Government Drops Two Charges Against Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada
Lt. Ehren Watada
Eric Seitz
Eric Seitz

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii born Army Lt. Ehren Watada has scored a small victory before his court martial. The government agreed to drop two charges against him, lowering his maximum prison time to four-years.

"We regard as certainly moving in the right direction," said Watada's lawyer Eric Seitz. "We would like to see it move much further down as a consequence of the proceedings that we're about to embark upon."

The two charges are conduct unbecoming an officer, for statements Watada made to a newspaper reporter.

In turn, the government agrees not to subpoena the reporter to testify at the court martial.

Watada still faces one count of missing movement, for not deploying with his unit, and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, for giving a press conference and a speech, about his views on the war.

Despite Monday's agreement, Seitz says there is still a big problem.

The judge already ruled Watada can't use the legality of the war in iraq as a defense. So he's not allowing any of Watada's witnesses to testify to that.

"We are going into this trial with one arm tied behind our backs in terms of defenses we're gonna be allowed to raise," said Seitz. "Now apparently another arm tied behind our backs in respect to the witnesses that will be allowed to call."

The court martial is scheduled to start next Monday. Seitz says there's still time to make a deal.

"We don't want him to be a martyr," he said. "We want to resolve this so everyone can get on with the business of their lives and responsibilities."

Because Seitz says all Watada wanted to do was advance the debate about a war he feels is illegal.

And that's a battle he's already won.

Seitz says they did offer to take three months prison time, and a dishonorable discharge, but the army didn't agree to that.

He says the court martial is not to see if Watada's guilty or innocent, but how much punishment he should get.

Despite that, he is optimistic, because he says in previous cases similar to this case, the defendant got just a few months in prison.