Soldier Who Didn't Obey Is Jailed
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: August 5, 2009
HOUSTON A soldier at Fort Hood who fought his deployment to
Afghanistan and stopped obeying orders was sentenced to a month in
jail and demoted to private in a military court on Wednesday morning.
Victor Agosto, a 24-year-old signalman with the III Corps, ripped a
patch showing his specialist rank off his uniform after an emotional
hearing in front of an Army captain in which he had told the court he
believed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law,
his lawyer, James M. Branum, said. Later, about 20 antiwar protesters
cheered Private Agosto as he was taken to jail, the lawyer said.
"He's not opposed to all wars; he is opposed to this war, because it
is not a war of self-defense," Mr. Branum said.
Under a plea agreement, Private Agosto will be discharged after he
serves his time in jail in Belton, Tex., Mr. Branum said.
Col. Benton Danner, a spokesman for Fort Hood, said Private Agosto
technically never refused an order to go overseas. Rather, in May, he
refused to report to an office that takes care of the paperwork for
overseas deployment, a relatively minor offense. Refusing an order to
deploy or deserting during a battle carry much stiffer penalties, he said.
Private Agosto said he lost faith in the war efforts abroad after
returning in late 2007 from a 13-month stint in Iraq, in which he
worked with computers and saw no combat.
"I realized that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with making
Americans safer," he told The Associated Press in an interview this
week. "After I got back, I started feeling guilty about my part in
This year, the Army informed him he would not be discharged in June
as he had expected but would be deployed to Afghanistan. He stopped
obeying orders then and was assigned to pulling weeds and sweeping
up. He also became active in local antiwar protests.
Mr. Branum said Private Agosto's stand against the wars was unusual
in that he informed his superiors of his objections. Other soldiers
who disagree with the wars simply break Army regulations to be discharged.
Fort Hood Soldier Refused Deployment to Afghanistan
Wednesday 05 August 2009
by: Angela K. Brown
Fort Hood, Texas - A Fort Hood soldier was sentenced Wednesday
to a month in jail for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan over his
beliefs that the war violates international law.
Spc. Victor Agosto, 24, of Miami, pleaded guilty to disobeying
lawful orders and was sentenced at the central Texas Army post. The
judge also reduced his rank to the Army's lowest level, a private,
which also was part of the maximum penalty he faced in his plea
agreement with the military.
Also, Agosto cannot be discharged at a level lower than
other-than-honorable conditions, an administrative discharge. A
discharge was not mentioned in the hearing, but Agosto is expected to
be released from the Army after completing his jail term.
Before he was sentenced during the hourlong military hearing, he
told the judge he should not be jailed because he posed no threat to anyone.
He said he had remained on post and went to work every day since
refusing to deploy after learning a few months ago that the Army was
keeping him beyond his enlistment date. He said he did not use drugs
or go absent without leave, as other soldiers have done to avoid deployment.
He said he did not apply for conscientious objector status
because that requires opposition to all wars, and he does not believe
that all war is wrong.
"I really had no Army way of being consistent with my
conscience," Agosto said. "The courts haven't recognized soldiers'
rights to refuse an order they believe to be illegal.... I believe
future courts will find that the Afghanistan war is illegal because
it violates international law."
His attorney, James M. Branum, said he plans to appeal for a
lesser sentence on the grounds of legal errors. Agosto gave an
unsworn statement, which means cross-examination is not allowed.
But after Agosto spoke, Capt. Theresa Santos, acting as the
judge in the hearing, asked him several questions, including his
opinions about the war before he joined the military.
Agosto said that when he enlisted in 2005, he felt invading Iraq
was wrong but that troops had a mission to complete. He said he began
to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after he served a 13-month
tour in Iraq, which ended in late 2007.
Wednesday's proceeding was a summary court martial, in which a
soldier's guilty finding will not show up as a felony conviction if
an attorney does not represent him during the hearing. Branum said he
was there to advise Agosto and did not speak on the record or object
Earlier, Agosto called one witness to testify on his behalf.
Cynthia Thomas, who said she's been an Army wife for 17 years, said
Agosto made a hard decision to follow his conscience although he
would lose his military benefits and be ostracized by his peers.
"I have not met a soldier with more integrity than Victor
Agosto," she said. "He has served this country in a time of war with honor."