View Full Version : Ft. Lewis Soldier from Lynnwood gets life prison term

09-04-2004, 06:41 PM
By Jim Haley
Herald Writer

FORT LEWIS - A Lynnwood soldier who was sentenced to life in prison early Friday is being held here temporarily as the base commander starts a review of his court-martial conviction and prison sentence.

Spc. Ryan G. Anderson, 27, showed no emotion when a panel of nine commissioned officers ruled that he should serve a life term and be given a dishonorable discharge after being convicted of five counts of betraying his country. However, they also ruled that he should someday be eligible for parole.

The panel's decision must be reviewed at the base level and will be appealed to higher military courts.

Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, Fort Lewis' commanding officer, is required to review the trial. He must be satisfied "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the verdict is supported by the evidence, said Joseph Hitt, a base spokesman. That's the same level of proof required of the jury panel.

The process could take several months, and Soriano is scheduled to be replaced by Maj. Gen. James Dubik. Army Col. Bill Costello said the final decision could be up to Dubik.

It's expected that Anderson, a 1995 Cascade High School graduate, eventually will be shipped to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Hitt said. Military officials said it's unclear how much time Anderson would have to serve and what he would have to do to earn parole.

The base commander can approve the sentence or reduce it, but he cannot increase it, Hitt said. The maximum penalty Anderson could have received was life in prison without possibility of parole. Soriano took the possibility of death off the table earlier.

The commander's review is the first step in a lengthy appeal process. An appeal is automatic in such a case, Hitt said.

According to military law, a case drawing more than a year in prison also requires a review by the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. The panel must weigh the evidence and decide whether the findings and sentence were legally correct and if the sentence was appropriate.

The appeals court can reverse the conviction or reduce the sentence, but it can't increase the term.

A military appellate defense attorney will represent Anderson through the appeal process. Anderson also has the right to hire a civilian appellate lawyer.

The next step is the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces. On occasion, the U.S. Supreme Court hears military appeals.

According to the Fort Lewis judge advocate's office, only a handful of military criminal cases have been heard by the Supreme Court over the last 20 years.

Anderson, a Washington National Guardsman who was called to active duty, didn't testify in his own behalf during the four-day trial. However, he spoke to the jurors Thursday night during the sentencing phase of the trial.

He apologized, asked for forgiveness and sought mercy. But 31/2 hours later, the panel returned the second most severe penalty it could have rendered Anderson's five criminal acts are the equivalent of treason, the government said, and he could have been given the death penalty.

The defense presented evidence that Anderson has a mental defect that caused him to get caught up in a government sting operation. He was caught on a secretly recorded tape offering to give members of the al-Qaida terrorist network information on how to destroy tanks and other vehicles, and how to kill American soldiers.

His conversation took place Feb. 9 in an SUV parked at a Seattle Center garage. Instead of terrorist operatives, Anderson spoke to Army counterintelligence agents, one of whom testified against him this week.

At the time, Anderson's unit - the 81st Armor Brigade - was on the verge of a yearlong deployment to Iraq, where it was assigned to security in Baghdad.

The defense presented evidence that family support and medication can help someone with Anderson's mental disorder, Asperger's syndrome, which was diagnosed by a government psychiatrist.

Bruce Anderson, the soldier's father, testified during the sentencing phase about his son's childhood, his fascination with airplanes and the military, and his learning disability.

"I'm still hopeful as a parent he can lead a happy life and we can make him healthy," said Bruce Anderson, of Everett. The conviction is "not going to change my feelings for my son. I love him very much."

The defendant's mother, Linda Tucker of Arizona, tearfully told jurors she hopes her son "knows how much we love him. I desperately want a chance to help him. We will make it a good life, and we will be there for you, Ryan."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.