Author details defending accused war criminal
When James Pirtle was graduating from Douglas High School in 1993, his future client was graduating from a child soldier to an adult combatant in the Ugandan rebellion.
Pirtle and Thomas Kwoyelo wouldn’t meet until nearly two decades later, when the former Seattle attorney defended him in a war crimes trial.
“Everyone Will Hate You For This,” is the true story of how responding to a text message led Pirtle to appear before a war crimes tribunal to “represent somebody who is accused of doing the worst things humans do to one another.”
Pirtle said he was an attorney in Seattle with a small successful practice when he received a text message from a friend asking if he had any experience with war crimes.
Pirtle, who was a Naval aviator before he became an attorney, responded and received a link to information about Kwoyelo.
Both men are 43, but their lives couldn’t have been more different.
Pirtle grew up in Fish Springs. His mother Klaire Pirtle was principal of Gardnerville Elementary. His sister Belinda was an intern for The R-C in the early 1990s.
While Pirtle was attending Carson Valley Middle School, a 13-year-old Kwoyelo was forced to join The Lord’s Resistance Army.
Kwoyelo eventually rose to the rank of commander. He was shot in a government offensive and then kidnapped from the hospital by government agents and tortured for three months before being put in prison.
“I wrote the story about two men, me born on this side of the world and him,” he said. “Between the two of us, it’s a dovetailing narrative of his past and my past until our stories collide when I’m invited to become a member of his legal team.”
The book details how Pirtle came to defend Kwoyelo, and the result of the case before the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda.
While Pirtle said he won the case, sometimes that’s not enough in a country operating under a dictatorship.
“While we won the case, the government did not like that result and so while I’m sitting here my client is still in prison awaiting trial,” he said “It’s one of the most important war-crime cases taking place in the world that nobody knows about. So my last resort was maybe if I wrote a book about it, people would start paying attention.”