Sailor to be Tried for Attempted Murder of Fellow Sailor

NORFOLK, Va. – A sailor who was being treated for mental health issues and accused of stabbing another sailor at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in 2014 will now be tried for attempted murder in military court, the Navy announced on Sep. 28, 2015.

Petty Officer 3rd Class W. Harwell allegedly attacked Petty Officer 2nd Class J. Powell with a knife on June 6, 2014. The incident occurred in a barracks on the medical center campus. According to the Virginia-Pilot, a trial date has yet to be set.

The Navy’s announcement came weeks after an Article 32 (a preliminary military hearing). After the hearing, the presiding officer recommended that the case go to court-martial, and Rear Adm. R. Williamson, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic agreed with the recommendation, said Navy spokeswoman Beth Baker.

Powell did survive the attack on June 6. During that time, both sailors were temporarily assigned to a psychiatric unit at a hospital that treats sailors suffering from several mental illnesses.

During the hearing last month, Harwell’s civilian attorney called the case a “travesty of justice,” and he pushed to have the case referred to another prosecuting authority.

The case was significantly delayed while Harwell received intensive mental health treatment at facilities located in North Carolina and Virginia. A military psychological evaluation was conducted on Harwell within weeks of the attack and it concluded that he was not mentally stable when he attacked Powell.

Since the attack, Harwell has undergone months of treatment and had a subsequent evaluation conducted at the Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina, which reached the conclusion that Harwell has been restored to competency and is “fit” for trial.


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