Army Medic Found Guilty Of Desertion

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 8:16 am

By: News On 6

WUERZBURG, Germany (AP) _ A U.S. Army medic who refused to return to Iraq because of his opposition to the war was convicted of desertion at his court martial Tuesday, and could face as long as seven years in prison.

Spc. Agustin Aguayo, whose case has been closely watched by American anti-war groups, opened the one-day proceeding on a U.S. base in Germany by admitting he intentionally avoided his deployment back to Iraq.

Aguayo has said in the past that he had refused to return to Iraq because he believes war is immoral, and that he could ``no longer go down this path.''

Though Aguayo only pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of being absent without leave, Judge Col. R. Peter Masterton sided with prosecutors in finding him guilty of the more severe charge of desertion. He also was found guilty of missing a troop deployment.

Masterton did not immediately issue a sentence, which can also include loss of pay, demotion to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge.

The 35-year-old with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team served a year as a combat medic in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in 2004 after the military turned down his request to be considered a conscientious objector.

He then jumped out of a window of his base housing in Germany on Sept. 2 rather than be forced to ship out for a second tour and fled home to California.

He turned himself in to the military at California's Fort Irwin about three weeks later.

As his court martial opened, Aguayo admitted to the facts of the case in a short statement.

``I understand that the formation was to move ... to Iraq your honor,'' he told the judge in a quiet, wavering voice. ``Yes, I deliberately stayed away from the movement. I knew that I wouldn't be making this movement.''

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