Marine Found Guilty
Of Refusing Anthrax Vaccine
By Jessica Raynor
Globe-News Staff Writer

A military judge found Lance Cpl. Jason Austin of Fritch guilty Wednesday of disobeying a lawful order by refusing to take an anthrax vaccination.
Lt. Col. Ken Martin gave the verdict at the Marine base at Twentynine Palms, Calif., after a court-martial that lasted less than two hours. Austin was sentenced to 30 days in the brig and will receive a bad-conduct discharge, according to Marine spokesman Lt. Vincent Bosquez.
"It was over before we got there," said Deanna Austin, Jason Austin's mother, in a telephone interview from California. "It seemed to be just a formality."
Bosquez maintained Austin received a fair trial because the basis of the trial was not the anthrax vaccination, but an orders violation.
"These cases have been about disobeying lawful orders," Bosquez said. "There's a direct correlation between obeying lawful orders and success in combat."
But even with the verdict, Deanna Austin said her son was in relatively good spirits. He plans to try to get his discharge upgraded to a general discharge in his appeal, she said.
"He just wanted to get (his brig time) started, so he could get it over with," she said.
Jason Austin was transported to Camp Pendleton near San Diego to serve his time. Two Marines who proceeded him in similar court-martials were taken away in handcuffs, Deanna Austin said, but Jason was taken away without restraints.
He will spend his 30 days in military barracks, surrounded by wire but not behind bars. Besides daily work detail, he will be allowed to lift weights and watch television in the evenings. He can make a 10-minute phone call each day.
Jason Austin is among almost 200 service personnel who have refused to take the shot for fear it might cause sterility or other serious side effects. The shot is supposed to protect against anthrax spores used in biological warfare. The spores can attach to the lungs, eventually causing death.
The series of shots was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1960s, and the Pentagon maintains its safety.
Jason Austin's family members said they have found research suggesting that some vials of the vaccine might have been contaminated with squalene, an antibody that can have severe side effects. They hired private counsel, Mark Zaid, to challenge the vaccine's safety, but he was denied the chance to do so in court.
Jason Austin's father, Bronc Austin, said he was in the Army during the Korean War and had to take a series of vaccinations. But he said he hadn't seen any reactions that come close to what the anthrax vaccine is causing, which is why he backs his son.
"He has my full support," Bronc Austin said. "I'm behind him 100 percent."
Two Marines at Twentynine Palms - Lance Cpl. Michael Metzig and Lance Cpl. Jared Schwartz - already have been convicted and sentenced for refusing the anthrax shots. Each received 30 days in the brig and bad-conduct discharges.
Lance Cpls. Jared Johnston of Oklahoma and Michael McIntyre of Washington state are scheduled to go to court-martials Monday, Bosquez said.