Army plans to arraign medic who went AWOL
January 19, 2007
The Army plans Monday to formally arraign a 35-year-old medic and self-professed conscientious objector who went absent without leave last fall to avert a second tour in Iraq.
Spc. Agustin Aguayo, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment in Schweinfurt, Germany, is expected to be arraigned for desertion and missing movement. Monday’s hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. in the courtroom on Leighton Barracks in Würzburg.
“It’s a procedural step,” David Court, Aguayo’s lead defense counsel, said of the arraignment. “It’s an important one, but it’s just a procedural step.”
Attorneys are expected to exchange lists of potential witnesses and address other matters, from possible evidentiary material to court schedules.
If convicted of the charges, Aguayo could receive a maximum sentence of seven years’ confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, demotion to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge.
Aguayo deployed to Iraq in February 2004, about a year after entering the service. The medic maintains he came to view himself as a conscientious objector in the months leading up to that deployment.
Soon after arriving in Iraq, Aguayo applied for conscientious objector status. While it was being considered, he performed his duties as a combat medic, even pulling guard duty and going on patrols, though unarmed.
When the Army rejected Aguayo’s claim, he unsuccessfully challenged its ruling. The case is now before a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C.
Supporters say Aguayo turned himself in on Sept. 2 — the morning after his unit’s movement — with no intention of being absent without leave. But he went AWOL later that day, he explained, because he was told he would deploy regardless of his beliefs. Aguayo surrendered a few weeks later.