Court issues partial stay in Watada's second trial

SEATTLE - The Army's court of appeals issued a partial stay Friday in the planned second trial for a Fort Lewis soldier who refused to go to Iraq and spoke out against the Bush administration.

The decision by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Va., means the July 23 court-martial for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada could be on hold until the court reviews arguments from both sides.

The order allows for all pre-trial hearings to continue, including one scheduled for June 5 at Fort Lewis, south of Tacoma.

"Assembly of the court-martial and all proceedings ordinarily following assembly of the court-martial are hereby stayed," the court said in its written order.

The court gave no indication when it would review lawyers' arguments.

Watada is charged with missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.

The appeals court issued its decision after defense attorneys Kenneth Kagan and James Lobsenz of Seattle moved to dismiss all charges against Watada based on a double jeopardy argument.

The Army has 10 days to respond to the defense's motion to dismiss the case.

Fort Lewis officials on Friday said they were not surprised by the order.

"This is all part of the normal procedures," said Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesman. "The Army expected the defense would file the double jeopardy motion."

He added, "The court--martial itself is still more than two months away. Even with this motion ... we still expect the court martial to occur on July 23."

Watada's first military trial ended in a mistrial in February when military judge Lt. Col. John Head said he didn't believe Watada fully understood a pretrial agreement he'd signed.

In filing their motion this week with the appellate court, Watada's lawyers said that a second trial would be impermissible because there was no "manifest necessity" for the mistrial.