Army, Watada ‘back at square 1’
The military charges the officer again after his first court-martial ended in a mistrial
The Army has reinstated its entire case against 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada, whose first court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq ended in a mistrial this month.
"We're back to square one," Leslie Kaye, spokeswoman for Fort Lewis, Wash., where Watada is being court-martialed, said yesterday.
Watada, born and raised in Honolulu, faces a maximum jail term of six years and a dishonorable discharge. The Army has not set a date for a second court-martial.
The charges include two that had been dropped as part of a pretrial agreement in the first court-martial. It was that pretrial agreement that derailed the first military trial on Feb. 7.
The judge, Lt. Col. John Head, said he did not believe Watada fully understood the agreement he signed admitting elements of the charges. As part of that agreement, the Army dropped two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, lowering his potential sentence to four years.
Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said yesterday he was upset that the Army had not informed him of its latest actions.
"I don't know anything," said Seitz. "I haven't seen it so I don't know."
After the mistrial Seitz contended that Watada, 28, cannot be tried again because it would be a case of double jeopardy and that he would file a motion to dismiss the case.
"When it's not going well for you, you can't just call a mistrial and start over again," Seitz told the Associated Press. "No matter how much lip service they give to wanting to protect my client's rights, that just doesn't exist in the military courts."
Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek said double jeopardy did not apply in this case because the first trial was never completed.
A news release from Fort Lewis, where Watada was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade before it shipped out to Iraq on June 22, said the next step is for a military judge to pick a new court-martial date after talking with Seitz and other lawyers involved in the case.
Seitz has said the earliest a second court-martial could take place is this summer because he and Watada's military-appointed lawyer are busy with other cases. Watada is believed to be the first Army officer to be court-martialed for refusing to deploy to Iraq.
Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate, is again charged with missing movement, and one charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. The latter charge accuses him in four instances of making public statements criticizing the war or President Bush.
Watada's Stryker Brigade Combat Team is expected to return to Fort Lewis this summer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.