NEW ORLEANS, La. (Reuters) - A military jury found an anti-war U.S. Marine reservist guilty of unauthorized absence and sentenced him to six months in jail for refusing to report to his unit during the Iraq war, his lawyer said on Sunday.
The verdict was less than the desertion charge the U.S. military had sought, which could have put Lance Cpl. Lawrence Funk behind bars for a year, but defense attorney Stephen Collier said he would still appeal for a lighter sentence.
Funk, 21, has said he was the target of unfair prosecution because he was a conscientious objector who spoke at anti-war rallies. He was the only one of 28 Marine conscientious objectors to the Iraq war to face prosecution, but the military said that was because he was the only who did not report for duty.
A jury of four Marines reached the verdict late on Saturday after two days of testimony in a court martial at the 4th Service Support Group command, headquarters for the Marine Reserve, in New Orleans, which is where the Marine Corps processes conscientious objector cases.
Collier argued that Funk did not respond to his unit's call up on Feb. 9 because he claimed conscientious objector status and believed he would not be deployed. His unit, based in San Jose, California, loads cargo for transport.
But prosecutors said his refusal to report was a simple case of desertion.
Funk also informed the military he was gay, but military Judge John Maksym forbade that from being an issue in the court-martial.
Collier said Funk, who was immediately sent to jail, took the jury's decision well.
"Stephen was ready to serve some time. He knew this was likely to happen," he told Reuters.
Funk also will receive a bad conduct discharge from the military, Collier said.