New trial for Watada could start in summer
The court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, which ended in a mistrial this month, might not get restarted until summer, according to his civilian attorney.
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz said yesterday that so far no charges have been refiled against Watada, an artillery officer who refused to deploy to Iraq with his Stryker combat brigade team in June.
"None of us will be available until then," Seitz said, referring to his schedule and that of Watada's military-assigned lawyer.
If the court-martial is held then, it would coincide with the return of Watada's Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit, the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which left for Iraq on June 22.
Watada's first court-martial ended in a mistrial Feb. 7 when Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge presiding over the Fort Lewis court-martial, rejected a pretrial agreement.
Joe Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesman, said the Army "is expecting the trial to occur again."
Although a March 19 trial date was discussed, Piek said that was just an option brought up by Head in talking with attorneys.
Piek said a new court-martial date has not been set to retry Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate.
After the court-martial, Seitz said he believed Watada "cannot be tried again because of the effect of double jeopardy," and would file a motion to dismiss the entire case. Yesterday, Seitz said he cannot do anything until the Army follows through and reinstates charges against Watada.
Piek said "the government is looking at the issue of charges and the stipulation," which led to the dismissal of two of the initial four charges against Watada. Watada was spared two years in prison when he agreed to a 12-page written stipulation involving journalistic accounts of his decision submitted by Army prosecutors.
That left Watada facing only one charge of missing a movement and another charge of conduct unbecoming an officer, which carry a maximum penalty of four years in jail.
Seitz said he has not heard from the Army since the mistrial was declared, except that it "has refused to give us a verbatim transcript."
As for status of the 28-year-old Honolulu native, Seitz said "he is still waiting, and he has passed his term on obligated service," which ended in December. "He just continues to go to work."
Watada's defense for not joining his Stryker brigade in June was that he believed the Iraq war was illegal. However, Head ruled as irrelevant any testimony about the war's legality.
The mistrial was declared before Seitz was able to present his case.