Sailor accused of stabbing had electroshock therapy

Courtroom sketch. Aug. 31, 2015 (By: Walter Hildebrand)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A sailor accused of stabbing another sailor at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth appeared in a Naval Station Norfolk court Monday for a preliminary hearing to determine if he should face a Court Martial. .

Navy police say Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell stabbed Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell in the neck back in June 2014. It happened in the barracks. Powell managed to get to the nearby Navy Exchange for help.  Search teams locked down the property and looked for Harwell. Hours later, investigators tracked him down at an Oceanfront hotel and arrested him. He’s been in custody ever since.

In court Monday, Harwell’s attorney Greg McCormack told the Preliminary Hearing Officer Lt. Cmdr. Paige Ormiston, USN, “You have a seriously sick person in court right now.” McCormack added, “This young man has extreme mental issues…he had electroshock therapy 10-12 times and was taken off his medication cold turkey right before this incident.”  McCormack also claims  the entire hearing process has been jeopardized because Harwell’s entire mental history was floated among attorneys when only a short “cleaned-up” version should have been offered.

It  came out during the hearing that a fellow sailor took Harwell to the hotel where Harwell’s girlfriend who was also in court with Harwell’s father and mother met up with him.  The Government’s Trial Counsel Lt. Cmdr. Courtney E. Lewis who is a Judge Advocate General noted the girlfriend’s testimony will state that Harwell kept repeating to her, “I stabbed someone, I stabbed someone.”  Lewis then said, “There was never any statement that Harwell says he was attacked.”  Lewis also said when the girlfriend asked why Harwell attacked Powell all he said was, “He was in my room.”

NCIS charged Harwell with assault with the intent to murder and aggravated assault.

The preliminary hearing officer has taken the case under advisement, and there is no time by which she must make her determination whether there is evidence to move the case to a full Court Martial.

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