1-year prison term for U.S. deserter who fled to Canada
A U.S. soldier who tearfully apologized for going to Canada to avoid deploying to Iraq was sentenced Tuesday by a military court to a year in prison.
Specialist Cliff Cornell, who pleaded guilty to desertion, spent four years in British Columbia before the Canadian government denied him asylum as a war objector.
Cornell came back to the U.S. and turned himself in to authorities in February to avoid being deported.
The 28-year-old soldier from Mountain Home, Ark., sobbed in a Fort Stewart courtroom Tuesday as he told the judge he was sorry.
He said he fled to Canada in January 2005, a month before his 3rd Infantry Division unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq, because he feared for his own life and couldn't stomach the thought of killing anyone.
"It was wrong for me to leave my unit and go to Canada," Cornell said. "I was very anxious about whether I might be asked to do things that might violate my conscience. I felt trapped. I didn't know what to do."
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, also ordered Cornell's rank be reduced to private and for him to receive a bad-conduct discharge.
Cornell is the third U.S. service member to be tried by the military for fleeing to Canada.