Next Watada court-martial set for July
The second court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is being tried for refusing to deploy to Iraq, is scheduled to be held at Fort Lewis, Wash., in July, about the same time his unit is expected to return from its combat deployment.
Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said yesterday that he plans to file motions before then to dismiss all charges against the 28-year-old Army artillery officer, because the first court-martial ended in a mistrial on Feb. 7. He contends that Watada cannot be tried again because it would be a case of "double jeopardy."
Seitz also said he will ask that Lt. Col. John Head, who presided over the first court-martial, be recused. Seitz said he believes that Head was "out of line" when he declared the mistrial.
Those pretrial motions are expected to be taken the week of May 20, Seitz added, with the court-martial slated for July 16-20.
There was no immediate comment from Fort Lewis, but military prosecutors have previously said they believe double jeopardy does not apply to this case.
On Friday the Army reinstated the charges against Watada of missing a movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. 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 earlier this month.
Watada, a 1998 Kalani High School graduate, now faces a maximum jail term of six years and a dishonorable discharge.
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, shortening his potential sentence to four years.
Watada was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade before it shipped out to Iraq on June 22. The charge of conduct unbecoming an officer accuses him of four instances of making public statements criticizing the war or President Bush, in addition to the charge of not reporting to his unit when it left for Iraq.
Watada continues to work in an administrative role at Fort Lewis.