Sergeant Javal Davis, formerly of Roselle, New Jersey, had faced up to 8 1/2 years in prison and a dishonourable discharge on three charges connected with the maltreatment of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. 

"There is a pretrial agreement," said attorney Paul Bergrin on Thursday. Under the deal, he will be charged with simple assault and rendering false official statements, Bergrin said. He declined to comment on what penalties Davis now faced. 

Davis, 26, was scheduled to face a court martial in Fort Hood, Texas, next Tuesday. He faced charges including maltreating detainees, dereliction of duty and assaulting prisoners by stomping on the toes and fingers of Iraqi inmates. 

A base spokesman said he was aware of the reports but would not confirm details. "It would still have to go before a jury," said Dan Hassett. 

Garner's court martial

The plea deal came two weeks after Specialist Charles Graner received a 10-year prison sentence for his role in stacking up naked prisoners into a human pyramid, leashing a naked prisoner and other abuses at Abu Ghraib. 

Charles Graner was given a
10-year sentence for abuse

During Graner's court martial, a series of witnesses testified that they saw Davis, whom they described as tall and well-built, stomp on the hands and fingers of hooded inmates lying on the floor before they were stacked into a human pyramid. 

Davis was finally told to stop the abuse, witnesses said - apparently the only such order in a late-night incident that ended with guards forcing prisoners to masturbate and simulate fellatio. 

"I saw Sergeant Davis walking around the pile and stomping on their toes," Specialist Matthew Wisdom testified. "I made a comment, 'What happens if you break one of their toes?'"

Davis is one of seven reservists from the army's 372nd Military Police Company charged with abuses at Abu Ghraib. He appeared in just one of the 1800 photos documenting abuse at the notorious Iraqi prison outside Baghdad, Bergrin said. 

Lawyers for Davis had argued there was a breakdown of leadership and that their clients were scapegoats for the failures of a system that reached the highest levels of the military bureaucracy and the Bush administration.