Prosecutor protests ruling for conscientious objector

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage is protesting a magistrate's ruling on the conscientious objector status of a soldier.

Pfc. Michael Barnes was denied conscientious objector status by an Army review board.

However, a magistrate ruled earlier this month that the board had erred.

Now, the Army wants a federal judge to overrule Magistrate John Roberts. The case will go before U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick.

Barnes, a 26-year-old paratrooper in the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, enlisted in the Army for five years in 2005. He says during a tour of duty in Iraq his Christian faith became stronger and he became morally opposed to war.

During an hourlong hearing on his status, Barnes supplied a statement that said, "Spending my time on this earth killing or supporting killing others is unacceptable to me."

"Serving Jesus is doing the opposite of participating in war. It is loving your enemy, avoiding conflict, being humble and living peacefully. I am unable to serve the Lord and support war."

Assistant U.S. attorney Richard Pomeroy this week faulted Roberts for accepting Barnes' statements as true.

"Using these improperly assumed facts, the magistrate judge then impermissibly weighs the evidence," Pomeroy wrote in a legal objection co-signed by U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen.

Army officials found that Barnes' request was at odds with him saying previously he wanted to serve in Iraq. They also noted that the request came three months after his deployment to Iraq. And they said officers in his chain of command were never made aware of his objections to the war until he was reassigned in December 2006 to serve as a gunner.

Barnes, a former resident of Portland, Ore., is married and has two children.

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