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Israel Hires Ex-O.J. Prosecutor
Canyon Country man is 'just a translator' and had 'no say-so in anything' at Abu Ghraib, wife says.
By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor
Sunday, May 30, 2004
ohn B. Israel has hired a prominent Los Angeles law firm to fend off allegations that he shared responsibility for the abuse last fall at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Israel, 48, of Canyon Country, hired attorney Christopher A. Darden and an associate late last week, his wife told The Signal on Saturday.
Former prosecutor Christopher Darden during O.J. Simpson's 1995 criminal trial in Los Angeles. (AP)
She said her husband will not be a scapegoat.
Darden, a onetime Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, is best known for having been a prosecutor in the 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson. Darden subsequently went into private practice.
Darden said he is "not making any statements whatsoever at this time."
From Oct. 14 until earlier this year, Israel was a civilian contractor for Army intelligence at the prison. He is one of four men accused by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba as having been "directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."
But his wife, Roza Israel, said he had no authority there.
"He's just a translator," she said Saturday at her home. "He is not an interrogator. He has no say-so in anything."
She said the blame is being misdirected.
"If they need to find a scapegoat, it's not going to be him," she said. "His job was translating. That's it."
She refused to disclose Israel's whereabouts other than to say he is in the United States. Last week his employer, SOS Interpreting Ltd., with offices in New York City and Fairfax, Va., said he was unavailable.
Roza Israel said her husband "went (to Iraq) to serve his country, to protect our children, your children, everyone's children."
"It didn't work out that way," she said.
They have three daughters.
"The truth will come out soon," she said, adding, "I don't like the media to make a big issue out of nothing."
Roza said her family has lived in Santa Clarita since 1988. They have owned their current home since it was built in 1996.
She wouldn't say what her husband did for a living prior to his translating job at Abu Ghraib.
A neighbor said she knew him as "a computer guy" before October and described him last week as "a very nice man." She said he wanted to return to Iraq when they last spoke in late April.
"He was really bent on going back. He said, 'I want to help my people. It's my duty to try to help them.' He's a Christian," the neighbor said.
Israel was born in Baghdad in 1955. He is a U.S. citizen, said a spokesman for Titan Corp., an intelligence firm that subcontracted the prison translation work to SOS.
Taguba recommended a formal inquiry to determine the extent of Israel's culpability. Defense Department and Justice Department officials could not confirm Friday that any investigation is underway.
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