Watch CBSN Live

Abu Ghraib Officer Escapes Abuse Charges

A military court Tuesday acquitted a U.S. Army officer of failing to control U.S. soldiers accused of abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, but it found him guilty of disobeying an order.

Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan was the only officer and the last of 12 defendants to go to trial in the Abu Ghraib 2003 scandal.

The allegations of detainee abuse at the U.S.-run prison first came to light with the release of photos of U.S. soldiers smiling while detainees, often naked, were held in painful and humiliating positions at the prison. Jordan, 51, never appeared in the inflammatory photos, but he was accused of fostering a climate conducive to abuse.

The jury of nine colonels and one brigadier general deliberated for about seven hours before issuing its verdicts Tuesday.

It acquitted Jordan of three counts: cruelty and maltreatment for subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs; dereliction of a duty to properly train and supervise soldiers in humane interrogation rules; and failing to obey a lawful general order by ordering dogs used for interrogations without higher approval.

Jordan was found guilty of disobeying a general's order not to talk to others about the investigation into the abuse.

"It's ironic but not entirely surprising given the military make-up of the jury that the only charge of which he was found guilty had to do with him disobeying an order not to discuss the matter with others," said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

Jordan faces a maximum sentence of five years. The court planned to begin the sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Attorneys for the government and the defense declined to comment.

Jordan was director of Abu Ghraib's interrogation center from mid-September until mid-November 2003. He was also the senior officer inside a prison cellblock on Nov. 24, 2003, during at least part of an episode that included a strip-search for smuggled weapons and a dog brought in to intimidate a detainee during questioning in his cell.

The prosecutor said in his closing argument Monday that Jordan was not court-martialed for what he did at Abu Ghraib, but for what he did not do.

"He didn't train. He didn't supervise," Lt. Col. John P. Tracy told the military panel.

The defense said Jordan was outside the command chain and therefore not responsible for the military intelligence soldiers who interrogated detainees and the military police who guarded them.

"There is no evidence of a failure to train and supervise, no evidence of failure to ensure compliance," Maj. Kris Poppe said in his closing for the defense.

The verdict on the allegations involving the Abu Ghraib abuses effectively ends the legal phase of the scandal, reports CBS News Radio correspondent Peter Maer.

Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes in connection the Abu Ghraib scandal. The longest sentence, 10 years, was given to former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. in 2005.

Lynndie England, who was the most recognizable face from the Abu Ghraib photos, was sentenced to three years.

View CBS News In