England faced a general court-martial in January 2005 on charges of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners and assault consummated by battery. The formal charges did not mention the word "torture," although some commentators have so described her conduct. On April 30, 2005, England agreed to plead guilty to abuse charges. Her plea bargain would have reduced her maximum sentence from 16 years to 11 years had it been accepted by the military judge. She would have pleaded guilty to four counts of maltreating prisoners, two counts of conspiracy, and one count of dereliction of duty. In exchange, prosecutors would have dropped two other charges, committing indecent acts and failure to obey a lawful order.
On May 4, 2005, military judge COL James Pohl tossed out her plea bargain, as new testimony by now PVT Charles Graner suggested that PFC England did not know her actions were wrong at the time. This contradicted PFC England's statements of May 2, 2005, when she entered her guilty plea. On September 26, 2005, England was convicted of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count. She was sentenced to three years in a military prison for her crimes.
England worked in the kitchen of a prison (Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar) from which she was paroled on March 3, 2007, after having served 521 days. She will remain on parole through September 2008, when her three-year sentence will be complete and she will receive a dishonorable discharge.
Born in Ashland, Kentucky, England moved with her family to Fort Ashby, West Virginia, when she was two years old. She grew up as the daughter of a railroad worker, Kenneth England, who worked at the station in nearby Cumberland, Maryland, and Terrie Bowling England. The family lived in a trailer park. At school, England was known for wearing combat boots and camouflage fatigues.
England joined the United States Army Reserve in Cumberland in 2001 while she was a junior at Frankfort High School near Short Gap, to escape from a night job in the same chicken-processing factory in Moorefield made famous in a PETA video and to earn money so she could go to college to become a storm chaser. She was also a member of the Future Farmers of America. After graduating from Frankfort High School in 2001, she worked as a cashier in an IGA store and married a co-worker, James L. Fike, in 2002, but they later divorced. She was sent to Iraq in 2003.
England was engaged to fellow reservist Charles Graner. She gave birth to a son fathered by him, Carter Allan England, at 21:25 on October 11, 2004, at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg. News accounts of the birth referred to Graner as England's "ex-boyfriend." Graner subsequently married Megan Ambuhl, one of the other accused female Abu Ghraib soldiers with whom he had been having an affair during the time of his relationship with England.
In a May 11, 2004 interview with Denver CBS affiliate television station KCNC-TV, England reportedly said that she was "instructed by persons in higher ranks" to commit the acts of abuse for psyop reasons, and that she should keep doing it, because it worked as intended. England noted that she felt "weird" when a commanding officer asked her to do such things as "stand there, give the thumbs up, and smile". However, England felt that she was doing "nothing out of the ordinary".
In March 2008, England told the German magazine Stern that the media was to blame for the consequences of the Abu Ghraib scandal. "If the media hadn't exposed the pictures to that extent, then thousands of lives would have been saved," she said. "Yeah, I took the photos but I didn't make it worldwide." Asked about the picture of her posing with Graner in front of a pyramid of naked men, she said, "At the time I thought, I love this man [Graner], I trust this man with my life, okay, then he's saying, well, there's seven of them and it's such an enclosed area and it'll keep them together and contained because they have to concentrate on staying up on the pyramid instead of doing something to us." Asked about the picture showing her pointing at a man forced to masturbate, she again referred to her feelings for Graner at the time: "... Graner and Frederick tried to convince me to get into the picture with this guy. I didn't want to, but they were really persistent about it. At the time I didn't think that it was something that needed to be documented but I followed Graner. I did everything he wanted me to do. I didn't want to lose him."
England was charged with two counts of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, one count of dereliction of duty, four counts of cruelty and maltreatment and two counts of committing indecent acts at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. She originally faced 19 criminal counts that could have brought up to 38 years behind bars, but military prosecutors reduced the charges in February 2005. No explanation was given for the reduction.
At her trial in May 2005, Colonel James Pohl declared a mistrial on the grounds that he could not accept her plea of guilty under a plea-bargain to a charge of conspiring with Spc. Charles Graner Jr. to maltreat detainees after Graner testified that he believed that, in placing a tether around the naked detainee's neck and asking England to pose for a photograph with him, he was documenting a legitimate use of force.
At her retrial, England was convicted on September 26, 2005 of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count. Along with a dishonorable discharge, England received a three-year prison sentence on September 27. The prosecution had asked the jury to imprison England for four to six years. Her defense lawyers asked for no prison time.
Graner, the alleged ringleader of the abuse, was convicted on all charges earlier this year and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Four guards and two low-level military intelligence officers have made plea deals in the case. Their sentences ranged from no time to 8-1/2 years. No officers have gone to trial, though several received administrative punishment.
The Sydney Morning Herald website has published additional photos that show Graner, but not England.
At the time the original photographs were released, there were some accusations that the Google search engine had censored images of Lynndie England in its image search Google responded that this was actually caused by delayed indexing and not deliberate censorship.