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Iowa draft resister gets two-year prison sentence

By
JAMES KAY, United Press International

Gary Eklund, who told a federal judge he didn't want to go to jail but would not resigter for the military draft, was sentenced to two years in prison for failure to comply with federal regulations.

The sentencing came the same day Mennonite Kendal Lee Warkentine became the first resister under indictment to plead guilty.

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Warkentine, 21, said Thursday he felt he had to plead guilty after a federal judge in Wichita, Kan., denied his efforts to plead no contest to the charge, He said he still considered himself morally innocent.

Eklund, 22, of Davenport, Iowa, told U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor in Des Moines, he considered the draft morally wrong. His attorneys asked the judge to sentence Eklund to probation instead of a prison term.

'I don't want to go to prison,' said Eklund, who appeared in court with his long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.

But Vietor said it was not up to the courts to pass judgment 'upon the wisdom and correctness of our government's foreign policy. I can't shape a judgment around that.'

Defense attorneys plan to appeal the sentence.

Eklund's parents, Ray and Rosemary Eklund, said they morally supported their son's stand but were surprised by the sentence.

'Gary said he was not surprised but I was just shocked, I thought he would get six months,' Ray Eklund said.

Eklund said he would use the case of another Iowa draft resister, Rusty Martin, in his appeal. A federal judge in Iowa's Northern Judicial District ruled this month that young men had 'no continuing duty' to register and dismissed the case against Martin.

On Nov. 15 a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled the draft regulation invalid because President Carter's order setting up the new system in 1980 was enacted nine days too soon.

In Wichita, U.S. District Judge Sam Crow scheduled a Jan. 24 sentencing for Warkentine following completion of a presentencing report.

Warkentine, a college senior, and Charles Robert Epp, 20, a fellow student at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., were indicted in September for resisting draft registration. Epp pleaded innocent and is scheduled for trial Feb. 8.

Warekentine said Mennonites consider war and violence a sin and he believed the draft registration was begun as a threat of violence, also in violatation of Mennonite beliefs.

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