A federal judge indicated he won’t likely decide whether to halt Lt. Ehren Watada’s second court-martial until Tuesday morning, when the proceeding is scheduled to begin in an Army courtroom at Fort Lewis.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma listened Thursday afternoon to arguments by lawyers for Watada and the Army, and gave both sides until 10 a.m. today to submit additional points in writing.
Watada faces a second military trial on charges he missed his unit’s movement to Iraq and that he engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer. He refused to deploy on the grounds that he believes the war is illegal and that by going he would be a party to war crimes.
He faces up to six years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
His first court-martial ended in mistrial when the Army judge, Lt. Col. John Head, ruled that Watada did not appear to fully understand a stipulated agreement he signed related to the charges.
Watada objected to the ruling, and now his lawyers contend that to try him again would violate his constitutional protections against double-jeopardy.
The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals has denied Watada’s claim, and now he is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
In the meantime, Watada’s attorneys James Lobsenz and Ken Kagan have asked the U.S. District Court to stop the court-martial pending a decision by the appeals court on the double-jeopardy question.
Assistant U.S. attorney Brian Kipnis told Settle that Watada has had his appeal heard and that the court-martial should proceed.
The artillery officer from Hawaii was to have deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Nearly all the brigade’s soldiers have returned to Fort Lewis over the last two weeks following a 15-month combat tour.
Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921