Prosecutors drop charges against accused NMCP attacker, clear way for court martial

Posted at 2:43 PM, Jun 12, 2014

The Navy will court martial sailor Wilbur G. Harwell for a knife attack on another sailor in barracks last week at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

As a formality, federal prosecutors in Norfolk dropped the charges so the case can be moved to a military court. When asked it he understood, Harwell replied to the judge, "Sir, yes sir." He stood at attention as the judge

Wilbur G. Harwell

Wilbur G. Harwell

spoke, just as he did when he made his first court appearance Monday.

Three sailors dressed khakis, including one wearing a law-enforcement badge, waited in the courtroom. The prosecutor told the judge they would take custody of Harwell.

Barely 10 minutes after leaving the courtroom, Harwell emerged from the building's back door and stepped into a waiting government van.

He is accused of a knife attack on Master At Arms Justin Powell inside the barracks at the medical center campus. Powell survived several knife wounds, including one to his throat, only because he was so close to a hospital, Navy surgeons said.

The base was locked down after the stabbing, but Harwell somehow escaped. He was caught hours later at the Oceanfront.

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