Army lieutenant's second court-martial set for July Melanthia Mitchell, Associated Press, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Feb 28, 2007
SEATTLE -- A second court-martial is scheduled to begin July 16 for an Army lieutenant who refused to go to Iraq with his Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigade and spoke out against the Bush administration.
The first military trial for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada ended in mistrial after three days when the judge said he didn't believe Watada fully understood a pretrial agreement he'd signed and that would have cut his sentence to four years.
On Friday, the Army refiled charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer - the same charges Watada, 28, had initially faced. If convicted, Watada could be sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.
Pretrial motions have been set for May 20-21, with the court-martial scheduled to begin the week of July 16, according to the office of Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney based in Honolulu.
Seitz has said he will seek to have the charges dismissed as a violation of the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy. On Wednesday, he said he would likely file motions by April.
He said he and Watada still hope to reach some sort of an agreement with the military, but as of yet have had no communication with the Army, other than an e-mail listing the court dates.
"Our understanding is that they want to continue with this and we're happy to oblige," Seitz said.
Fort Lewis officials did not immediately return a call for comment. However, spokesman Joseph Piek said last week that double jeopardy was not a factor in the case because Watada's first trial "had not reached a position of finality."
Military judge Lt. Col. John Head originally scheduled a new trial for March 19 after Watada's first court-martial abruptly ended Feb. 7. Seitz had said he likely wouldn't be able to make that date because of conflicting court schedules.
The conduct unbecoming an officer charge against Watada accuses him in four instances of making public statements criticizing the Iraq war or President Bush.
Watada has acknowledged making the statements and to missing a June deployment with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is currently in Baghdad. Just before the mistrial was declared, he had planned to take the witness stand to argue that his motives were to avoid committing war crimes by participating in an illegal war.
Watada is currently assigned to an administrative position at Fort Lewis.
The following is the statement of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada on June 7, 2006