Charge Dropped Against Abu Ghraib Guard

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FORT HOOD, Texas -- An Army judge on Saturday dropped the most severe abuse charge faced by a former guard at the Abu Ghraib prison.

In response to a defense motion, judge Col. James Pohl dismissed the indecent acts charge pending against Spc. Sabrina Harman.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the count without explanation during a pretrial hearing at Fort Hood.

The indecent acts count carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison. In it, she was accused of being among a group of guards who watched naked detainees masturbate.

Harman, of Lorton, Va., now faces a maximum of 6 1/2 years if convicted on charges of conspiracy, maltreating detainees and dereliction of duty for not reporting abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Her trial is set for March 7.

She is accused of conspiring with other guards to abuse a group of detainees in early November 2003.

Specific incidents of alleged abuse by Harman include writing "rapeist" on the leg of one detainee and forcing another to stand on a box with wires in his hands and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off.

She is also accused of taking photographs of a group of naked detainees who had been ordered to masturbate.