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WüRZBURG, Germany — The military judge presiding over the court-martial proceedings Thursday of an Army medic who went absent without leave to avoid a second tour to Iraq set the soldier’s trial date for early March.

Barring any delays, the general court-martial of Spc. Agustin Aguayo will convene March 6 in Würzburg. Aguayo, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, has been charged with desertion and missing movement.

The trial date and other matters were discussed Thursday morning at an arraignment hearing presided over by Col. R. Peter Masterton. In typical fashion the session was brief, and questions regarding the defendant’s plea and desired forum — bench or jury — were deferred until later.

“It’s normal to defer,” said David Court, a civilian attorney representing Aguayo. “It gives us more flexibility.”

Masterton asked the defense to enter a plea no later than Feb. 2. A list of defense witnesses and any defense motions also must be filed with the court by then, the judge said. Prosecutors will have a few days to respond prior to the next pretrial hearing, scheduled for Feb. 8.

Aguayo deployed to Iraq in February 2004, about a year after he entered the service. The 35-year-old medic maintains he came to view himself as a conscientious objector in the months leading up to that first deployment.

When his unit was leaving for its second tour to Iraq in early September 2006, he went AWOL. He surrendered a few weeks later.

During the unit’s deployment to Iraq in 2004, 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 apparently unarmed, according to his wife and other supporters.

When the Army rejected Aguayo’s claim, he appealed, but lost his challenge. In early 2006, he sought relief in U.S. District Court, but the judge in the case sided with the Army. The issue is presently before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

At Thursday’s military hearing, Aguayo appeared with his lower right arm wrapped in what appeared to be a soft cast. Aguayo recently broke a finger while playing basketball, Court said.

Aguayo is being held at the Mannheim detention facility. If convicted, the Army has said Aguayo could receive a maximum prison sentence of seven years, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, demotion to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge.


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