The first American war resister deported from Canada will plead guilty to charges of desertion at a court martial today in Colorado, and will likely be sentenced this afternoon, his lawyer said yesterday.
Robin Long, 25, had lived in Canada since he fled from the U.S. Army in 2005 to avoid a scheduled deployment to Iraq.
He was deported on July 15, following several failed attempts to earn refugee status or permanent residency in this country, and has since languished in three American military and civilian prisons.
In his trial today at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., Long will plead guilty to charges of deserting the U.S. Army with the intent to stay away permanently. The plea is part of a pre-trial agreement with military prosecutors last week.
“In exchange for him pleading guilty, they’ve agreed to (lower) the three-year maximum sentence that usually comes with those charges,” Long’s Oklahoma-based lawyer, James M. Branum, said in an interview. He wouldn’t specify the length of the new maximum.
The army also gave up its right to prosecute Long on other potential charges related to the outspoken stance he took against the Iraq war while living in Canada, Branum said. But, he said, prosecutors would likely use evidence from interviews Long did with Canadian media to try to convince the court his actions harmed army morale.
“I think they want to prosecute him for free-speech issues without actually charging him for them.”
Long joined the army in 2003 but became disillusioned with the Iraq war after hearing stories from soldiers who had served there, he said in a January interview with the U.S. anti-war group, Courage to Resist.
While living in Marathon, Ont., Long became engaged to a Canadian woman, who had his child last year. When he moved to B.C. a short time later, border officials issued a warrant for his arrest after he missed an immigration appointment in Ontario. He was arrested earlier this summer, then deported.
In addition to prison time, Long could receive a dishonourable discharge, a felony offence that can strip the U.S. citizen of his rights to vote and carry a weapon, Branum said, adding Long would also likely lose any right to receive pay or pension from the army – which would severely limit his ability to support his child while in prison.
Fellow resister James Burmeister, who was convicted of deserting the U.S. Army at a military trial last month, received a six-month sentence and a bad-conduct discharge.