President Donald Trump pardoned an ex-Army Ranger who spent 5 years in prison for shooting an Al-Qaeda operative.
Former U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after he shot and killed known al-Qaida operative Ali Mansur while questioning him about a roadside bombing that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon.
The incident took place on May 16, 2008, just a few weeks after the bombing, with Behenna saying that he acted in self defense when the prisoner threw a chunk of concrete at him before reaching for the Ranger’s gun.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cited “broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials and the public, as the reason for the clemency grant, Fox News reported.
That “broad support” included 37 generals and admirals, and a former Pentagon inspector general.
Behenna had also been a “model prisoner” while serving his sentence, Sanders said.
“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” she stated.
#BREAKING President @realDonaldTrump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna of Oklahoma. Behenna was convicted in 2009 of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist. pic.twitter.com/hA0tJlIWMx
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) May 7, 2019
During his 2008 trial, Behenna acknowledged that instead of taking Mansur home as he was ordered to do, he took the terrorist suspect to a railroad culvert, stripped him, and questioned him at gunpoint about the bombing.
Behenna’s parents told Fox News that the prosecution did not disclose that their own expert’s analysis supported Behenna’s claim of self defense — feeling so strongly about the case, the expert reportedly reached out to the family.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter petitioned the Trump administration to pardon Behenna, citing improper jury instructions and the prosecutors’ to turn over evidence supporting his claim of self-defense.
“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” Hunter said in a release Monday evening, according to The Hill. “Mr. Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life.”
“My hope is that Michael and the rest of his family can rest easy this evening knowing they can put this tragic situation behind them.”
A military court sentenced Behenna to 25 years. The U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced the sentence to 15 years in 2010, and he was paroled in March 2014.
The day he was released was captured on camera by The Oklahoman.
“This is such a surreal feeling,” Behenna told the newspaper at the time. “The only thing I’ve seen for the past five years is concrete, a little bit of grass, fence and razor wire. So this morning when they took me to see my family and all the people I truly care about, it’s a day I won’t forget.”
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