Army drops 2 charges in Watada court-martial
Counts of conduct unbecoming an officer are dismissed
The Army dismissed two charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada yesterday, reducing by two years the maximum length of confinement he faces when his court-martial begins next week, his attorney Eric Seitz said.
Watada still faces up to four years' confinement on three other charges.
The two specifications for conduct unbecoming an officer the Army is dropping stem from comments Watada made to reporters, including Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg Kakesako, in interviews June 7.
In exchange, Watada has agreed to stipulate that he made the comments attributed to him by the reporters. That relieves the reporters of responding to government subpoenas seeking their testimony during the court-martial.
"We were never happy about the fact that the reporters got drawn into this," Seitz said. "The statements that he's alleged to have made were accurately reported, and we don't disassociate ourselves. We've never disassociated ourselves from any of the comments that have been accurately attributed to him."
Watada still faces two other charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments he made in a June 6 news conference and in a speech at a national convention of Veterans for Peace in Seattle in August. He is also charged with missing movement for refusing to join his Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade unit on June 22 when it left for Iraq.
Each of the conduct charges carries a maximum one year of confinement, and missing movement carries a maximum two years' confinement.
The court-martial proceedings are scheduled to begin Monday.
Seitz said the judge has refused to allow him to call expert witnesses to bolster his client's claims that his comments and actions were based on his belief that the war in Iraq is illegal. Without them, Watada would be the only witness to take the stand in his defense, said Seitz.
The latest development in Watada's case comes two days after his stepmother collapsed while taking part in a march in the nation's capital to protest President Bush's plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq. Seitz said Rosa Sakanishi suffered a mild stroke and remains in George Washington University Hospital.
Watada's father, retired state Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada, addressed the thousands of protesters on the National Mall on Saturday.