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General Rejects Lenient Treatment of Soldier Who Defected

December 17, 1987

FORT DIX, N.J. (AP) _ The commanding general of this Army base today ordered a general court- martial for a soldier who fled his West German post for the Soviet Union, then returned to the West, the soldier’s attorney said.

Maj. Gen. Rocco Negris rejected an investigating officer’s recommendation that Pvt. Wade E. Roberts 22, of Riverside, Calif., be tried at a special court-martial, said Roberts’ civilian lawyer, Ronald Kuby. That would have meant a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Negris’ decision means Roberts could face a maximum three-year term, said Kuby.

″This was in flagrant disregard of his own investigating officer’s recommendation,″ Kuby said.

The investigating officer, Maj. Joseph J. Switzer, issued his ruling Wednesday, and Negris decided on the more serious proceedings today, according to Kuby. Military officials at Fort Dix said both Wednesday and today there had been no developments in the case, refusing to say if rulings had been issued.

Kuby charged that Negris filed his decision in violation of an appeals provision that allows the defense five days to file objections to the investigating officer’s recommendation.

″In terms of stopping the railroad, there’s nothing else we can do,″ said Kuby.

He said he believes his client has been singled out for especially stringent military proceedings because Roberts fled to a communist country with his German girlfriend.

Roberts is being held at the brig at Philadelphia Naval Yard.

Switzer last week heard several hours of testimony from Roberts’ former commanders. The hearing was conducted to determine how to resolve the desertion charge against Roberts. He was arrested last month when he returned to West Germany following eight months in the Soviet Union.

Roberts said he returned because he didn’t want the desertion charge hanging over his head.

Kuby wants the Army to grant Roberts an administrative discharge, under which the soldier would be freed immediately but lose his military benefits.

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