasn't among the accused.
"I don't feel that they should be judged guilty until we know for sure, and I don't feel that the rest of the 372nd should be punished if it's true what others have done," she said.