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Watada stuck in Army as it decides whether to appeal


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POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

Question: It has been almost three years since 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused to join his Stryker Brigade Combat Team when it deployed to Iraq from Fort Lewis, Wash. What is his status?

Answer: The Army says it is still awaiting a decision from newly appointed U.S. Solicitor Elena Kagan, who was sworn in three weeks ago, as to whether it will appeal a federal judge's decision rendered in October.

The judge said that a second court-martial could not be held for the 1996 Kalani High School graduate pending the outcome of his claim that it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges.

The Army says original charges against Watada, who contends the war is illegal, are still pending. He is charged with missing his unit's deployment to Iraq on June 22, 2006, and also charged with conduct unbecoming an officer for denouncing then-President Bush and the war. Conviction on all counts could mean six years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

Watada's first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February 2007. A federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., ruled later that the military judge presiding over Watada's court-martial abused his discretion in declaring the mistrial.

Watada's term of service in the military ended December 2006, but the legal proceedings have prevented his discharge. He is assigned to a desk job at I Corps at Fort Lewis.

Watada's Stryker unit — 3rd Stryker Combat Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division — served in Iraq for 18 months and returned in October 2007. It is scheduled to return to Iraq this summer for its third combat tour.

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This update was written by Gregg K. Kakesako. You can write us at What Ever Happened to ..., Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).