2009/05/06:Justice Department drops charges against war resister Lt. Ehren Watada

Justice Department won't pursue war objector case

SEATTLE (AP) — The Justice Department is dropping its attempt to retry the first commissioned officer to be court-martialed for refusing to go to Iraq.

Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada contended that the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war crimes if he served in Iraq. His first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February 2007.

A federal judge ruled last fall that the Army could not try him again on key charges, including missing troop movement, because it would violate his constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy.

The Justice Department initially appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but later asked the court to dismiss the matter. The court did so Wednesday.

Watada's attorney, James Lobsenz, said in a news release that his client anticipates he will soon be released from active duty and "plans to return to civilian life and to attend law school."

But Fort Lewis leadership is still mulling how to handle two remaining allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer against Watada that the federal judge had kicked back to the military trial court for further consideration.

Options include court-martial, nonjudicial punishment such as docking his pay or giving him extra work, or kicking him out of the Army with either an honorable or dishonorable discharge.

"What is most troubling to us here is that the most serious charge of missing movement will not be decided upon by a jury of the lieutenant's peers," said Army spokesman Joe Piek. "We're troubled by that on that on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have deployed."