Trump Pardons Former Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi Prisoner
Ten years ago, former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone. This week, he received a presidential pardon, correcting what many military officials and people following the story felt was a grave injustice.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced Monday that President Trump signed an executive order granting the Oklahoma native clemency.
In an official White House statement, Sanders wrote:
Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public. Thirty-seven generals and admirals, along with a former Inspector General of the Department of Defense, signed a brief in support of Mr. Behenna’s self-defense claim. Numerous members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, Oklahoma’s then-Governor Mary Fallin, and current Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter have also expressed support for Mr. Behenna. Further, while serving his sentence, Mr. Behenna was a model prisoner. In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency.
Behenna's platoon was stationed in the Salahuddin province of Iraq in 2007. While there, Behanna reportedly worked with Iraqi interpreters to develop ties with locals as part of a larger counter-insurgency mission.
On April 21, 2008, Behenna's platoon was returning to base when their convoy was hit by an IED, resulting in the deaths of two US service members. A suspect, Ali Mansur Mohamed, was taken into custody during a raid. He was believed to be a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq and responsible for the attack.
When intelligence officials said they lacked sufficient evidence to hold Mansur, Behenna's platoon was ordered to return the man to his home.
Behenna's platoon stopped at a bridge en route, where witnesses testified that Behenna and an interpreter began interrogating Mansur about the April 21 attack. During the course of the interrogation, Mansur was fatally injured.
Behenna was found guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, the U.S. Army's highest appellate course raised concerns about Behenna's mental sate at the time of Mansur's death and the trial court's handling of Behenna's self-defense claim. As a result, his sentence was reduced to 15 years. After serving 5, Behenna was granted parole in 2014.
"Upon his release, dozens of Patriot Guard motorcycle riders met Mr. Behenna to escort him back to his home in Oklahoma," Sanders wrote in her official statement Monday.