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Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Photos: Charles A. Graner Jr.
A local Army reservist facing potential court-martial on charges that he abused and humiliated Iraqi prisoners under his watch previously faced allegations of making physical threats against his own family.
Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, of 52 Johnson Ave., Uniontown, who works as a state prison guard in civilian life, since 1997 has been accused three times of abusing his former wife, Staci, and their two children, according to Fayette County Court records.
Graner didn't show up for his last court appearance in March 2001, records show.
As a result of that hearing, Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman issued a protection from abuse order against Graner stemming from allegations made by his wife. She claimed her husband yanked her from her daughter's bed by her hair, dragged her into a hallway, and "banged" her head against the floor during a domestic argument.
In court papers, Staci M. Graner said her husband has an extensive history of abusing her and his two children. She said he threatened to kill her and their children, installed a video camera in their home without her knowledge and repeatedly broke into the home.
Her lawyer, Nicholas Timperio, of Uniontown, said he was impressed at the time with Charles Graner's apparent concern for his children.
"Before all of his problems, I thought he was a decent guy. Obviously, I was wrong," Timperio said Tuesday.
The couple divorced in 2000. There was no record that Graner violated his PFA orders, and he was never charged with a crime.
Yesterday, Graner's Uniontown residence appeared vacant. Neighbors said his former wife and their children, now 11 and 13, have moved away.
Graner, a corporal, is among six soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Co., based in Cumberland, Md., facing courts-martial in Iraq on criminal charges of dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another person for allegedly abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib Prison near Baghdad late last year.
"From all the information I've seen and heard on television, including statements from Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, it's obvious these soldiers were acting on orders from intelligence officers over there. One technique to break down prisoners being interrogated is through psychological manipulation ... by demeaning and degrading them," Womack said.
Family photographs of Lynndie England are held up at a news conference in Fountain, W. Va., Friday, May 7, 2004 by England's best friend Destiny Goin, left, and Englands older sister Jessica Klinestiver. The photograph on the far left is of Lynndie England and her brother Josh, the image center is England at her prom with Goin on April 28, 2001. The image right of England and Charles Graner taken sometime last year while on vacation in Virginia Beach. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
UNIONTOWN, Pa. - When Army Reserve Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. was called to active duty in March 2003, he phoned a neighbor to say goodbye and draped the American flag he flew from his front porch neatly inside a first-floor window.
In the last year, few in this left-behind coal town near the West Virginia border received any word about Graner. But last week, images of the 35-year-old Pennsylvania corrections officer - widely identified as among the soldiers gleefully posing alongside a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners - have been sent around the world.
Now, the 12,500 residents of Uniontown, which markets itself as the hometown of Gen. George C. Marshall, are grappling with a less honorable wartime legacy: a local soldier at the center of a scandal that has undermined the U.S. military, inflamed the Arab world, and sent President Bush into damage-control mode.
"It's certainly not something anyone around here can be proud of," said Helen Queer, 76, who lives on Graner's block. "They were supposed to watch over those prisoners, not treat them so terribly. They deserve to be punished."
Graner - a guard at one of Pennsylvania's toughest state prisons, in Waynesburg - is among six soldiers from the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372d Military Police Company who faces a possible court-martial in connection with the abuse of Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib prison.
In photos first broadcast last week on 60 Minutes II, military police officers are shown giving thumbs-up signs while naked Iraqi men are crouched atop one another in a teetering pyramid, or forced to simulate sex acts.
The male soldier who appears most prominently in those images - wearing green gloves, eyeglasses, a bushy mustache, and a buoyant grin - has been identified as Charles Graner by local media, his relatives and acquaintances.
Graner's Houston-based attorney, retired Marine Lt. Col. Guy L. Womack, said his client was simply following orders from Army intelligence commanders. Ranking officers staged humiliating photos as a means of coercing other detainees into cooperating with military and CIA interrogators, he said.
"Their mission was to apply psychological pressure to the point where the prisoners would break down and provide much-needed information, and they went about it by staging these humiliating photos," Womack said yesterday. "I'm not saying that's right, but that's what was happening. The soldiers who were on the scene following orders, like my client, have become scapegoats."
Evidently, Graner is not ashamed of his role in the scandal. An estranged relative, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, said Graner recently sent an e-mail home in which he seemed to revel in the media coverage, writing, "The smile I practiced my whole life I get to see on TV now."
Graner's attorney said his client saw no grounds for an apology.
"His spirits are high. He knows he didn't do anything wrong," Womack said. "He feels terrible that the whole world thinks he's done wrong. But because of the environment in Iraq, his primary concerns right now are life and death."
A lawyer for one of the servicemen accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners told NBC News on Tuesday that his client's superiors should be on trial, not "the soldier who was following orders."
Spc. Charles Graner was ordered to take pictures of prisoners in sexual positions and even to pose with them, Guy Womack said on NBC's "Today" show.
"They were obviously staged, they were part of the psychological manipulation of the prisoners being interrogated," he added, and were ordered by intelligence and CIA officials in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
Womack agreed that the photos were "abhorrent," but insisted that the soldiers who took them were doing so in the context of interrogation procedures.
Asked if he thought the treatment of the prisoners warranted courts-martial, Womack said it could "but you court-martial the right person, you don't court-martial the soldier who was following orders."
Graner is among six military police who face criminal charges. Seven others have been reprimanded in the alleged abuse.
Guy Womack of Houston, Texas, the attorney representing Charles A. Graner Jr. of Uniontown against prisoner abuse allegations in Iraq, is a retired U.S. Marine who served in the infantry and as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General's office.
He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel
"There aren't many Marine lawyers out there," Womack said. "I do a lot of military cases due to my background."
In June 2002, he said he won an acquittal for Mark Walker who was charged with negligent homicide for "accidentally" running over two Korean girls in June 2002 while was serving in the military there.