FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
MARINE CONVICTED IN FIRST CONTESTED ANTHRAX COURT-MARTIAL
Anthrax Refuser Sentenced To Bad Conduct Discharge And 45 Days In The Brig
TWENTY-NINE PALMS, CA --
The first contested court-martial proceeding for the refusal of the anthrax vaccine ended today after less than three hours. Lance Corporal Jared Schwartz (Henderson, Kentucky), who is stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Air Combat Center, entered a plea of not-guilty. Following the testimony of two prosecution witnesses, LCP Schwartz was found guilty by the Military Judge, Lieutenant Colonel Martin. No witnesses were called by LCP Schwartz as the Court in pre-trial hearings had excluded all requested defense witnesses and evidence. The Military Judge sentenced LCP Schwartz to a bad conduct discharge and 45 days in the brig (reduced to 30 days due to a pre-trial agreement between the parties). The prosecution's request for a reduction in rank was disregarded by the Court.
"I believe the arguments that have been raised during the last week must go forward to a higher court as soon as possible. By my requesting a bad conduct discharge, I will ensure an appeal will be heard. The record that has been created in my case must be preserved. This case is bigger than just myself. I stand here today representing every member of the service who wishes to challenge the anthrax vaccine program, and if my actions may lead to a change in what has been deemed a decision of policy then my personal sacrifice will have been worth it," said Lance Corporal Schwartz in his unsworn statement which was read to the Court.
The defense was precluded by the Court from introducing evidence regarding the safety, efficacy or necessity of the anthrax vaccine as it was ruled a nonjusticiable policy issue. Additionally, attempts to introduce allegations regarding the illegal modification of the vaccine were denied, despite the willingness of a defense witnesses, Dr. Robert Garry, Jr., a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine, to testify he conducted a study that found presence of squalene antibodies in the blood of those military personnel who have received the anthrax vaccine. Squalene is a highly toxic adjuvant that does not have FDA approval. The presence of squalene in the anthrax vaccine would be in violation of U.S. domestic law and international laws that arose from the ashes of Nazi Germany at the Nuremberg trials.
"We are obviously disappointed by the verdict. Nevertheless, Lance Corporal Schwartz remained true to his principles, and the sentence reflects that the Court believed his sincerity. His fight is not over yet," said Mark S. Zaid, the Executive Director for The James Madison Project and lead civilian defense counsel. Zaid added that he intends to continue challenging the vaccine in any subsequent court-martials until the evidence is substantively addressed. Efforts are also underway to promote Congressional intervention.
The Defense Department is forcibly inoculating all 2.5 million active duty personnel, regardless of duty station or responsibilities, against anthrax at an estimated cost of $130 million. The immunization series calls for six injections of the vaccine over a period of 18 months, followed by annual booster shots. Vaccinations began in March 1998. The FDA approved the vaccine in 1970. However, concerns have been raised about the vaccine's effectiveness against massive doses of weaponized anthrax anticipated in an intentional biological warfare attack. In addition, the only FDA-approved manufacturer, the Michigan Biologic Products Institute (now BioPort), has been repeatedly cited for quality control problems.
"The Pentagon's anthrax vaccination program is a misguided and exaggerated effort set in motion by a few individuals based on sparse data. The vaccine was never intended to be used on a wide-scale and the program should be voluntary, just as seen in the British military, " said Zaid. He added that the Department of State recently decided to implement its anthrax program on a voluntary basis in order to avoid the criticisms of the Pentagon's program.
In April 1998, Zaid was the first attorney to represent military personnel refusing the vaccine when several sailors onboard the U.S.S. Independence refused to submit to the vaccination. In March 1999, JMP represented the first anthrax refuser at Travis Air Force Base in his court-martial. In addition to the Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms, JMP represents Marines facing court-martial proceedings at Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine bases, both of which are located in California. Zaid testified at the first oversight hearing on the anthrax vaccine held by the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 24, 1999.
The other Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms who have refused the vaccine are: Lance Corporal Jason Austin (Borger, Texas), Lance Corporal Michael McIntyre (Mt. Vernon, Washington), Lance Corporal Jared Johnston (Henrietta, Oklahoma), and Lance Corporal Michael Metzig (San Diego, CA). The next court-martial, that of LCP Metzig, begins 0800 PST Monday, June 21, 1999.
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