NEW YORK, DEC. 3 -- Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Paterson, the first GI to resist the Persian Gulf deployment publicly, spent hours in a military courtroom in Honolulu today as lawyers began preparations for his court-martial, which could result in a prison sentence.

At the same time in Blacksburg, Va., Marine Sgt. Paul Dotson, also an outspoken resister, attended his political science class at Virginia Tech, confident that he soon will be discharged from the military and be free to work toward a PhD.

Across the nation, the dozens of men and women who have refused to serve in Operation Desert Shield are finding that the military, despite its rules and regulations, has a wide variety of ways of dealing with dissenters.

Some have simply been discharged, while others await courts-martial or lengthy hearings on their claims that they are conscientious objectors (COs) and should be excused from potential combat duty.

Still others have taken the legal offensive, seeking court injunctions to prevent deployment, arguing that the military has broken its own rules. At Fort Riley, Kan., for instance, Army Sgt. John Pruner is suing his commanders and the government because he was ordered to wait until he gets to Saudi Arabia to file his CO claim.

Maj. Doug Hart, a Defense Department spokesman, said each case must be evaluated based on the individual's behavior. "It depends on the severity of the order they refused to take," he said. "There's a lot of difference between refusing to go with your unit and refusing to go on a local detail."

Paterson, a field artilleryman at Kaneohe Bay whose CO claim was processed quickly and rejected, sat down in a hangar and refused to leave with his unit in August. He is facing court-martial on charges of failing to obey legitimate orders and being absent without leave one morning as he attended a news conference to announce that he was resisting deployment.

Sgt. George Morse, a trumpet player in the 1st Infantry Division Band at Fort Riley, sought CO status and refused last week to support the gulf effort. When he declined to help repair Army cots, his commanders recommended that he be court-martialed.

The War Resisters League in New York has documented 32 cases involving 29 male and three female military personnel nationally and in Germany who have publicly proclaimed objections to gulf service for political, personal or philosophical reasons. Of the 32, 15 are Marines, 12 are in the Army, three Navy, one Air Force and one Coast Guard.

Michael Marsh, a military counselor at the league, said he has been contacted by many more soldiers privately refusing to go. "Most of them are very afraid of their command and the ramifications of speaking in public about their cases," he said.

But in some instances, the worst price is a less-than-honorable discharge. In Illinois last month, Army Reserve Spec. 4 Stephanie Atkinson, who had filed as a CO, faced a court-martial for desertion and being absent when her unit was moved. In an unusual pretrial agreement, the Army gave her a less-than-honorable discharge and excused her from gulf duty.

Dotson said he believes that his general discharge resulted from the storm of publicity surrounding his stance.

"After I'd been in {a peace march} in New York, on the 'Donahue' show and in the paper here," he said, his commanding officers called "and said we've got the paperwork ready to roll. Can you come and sign? My speculation is they just want to get rid of people who are doing this. Keep it quiet and get people out."

Hart laughed at the suggestion that the military is discharging resisters to avoid publicity. "Well, obviously, that's not working," he said.

Special correspondent Walter Wright in Honolulu contributed to this report.