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Originally published October 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 4, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Watada's lawyers ask that trial be blocked

In an unusual appeal to civilian courts, attorneys for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada have asked a federal judge in Seattle to block a military court-martial...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In an unusual appeal to civilian courts, attorneys for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada have asked a federal judge in Seattle to block a military court-martial scheduled to start Tuesday at Fort Lewis.

Watada faces up to six years in prison on charges of failure to deploy to Iraq and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.

He is the first Army officer to face charges for refusing to deploy to Iraq. An earlier trial in February ended in a mistrial.

The petition filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeks an emergency stay of the court-martial.

Defense counsels claim a second trial would violate Watada's constitutional rights against double jeopardy since he was previously tried on the charges, and the mistrial was declared over the objections of the defense.

Watada's defense counsels also have pressed those arguments in military appeal courts.

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals in late August rejected that argument and said the court-martial could proceed.

The military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, presided over the first trial and ended it after questioning whether Watada understood a pretrial agreement he had signed.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has so far failed to rule on the double-jeopardy issue, and that prompted the Wednesday filing, according to Ken Kagan, a defense counsel.

Watada was scheduled to deploy to Iraq in June 2006 with the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which has now returned to the post after a 15-month tour of duty.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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