Soldier of Conscience to be court-martialed at Fort Hood for refusing to prepare to participate in the war in Afghanistan

Reprinted from:





  • CONTACTS: James M. Branum 405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
  • Cynthia Thomas 254-768-8300


photo of Victor AgostoSPC Victor Agosto, a Soldier stationed with 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 69th Air Defense Artillery, Rear Detachment, is scheduled for court-martial on Aug.. 5 at Ft. Hood, TX. A victim of the highly unpopular stop/loss policy, SPC Agosto, whose contract was over at the end of June, was told that his next assignment would be deployment to Afghanistan. At the end of April, with support of local residents, Agosto went public with his intent to refuse the orders to Afghanistan, on the basis of the occupation being “immoral and unjust.”

Instead of going ‘underground’ and trying to escape punishment from the Army, Agosto chose to remain at Ft. Hood as a tangible symbol of GI resistance. Refusing all orders that directly support the war, he has found himself in an overwhelming struggle to maintain his honor and position. His court-martial will culminate with the sentencing portion of the trial, at which, it is believed that the Army will enforce the highest form of sentencing it can impose.

SPC Agosto’s attempt to raise awareness and support has not fallen on deaf ears, even in a military community; he has found supporters and friends who are willing to help. As the unit serves overseas, he continues to voice his dissent for an “unjust” war. There will be demonstrators present the day of his arraignment, located off-post due to military regulations concerning demonstrations on military posts.

SPC Agosto’s attorney, James Branum will be available for interviews and to read a public statement by Victor.

Wednesday, August 5

7:00 to 8:30 pm Demonstration for awareness and outreach to Soldiers at Ft. Hood, East gate

To read more about Victor Agosto go to

Version 2 of “AWOL in the Army” legal memo published in On Watch


I have a new version of the article I wrote on AWOL issues in the Army. (huge thanks go to Susan Bassein of the GI Rights Hotline for helping me update it, as well as the On Watch editorial board who helped improve it a great deal in the editing process)

You can read it here: On Watch – January/February 2009 Issue, including “AWOL in the Army” Version 2.0

Also in the issue is an Addendum on AWOL/UA policies in the Navy, Marine Corps & Air Force, by my friend (and fellow MLTF co-chair) Kathleen Gilberd

Also I should mention that the layout editing (as well as some of the content editing) for this issue was done by my friend Rena.

Video interview with Daniel Sandate (the second Iraq war resister to be deported from Canada) and myself Links to 22 minute Youtube video, split into 4 parts

I also should mention that Daniel did his final time in the Army prison system at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Even more crazy was the fact that he was released from prison only 15 minutes before Obama became President! (Daniel and I ran back to my Lawton residence just in time to get to see the ceremony)

Story from Colorado Springs on two of my recent courts-martial (Daniel Sandate & Tony Anderson)

Colorado Springs Independent: Trading uniforms— Two Fort Carson desertion trials shed light on the route from post to prison – by J. Adrian Stanley

I got a real kick of how Adrian (btw, despite the spelling of her name,she’s a woman) described me in this story…

James M. Branum has a Southern drawl that stretches words like warm taffy. You might suspect this big guy with a big mustache of having a worldview shaped by sweet potato pies, American flags and Bible study.

You’d be at least partially right.Branum was raised a conservative Christian and an unquestioning patriot. But about five years ago, he began examining his long-held beliefs.”I had been challenged by a Catholic at that point about being pro-life, and this person said, ‘How can you call yourself pro-life if you support the war and support the death penalty?'” Branum says.

Branum began gravitating toward passivism, and rejecting the idea that your own country is superior. Now, Branum is a Mennonite minister in Oklahoma. He’s also an attorney, representing soldiers who want out of the military — conscientious objectors, and those with health problems, family hardship or harassment claims. Every case is different….

(One tiny correction, I started asking the questions regarding the morality of war about 8-9 years ago. This journey of questioning reached a bit of a climax 5 years ago when I joined the Mennonite church.)

From here, Adrian tells about the Tony Anderson trial. She does a great job (especially with the accompanying picture) of showing Tony’s youth and the vulnerable honesty he let the court see when he gave his statement.

On the Daniel Sandate case, she lays out the basic story quite well, but it the final sentence that really clicks. It was and still is the big question looming before Daniel Sandate an those who care about him. And I won’t ruin the punch for you, so go read the article.

