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Charges Dropped for Local Iraq Vet

Military prosecutors dropped charges against an Iraq War veteran from Chicago last week and offered him a general discharge under honorable conditions.

Specialist Eugene Cherry was facing a court-martial on charges of being AWOL, despite a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder dating from his service as a medic attached to a bomb squad in Iraq in 2004-05 (see Newstips 5-22-07).

Though he was under psychological care while serving in Iraq, Cherry was unable to get help at his Army base after returning. He came back to Chicago and eventually connected with military counselor Ray Parrish, who arranged for him to receive treatment. A Chicago therapist diagnosed Cherry with PTSD and major depression.

His medical history was inadmissible as evidence until the sentencing phase of the court-martial, but defense lawyers requested a sanity board hearing. The board found Cherry was sane and legally responsible for his actions but also confirmed he was suffering from PTSD while in Iraq and after he returned, said Parrish, a counselor for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

That information had to be made available to the judge. “It was an end-run around the prosecutors,” he said.

Prosecutors were afraid the judge could find Cherry not guilty based on the medical evidence and establish a precedent for other GIs in similar circumstances, Parrish said.

He predicted military defense attorneys will being demanding sanity board hearings around the country, and sooner or later a case will go to trial and a service member charged with being AWOL will “be found not guilty because of the inadequacy of the military mental health system.”

Cherry will return to Chicago later this week.

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