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Soldier Refusing Anthrax Shot Guilty

Associated Press

FORT DRUM, N.Y. - A military panel on Wednesday found an Army reservist guilty of disobeying an order for refusing to take the anthrax vaccine. The panel of eight officers took only 40 minutes before returning a guilty verdict against Pvt. Kamila Iwanowska.

Iwanowska, 26, admitted in a court "stipulation of fact" that she refused to follow the verbal and written orders of her commanding officers. Army prosecutors read a statement to the panel and rested their case without calling any witnesses.

"Good order and discipline and following orders is essential in the United States Army," Capt. Wesley Rowley said in a brief opening statement.

Rowley said Iwanowska's signed statement was all the proof the panel needed for a conviction.

Defense Attorney Capt. Jeremy Ball told panel members what was not in Iwanowska's statement is why she refused, "and that's what this case is ultimately about."

"I ask that you reserve judgments of her and her wrongfulness until you understand more about the why," said Ball, who also rested without calling any witnesses.

Ball said he planned to call Iwanowska and several other witnesses during the sentencing phase, which was to begin later Wednesday.

Iwanowska, of New York City, was charged with disobeying an order to get the anthrax vaccine after reporting for pre-deployment processing with her unit in January. After being brought up on disciplinary charges by her company commander, Iwanowska was twice ordered to take the vaccine by Col. Emory Helton, the garrison commander, but refused.

Iwanowska, who is Polish and became an American citizen last year, told her superiors that she considered the shot medically dangerous to children she might have in the future, saying the long-term effects of the anthrax vaccine are unknown. As a Roman Catholic, she also cited religious reasons for refusing it.

On Tuesday, a military judge had upheld the legality of the vaccination program and refused to dismiss the charge.

The Pentagon insists the vaccination is safe, with severe adverse reactions developing in only about one in 100,000 vaccinations.