Michael Behenna Gives First Post-Prison Television Interview

Michael Behenna, the former Army Ranger officer whose wrongful conviction has been the subject of dozens of pieces during the past four years, gave is first television interview yesterday, 12 days after being released on parole from military prison.

News9.com – Oklahoma City, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports |

To see photos of the location in Iraq where the shooting of the known Al-Qaeda operative Ali Mansur took place, read Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began.

Culvert-3-Low-RezTo read Carrie Fatigante’s nine-part series about Behenna’s case, go to The Michael Behenna Story: Getting Personal.

To read about the Army’s refusal to release a copy of the investigation report about the incident involving Behenna, read go to Army 15-6 Investigation Report Proves Elusive.

To learn about former Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart, one of the wrongfully-convicted men Behenna talked about during the television interview, order a copy of my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Behenna Released From Prison

GREAT NEWS! First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, the young Army Ranger officer sent to prison for killing a known al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, walked out of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., this morning, bound for his hometown of Edmond, Okla., barely a month after being granted parole by the U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board in Washington, D.C.

Behenna, 30, spent five years behind bars after being sentenced to 25 years and, later, having that term reduced to 15 years.  While there, he and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, the man whose life story is chronicled in my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, became good friends behind bars at Fort Leavenworth.

Since June 4, 2009, I’ve written and published more than 60 articles about Behenna’s case, including the four highlighted below:

Army 15-6 Investigation Report Proves Elusive (Jan. 15, 2013);

Is Army Protecting Someone in Officer’s Chain of Command? (Aug. 20, 2012);

American Warfighters Deserve Same Consideration as Taliban (July 17, 2012); and

Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began (Feb. 10, 2010).

Best wishes to all, and welcome home, Michael!

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Oklahoma Army Officer’s Appeal Rejected by Justices

A crucial milestone in the military’s case against Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna passed today as the U.S. Supreme Court announced justices rejected the appeal filed on behalf of the Edmond, Okla., native who was convicted in 2009 of unpremeditated murder after he shot and killed Ali Mansur, a known al-Qaeda operative, in what he said was self-defense near Baghdad May 16, 2008.

Michael-Behenna-Photo-CollageThough I’ve written more than 60 articles about the lieutenant’s case since June 4, 2009, I share links to a handful of the most important ones below:

Army 15-6 Investigation Report Proves Elusive (Jan. 15, 2013);

Is Army Protecting Someone in Officer’s Chain of Command? (Aug. 20, 2012);

American Warfighters Deserve Same Consideration as Taliban (July 17, 2012); and

Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began (Feb. 10, 2010).

With almost 11 years remaining on his sentence, it remains unclear as to how many of those years he must serve before being given the opportunity for parole. Until then, I hope you will write to him at the address below to show your support:

Michael Behenna #87503
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304

FYI:  Behenna and Kelly Stewart, the Green Beret combat veteran whose life and wrongful conviction are chronicled in my book, Three Days In August, were good friends while both were behind bars at Fort Leavenworth.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

SCOTUS to Consider Hearing Imprisoned Army Officer’s Case

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I’ve been following the case of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna since 2009.  I even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, another wrongfully-convicted man the lieutenant befriended while both served time behind the walls of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.  Today, I share an email update (unedited below) from Lieutenant Behenna’s parents, Scott and Vicki Behenna:

To all the thousands of Michael supporters,

1LT Michael Behenna and SFC Kelly StewartMichael’s case, including the Petition, the Government Response, and the Reply to the Government Response, is now complete and before the Supreme Court.  The Supremes have set Michael’s case to be initially discussed at their conference on May 30th which is ironically during the 50th Anniversary of Brady vs Maryland (the Supreme Court case demanding that prosecutors disclose all beneficial information to the criminally accused).  During the conference, four out of the nine Supreme Court Justices must vote to hear the case in order to grant certiorari.  If certiorari is granted in Michael’s case it would be the first time the Supremes would have granted a service member’s appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF).  Needless to say, anxiousness will abound for the next few weeks and prayers are certainly welcome.  We should have the Court’s decision sometime during the first week of June.  If the Court grants certiorari, Michael’s case would proceed through a briefing process, oral arguments, and a decision by the Supreme Court hopefully before the end of the year.

