Navy Sailor who Stabbed Another Sailor Will be Tried by Military

NORFOLK -- A troubled sailor accused of stabbing another service member at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center last year will be tried for attempted murder in a military court, the Navy announced Monday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell is accused of attacking Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell with a knife in a barracks on the medical center campus June 6, 2014. A trial date has not been set.

The announcement comes weeks after a preliminary military hearing known as an Article 32. Afterward, the presiding officer recommended the case go to court-martial, and Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, agreed, Navy spokeswoman Beth Baker said.

Powell survived the attack. Both sailors had been assigned temporarily to a psychiatric unit at the hospital that treats sailors with severe mental illness.

Harwell's civilian lawyer, Greg McCormack, called the case "a travesty of justice" during the hearing earlier this month and argued for the case to be referred to another prosecuting authority.

The case was delayed for months as Harwell underwent intensive mental health treatment at facilities in Virginia and North Carolina. A military psychological evaluation conducted weeks after the attack concluded that Harwell was not mentally stable at the time of the attack.

After several months of treatment, a subsequent evaluation at Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina determined that Harwell had been restored to competency for trial.

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