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Marine gets 30 days in jail, bad conduct discharge for refusing anthrax vaccine

June 17, 1999
Web posted at: 9:00 PM EDT (0100 GMT)

From Correspondent Jim Hill

TWENTYNINE PALMS, California (CNN) -- A 20-year-old U.S. Marine was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in jail, to be followed by a bad conduct discharge, for refusing to take the anthrax vaccine required for all active duty military personnel.

Military Judge Lt. Col. Ken Martin also sentenced Lance Corp. Jared Schwartz to a rank reduction to private and ordered him to forfeit two-thirds of his pay while in the brig.

Martin sentenced Schwartz after he found him guilty of refusing to obey the lawful order in court-martial proceedings which lasted less than three hours.

Schwartz is one of five marines at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center who refused to take the vaccine, saying they were worried about possible side effects. Action is pending against the other four.

The military believes that as many as 10 countries may have the ability to use the anthrax bacteria as a weapon.

In arguing for his conviction, prosecutor Marine Capt. Brian Cosgrove said it was a "cut-and-dry" case.

"He stood eye-to-eye, a lance corporal to a major, and refused an order," said Cosgrove.

"Plain and simple, he refused -- he has a duty -- he did not take that shot," he said. "Sometimes it's take that hill. Sometimes it's take that vaccine."

Civilian defense attorney Mark Zaid said he wanted to put the vaccine itself on trial, claiming that its safety and effectiveness is unproven.

Zaid said he had been prepared to call as many as 48 witnesses -- until the judge ruled that the only issue to be argued was if Schwartz refused a lawful order.

"We were left with no defense," said Schwartz's attorney.

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