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Oakland reporter off the hook

Oakland freelance writer and radio journalist Sarah Olson is in the free and clear now that the U.S. government has agreed to drop two counts from its case against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who called the Iraq war illegal and refused to deploy.

Olson, 31, had faced a felony charge if she’d continued fighting a subpoena to testify in the case; she insists doing so would’ve gutted her credibility as a journalist.

Watada, whose court-martial is scheduled for Feb. 5, still faces up to four years behind bars if convicted of missing movement for his refusal to deploy last June and of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made at a Veterans for Peace Convention in Seattle.

The two conduct-unbecoming counts dropped Monday carried up to two years in prison, and stemmed from comments he’d made to Olson and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s Gregg Kakesako in June explaining why he refused to go to Iraq and why he was challenging the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war. In exchange, Watada’s attorney Eric Seitz agreed that the two subpoenaed reporters will not have to testify.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.