INDEX - JUSTICE
SUBJECT: WATADA TRIAL
SOURCE: JUAN WILSON email@example.com
POSTED: 24 OCTOBER 2008 - 8:00am HST
Army can't retry Watada
image above: Former Army Lieutenant Ehran Watada enjoying better days. Photo by Jeff Paterson
by Advertiser Staff on 22 October 2008 in The Honolulu Advertiser
The Army can't retry Watada for refusal to serve in Iraq war. The judge blocks Army from retrying war objector on three main allegations.
A federal judge ruled late yesterday that the Army cannot retry 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the Kalani High graduate who was the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the war in Iraq, on the main charges against him.
Watada was charged with missing his Fort Lewis, Wash., Stryker brigade's deployment and with conduct unbecoming an officer after he refused to board a flight to the Middle East in June 2006.
The 30-year-old soldier contended that the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war crimes if he served in Iraq. His first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February 2007.
Watada's father, Bob, last night said, "It's obviously good news. It's very good news."
Bob Watada added that "we kind of expected this" because U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle of Tacoma ruled in November 2007 that a second trial would violate Ehren's constitutional rights involving double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime.
Settle at the time put in place a preliminary injunction temporarily halting a new court-martial.
Settle yesterday ruled that the government could not retry Watada on three of the charges because doing so would violate Watada's double jeopardy rights.
Settle barred the military from retrying Watada on charges of missing his deployment to Iraq, taking part in a news conference and participating in a Veterans for Peace national convention.
But the court did not rule out the possibility that the Army, after considering legal issues, could retry Watada on two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer resulting from his media interviews.
"He dismissed the heart of their case," Watada lawyer Jim Lobsenz said. "We're very pleased. It's taken a long time."
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who previously represented Watada and was the first to raise the double jeopardy issue, said those two charges were dismissed in the first court-martial and that the Army believes that they "theoretically, hypothetically can be brought back, but I think there's going to be lots of problems."
"I don't think they can bring those back, either," Seitz said.
In a statement late yesterday, a Fort Lewis spokesman said the base's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., had not yet had a chance to review the ruling in depth.
"Once that review is complete, he will be able to make a decision on the way forward with this case," the spokesman said.
The 1996 Kalani High graduate, stripped of his security clearance, still reports to a meaningless desk job at Fort Lewis, according to family. "He said he's counting paper clips," his father, Bob Watada, said in an interview last week.
"We talk every once in awhile. He lets me know that he's OK," said the father, who lives in Oregon. Bob Watada said his son's term of service in the Army ended in December 2006, but that the legal proceedings have prevented his discharge.
Bob Watada, a former Hawai'i Campaign Spending Commission executive director, said that even if the charges are dismissed, he's worried the Army might appeal the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Defense Department has a lot of money (to pursue legal action)," Bob Watada said.
Many military members opined that Watada violated his oath as an officer, and that he had no right to decide whether the Iraq War was just or unjust.
Judge blocks retrial of war objector Watada
by Phuong Le (AP) on 23 October 2008 in www.armytimes.com
he Army can’t retry a Fort Lewis-based Iraq war objector on several key charges because that would violate the soldier’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy, a federal judge ruled late Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle of Tacoma said the government could not retry 1st Lt. Ehren Watada on charges of missing his unit’s deployment to Iraq in June 2006 and for denouncing President Bush and the war.
To do so would violate Watada’s Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges, Settle held.
“He dismissed the heart of their case,” Watada lawyer Jim Lobsenz said. “We’re very pleased. It’s taken a long time.”
The judge kicked back to the military trial court for further consideration two other charges of conduct unbecoming an officer against Watada, opening the door to further court proceedings. Both of those charges involve public interviews Watada gave to reporters.
Settle said the military court should consider whether there are “constitutional defects” to retrying Watada on those charges before a civil court does.
In a statement late Tuesday, a Fort Lewis spokesman said the base’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., had not yet had a chance to review the ruling in depth.
“Once that review is complete, he will be able to make a decision on the way forward with this case,” the spokesman said.
Watada contended that the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war crimes if he served in Iraq. His first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February 2007.
Lobsenz had said it was a mistake for a mistrial to be declared in that case. Settle agreed Tuesday, noting that the trial judge “did not exercise sound discretion” when he failed to determine whether a mistrial was appropriate.