Camp Liberty, Iraq: A former US commander at the jail that held Saddam Hussain was acquitted yesterday of aiding the enemy by loaning an unmonitored cell phone to an inmate, but sentenced to two years' confinement for unauthorised possession of classified documents and an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter.
Lieutenant Colonel William H. Steele, a 52-year-old Army reservist from Prince George, Virginia, had faced a life sentence if convicted of accusations he allowed prisoners use of his cell phone for unmonitored calls.
The judge found him not guilty of that charge but convicted him of unauthorised possession of classified documents, behaviour unbecoming an officer for an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter and failing to obey an order.
Steele got credit for 254 days already served so will only have to spend about 15 months in jail, the judge ruled. He also will be reprimanded and dismissed from the service, and will forfeit all pay and allowances.
It was a relatively lenient sentence considering Steele could have received a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail on the classified documents charge.
The alleged incidents took place between October 2005 to February 2007, when Steele commanded the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper prison that held Saddam before he was hanged last December.
The prosecution had argued that Steele had a history of flouting the rules and claimed he loaned an Al Qaida-linked inmate an unmonitored cell phone, despite rules that inmate calls should be arranged in advance and conducted with an interpreter present.
"He handed detainee number 2184, an Al Qaida member in Iraq, his personal cell phone and allowed a five-minute conversation. It was the equivalent of putting an AK 47 in his hands," the prosecutor said.
"All it takes is a phone call and if that detainee can communicate with someone outside, that can put soldiers of the United States at risk."