Thursday, May 28, 2009
US Soldier Gets 25 Years for Killing Al Qaeda Member in Iraq
Hat tip to BigheadFred.
Sign Lt. Behenna’s petition for a new trial at: Petition on line.
GOVERNMENT WITHHOLDS EVIDENCE; ARMY RANGER GOES TO PRISON FOR 25 YEARS FOR SHOOTING AL QAEDA OPERATIVE
On March 20th, 2009, Army Ranger 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a known Al Qaeda operative while serving in Iraq. The “victim”, Ali Mansur, was known to be a member of an Al Qaeda cell operating in the lieutenant’s area of operation, and was suspected to have organized an attack on Lt. Behenna’s platoon in April 2008 which killed two U.S. soldiers and injured two more. Army intelligence ordered the release of Mansur and Lt. Behenna was ordered to return the terrorist to his home.
During the return of Mansur, Lt. Behenna again questioned the Al Qaeda member for information about other members of the terrorist cell, and financial supporters. During this interrogation, Mansur attacked Lt. Behenna, who killed the terrorist in self-defense. The government subsequently prosecuted Lt. Behenna for premeditated murder.
Not only is this a miscarriage of justice on the behalf of Lt. Behenna, who was acting to prevent further loss of life in his platoon, it is demoralizing to the U.S. troops who continue to fight on behalf of the freedom and security of our nation. Whether it is U.S. border patrol agents, members of the armed forces, or FBI agents, no individual who is serving on the frontlines in the War on Terror should be so blatantly mistreated.
We urgently need your help to correct this terrible wrong against a loyal and faithful soldier. Please contact your congressman and ask them to intervene on behalf of 1LT Behenna. Below is a brief recap of the relevant aspects of Lt. Behenna’s case.
September 2007: 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna deployed to Iraq for his first combat experience.
April 21, 2008: Lt. Behenna’s platoon was attacked by Al Qaeda operatives. The attack resulted in death of two of Lt. Behenna’s platoon members, two Iraqi citizens, and wounded two additional soldiers under Lt. Behenna’s command.
May 5, 2008: Known terrorist Ali Mansur was detained at his home for suspected involvement in the attack on Lt. Behenna’s platoon.
May 16, 2008: Army Intelligence orders the release of Mansur.
Lt. Behenna, who lost two members of his platoon just weeks earlier, was ordered to transport Mansur back to his home.
Lt. Behenna attempts a final interrogation of Mansur prior to his release.
During the interrogation, Behenna is attacked by Mansur and is forced to defend himself. During the altercation, the terrorist is killed.
Lt. Behenna failed to properly report the incident.
July 2008: The U.S. Army charges Lt. Behenna with premeditated murder for the death of Al Qaeda operative and terrorist Ali Mansur.
February 23, 2009: Lt. Behenna’s trial begins.
Government and defense experts agree on the trajectory of the bullets killing Mansur
Prosecution expert Dr. Herbert MacDonnell initiated contact with defense attorneys explaining his agreement with the testimony of Lt. Behenna and his presentation to prosecutors supporting Lt. Behenna’s version of events.
Dr. MacDonnell is not called to testify in the case and is sent home. Just before leaving the courthouse he picks up his coat from the prosecution room and says to the three prosecutors, ‘The explanation that Lt Behenna just testified to was the exact same scenario I told you yesterday. Lt Behenna is telling the truth.’
Jack Zimmermann, defense counsel, asks prosecutors if they have any exculpatory evidence that should be provided to the defense (referring to Dr. MacDonnell’s demonstration). Prosecutors deny having any such evidence despite having been told by their own expert witness that Lt Behenna’s explanation was the only logical explanation.
Prosecutors withholding of this evidence allowed them to argue that Lt. Behenna executed Ali Mansur while seated when the forensic experts, including Dr. MacDonnell, agree that Ali was standing with his arms outstretched when shot.
Lt. Behenna is convicted of unpremeditated murder and assault by a military panel of seven officers, none of whom had combat experience.
Dr. MacDonnell contacts prosecution requesting that the information provided in his demonstration be given to the defense.
Prosecutors provide such information after a verdict was rendered, but prior to sentencing.
At the request of the presiding judge, Dr. MacDonnell provides his information to the court via telephone.
The judge orders both sides in the case to file briefs relating to a possible mistrial.
After reading the briefs the judge set an additional hearing and ordered additional briefs, including one from the defense requesting a new trial.
On March 20, the judge denied defense motions to declare a mistrial and to order a new trial.
Lt. Behenna’s attorneys are appealing the verdict.
Lt. Behenna is currently serving a 25-year sentence
1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was an excellent officer. He received his call to serve his country while attending the University of Central Oklahoma. He is from a family of public servants, his mother being an Assistant United States Attorney and his father a retired Special Agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He has served the Army and the United States with honor and dignity. To sacrifice the life of this Oklahoma soldier over the death of a known terrorist, is a breech of faith with all who are serving our country.
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We need your support now more than ever. The government has unlimited resources and has spent accordingly. 1LT Behenna and his family hired civilian counsel, Houston lawyers Jack B. Zimmermann and Kyle R. Sampson, at their own expense. This Legal Defense Fund has been established for the sole purpose of helping ensure that 1LT Behenna has meaningful access to experienced legal defense counsel in the military prosecution. The value of having experience in a case like this became very obvious when the issue of evidence withheld by the prosecution was discovered. All donations to this Fund will be used exclusively for attorney fees and expenses associated with this legal defense and will be maintained in an independently administered trust account. Disbursements from the Fund will be made directly to 1LT Behenna’s legal counsel upon receipt of qualified invoices. Funds will not be distributed directly to 1LT Behenna.
If you are able to help defray these costs, please send contributions to the:
1LT Michael Behenna Legal Defense Fund
c/o Jack Dawson, co-trustee
100 Park Avenue, Second Floor
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102-8099
or Rachel Lawrence Mor, co-trustee
3037 N.W. 63rd Street, Suite 251
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73116
Please read our Legal Disclosure before donating. Thank you for assisting Lt. Michael Behenna.