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Court-Martial Ordered for Antiwar Reservist

Charges of shirking duty are brought against a Seattle Marine, who also said he is gay. He allegedly skipped 47 days of training.

August 15, 2003|From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — A Marine Corps reservist who publicly opposed the Iraq war and refused to train for it must face a court-martial next month, a military judge ruled Thursday.

Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk, 21, will go before a military jury Sept. 4 on charges of "shirking important service" for skipping 47 days of training in February and March.

If convicted, the Seattle native could face up to a year in military prison.

He would also receive a bad-conduct discharge.

Funk's lawyers had asked Navy Cmdr. John Maksym to dismiss the charges on grounds that Funk was being selectively prosecuted because he attended antiwar rallies and was openly critical of the military's role in Iraq.

But Maksym said the evidence for that was "anemic" and rejected the request.

Funk turned himself in to authorities April 1, in San Jose, where his unit is based. During his absence from service, Funk filed for conscientious objector status and revealed that he is gay.

Marine Corps officials insist that Funk's absence from duty during a time of war is at issue, not his antiwar beliefs or sexual preferences.

Other conscientious objectors showed up for noncombat duty while their cases were being processed, said Capt. Patrick Kerr, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Reserve Command in New Orleans.

Thursday's ruling "reinforces the command's position that Lance Cpl. Funk deserted his unit, plain and simple," Kerr said.

Kerr said Funk was one of more than 20 conscientious-objector reservists who have been transferred to the New Orleans command, which he said is "more centralized" and "better prepared to handle these kinds of cases."

Kerr said Funk "is performing various administrative duties while this plays out. He is not on restriction. He is free to come and go."

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