Watada will face Article 32 hearing
The Army's charges against him could mean seven and a half years in prison
SHORTLY after 1st Lt. Ehren Watada was charged by the Army for refusing to fight in Iraq, Bob Watada said his son was confident he would prevail, but was prepared to go to jail for his beliefs.
Watada was charged with missing movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer. The first charge carries a maximum two-year prison term while the other two each carry maximum one-year prison terms.
Army charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, followed by the maximum punishment:
» Missing movement: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, two years of confinement
» Contempt toward officials: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, one year of confinement
» Conduct unbecoming an officer: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, one year of confinement
"We're taking the charges very seriously," said Watada's father, former Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission executive director. "He's going to fight the charges because what my son said, what he did, is proper under military law."
Because multiple actions were alleged under the second two charges, Watada is facing up to seven-and-a-half years in prison, said his attorney, Eric Seitz. He said he welcomes the contempt and conduct charges because they stem from comments Watada made against the war and provide him with an opportunity to raise constitutional free speech issues.
"I can't understand why the Army wants to make a martyr out of him and give him a platform," to continue to speak out against the war in Iraq, he said.
The next step for the 28-year-old Watada is an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent to a probable cause or preliminary hearing, in which the Army must justify the charges before a military judge. An investigating officer will recommend to the commanding general of Fort Lewis whether Watada should face court-martial proceedings.
The investigating officer has not been appointed and there is no date set for the Article 32 hearing, said Tammy Reed, Fort Lewis spokeswoman.
Seitz said he will travel to Fort Lewis this weekend. He believes the Article 32 hearing will be held by the end of this month or early next month.
Watada was not given the opportunity to accept non-judicial punishment for any of the charges but that is still possible, Seitz said. Under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Watada's commander would determine what offense was committed and the appropriate punishment. Punishments under Article 15 are normally for minor offenses.
Bob Watada said Army officials had been telling his son that he was going to have to serve 20 years for refusing to deploy with his unit. But he believes they were just trying to break down his resolve.
"He just was not going to go because he had firmly made up his mind that killing Iraqis was just something he could not do," he said.
Ehren Watada was ordered to be among about 4,000 soldiers of Fort Lewis' 3rd Stryker Combat Brigade Team that deployed to Iraq June 22. When he refused, he was reassigned to desk duties with another unit, confined to quarters and ordered not to talk to anyone except his attorney.
He is no longer confined to quarters.
"His pass privileges are restored, he can leave post, he's not under arrest," Reed said.
Bob Watada said his son moved back into his off-post apartment Saturday.
The younger Watada is not a conscientious objector and has stated his willingness to fight in combat, as long as it is not in Iraq. He twice tried to resign his commission as an Army officer or be allowed to serve somewhere else, including Afghanistan.
He is a 1996 graduate of Kalani High School and 2003 graduate of Hawaii Pacific University. Prior to his graduation from HPU, Watada enlisted in the Army to attend officer candidate school. His active-duty commitment was supposed to end in December. But the Army extended his obligation to next year, when his unit is scheduled to return to Fort Lewis.