Also, just a reminder that I am still raising money to help pay for the costs of defending Daniel Sandate. I am still $500 short of what I need to pay my local co-counsel (Bill Durland) and to cover my own expenses and time. Please consider giving.

Reviewed in list of Oklahoma blawgs

Terra Extraneus: The State of Law Blogging in Oklahoma, 2008: Part Two – a very kind review of this blog, and 5 other blawgs

One thing that surprises me is that there are so few blawgs in Oklahoma. If any lawyers are reading this, I can say that I highly recommend blogging. First, and foremost it is so much fun to be able to speak your mind and actually be heard.

Secondly, it is a pretty good way to drum up business. While most lawyers will be uncomfortable sharing as much of their personal lives online as I do, I’ve found that many of my clients enjoy getting to know me online before they hire me, and I have had a few clients who later have told me that it was my blog that convinced them to hire me, and not my more stuffy law firm website.

Pretty busy these days

I keep meaning to blog more but just haven’t had the time. Work has been way crazy busy lately, with lots of calls coming in from soldiers needing help. I’ve also been on the road a lot, mostly to Ft. Sill but also to other places (county jails and other military bases).

About half of the calls are soldiers going AWOL from Basic training or AIT (because of mental illness, physical health issues, family hardship, or just misreable that they were lied to so badly by their recruiters). The other half are soldiers who have been in longer. Some are Iraq and Afghan war veterans home on leave who don’t want to go back, some are being deployed for the second time and they don’t want to go because they know the war is bogus and they don’t want to kill innocent people, some have countless other problems.

The one commonality between almost all of the cases is that the Army has treated these soldiers horribly. They have been through hell and these soldiers know that the Army doesn’t care about them and that the hype is all lies. Not only do they see through the war (btw, these soldiers tell me that most soldiers, even those who are still obeying orders, don’t believe the war is just anymore) but they see through the whole Army. In fact, most of my clients are folks that I would say were too smart to believe the B.S. The Army tried to break their spirit and reprogram them but the Army failed (Thank God!) and these soldiers have decided to take control of their own lives.

It is frustrating though. I can only do so much. I can’t tell soldiers to break the law (even if it more moral to break the law than to do kill) and I can only do so much to help these soldiers navigate an institution that seems so bent on doing evil. — I should add that while the institution of the Army is about death and killing and evil (I’m sorry but that is how I see it), many of the people of the Army are good folks who are trying to do the best they can in a bad situation.

So anyway all I can do is keep pushing on. So anyway that’s why the blog has been taking a backseat lately. I’m sure I’ll find time to post more in the future but if I can’t that’s why.

Life as a fairly new lawyer

I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog much lately but did want to post a quick note to let friends know I’m still alive. Work has been ferociously busy but good. Starting my law practice has been both easier and harder than I thought it would be. Easier in that clients have not been hard to find (everyone wants out of the army right now), but harder in that it is much more work than I would have expected to not only take care of my clients but also to do a good job with the administrative side of things (i.e. billing, keeping tax records, advertising, etc.) I am hiring a friend to help a few hours a week starting next week though so hopefully things will get better.

My work pace right now is that I go to Ft. Sill at 1-3 times a week to either take clients to turn themselves in (who were AWOL but are trying to get things straighted out in the best way possible) or to do other things. I am kicking around the idea of eventually moving to Lawton (where Sill is at) but I also would really miss my church and friends here in OKC so it is probably more likely that I’ll eventually have a little garage apartment down there or find a peace-friendly person to rent me a spare room. For now though, I sometimes stay at a hotel in Lawton when i need to be there for a couple of days (the Ramada is relatively cheap, nice and clean and has free-wifi, I’ve also stayed at some of the sketchy motels on Cache Road but I’m afraid when you pay less than $30 a night you get what you pay for).

I’m also working with lots of clients by phone and email throughout the week. Some are local but most are from all over. Almost entirely Army or Army National Guard, as I’m trying to refer folks from other branches.

Besides work stuff, I have a bought a new bike (a sweet folding bike that I’ll have to post pics of soon) and am hoping to finally get my garden planted soon. Lots of other stuff in my personal life going on too but not really anything blogworthy to write about.

Anyway that’s the news.