We can’t thank you enough for all the encouraging cards and letters that you sent to Michael for his birthday.  As Michael told us this past weekend it is these cards and letters that help him navigate the sometimes helpless and hopeless thoughts that have haunted him these past four years behind prison walls. He reads every card and letter sent to him, but given his prison schedule of work, exercise time, meals and early lights out he unfortunately does not have time to send out very many thank you notes.  For this he sends his apologies and hopes a day will come soon when he can thank all of you in person.

If you did not see the Mother’s Day tribute to Vicki last Sunday in the Oklahoman, hopefully the attached video and article will describe the huge appreciation we have for all your support and what your individual words of encouragement have meant to Michael and our whole family.

Vicki’s Mother’s Day Video

Vicki’s Mother’s Day Article

Bless you all for your support of our son,

Scott & Vicki Behenna
DefendMichael.com

I pray for this young man’s swift release.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Senior Officers Back Supreme Court Brief Filed on Behalf of Lieutenant Michael Behenna

Thirty-seven retired high-ranking military officers, including a former Chief of Naval Operations, signed an Amicus Brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 27 in support of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna.  An Edmond, Okla., native, Lieutenant Behenna is serving 15-years behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for killing a known Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq.

Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna SCOTUS Amicus Brief

Click image to download document (pdf)

Early on, the 31-page brief raises an important question — that is, whether a servicemember in a combat zone categorically forfeits the right to self-defense as a matter of law by pointing a firearm without authorization at a suspected enemy. In the case of Lieutenant Behenna, he admitted during his court-martial that he shot Ali Mansur in self-defense. And therein lies the rub.

Behenna SCOTUS Question PresentedThe brief’s conclusion section (below) makes a clear argument, stating that Lieutenant Behenna deserves some punishment, but not what he received, and, more importantly, a new trial:

Lieutenant Behenna’s unauthorized actions in a combat zone were a serious breach of military discipline and for that reason he should be subject to appropriate disciplinary action under the (Uniform Code of Military Justice). But in so acting without authorization, he did not forfeit his right to self-defense. This Court should grant the petition for certiorari, reverse the (Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces), and remand to allow a new court-martial panel to consider Lieutenant Behennas’s claim that he acted in self-defense, including evidence unlawfully withheld by the prosecution corroborating that claim.

At the same time as I’m pleased with this document, I remain disappointed that its authors made no mention of the colossal failure of leadership among officers in Lieutenant Behenna’s chain of command. That failure, a subject I tackled in a post Aug. 20, 2012, allowed him to be put in a position from which nothing good could result.

To read any of the more than 60 posts I’ve written about the lieutenant’s case since June 4, 2009, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Lieutenant Behenna and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, the man whose life story is chronicled in my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, became good friends behind bars at Fort Leavenworth.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Top Military Court to Hear Army Officer’s Appeal

The Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces will hear the case of Michael Behenna, a young Army lieutenant about whom I’ve written dozens of blog posts during the past three years,.

Clockwise from upper left: Michael’s family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

A native of Edmond, Okla., Behenna was convicted of killing a known Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq after Army prosecutors ignored their own expert witness during court-martial proceedings in February 2009.  He is now in his third year of a 15-year sentence at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

According to Michael’s parents, Scott and Vicki Behenna, Michael’s attorney has 30 days to file a brief, then the government will have 30 days to file their brief.  Arguments in Washington will take place at some point after that.  Understandably, the Behennas hope the CAAF judges will listen to the arguments and make the right decision so their son can return home to Edmond.

For more details about this news, click here.

Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice is available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I share news about Behenna on this page, because he and Kelly A. Stewart, the man whose life is chronicled in the book, Three Days In August, were good friends while Stewart was also behind bars at the military prison.

UPDATE 7/5/12 at 9:29 p.m. Central: Sad news. The Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces upheld by a 3-2 margin the conviction of Michael Behenna, according to this report. This means that, without a presidential pardon, the 29-year-old soldier will remain behind bars until he turns 40.

See also:

‘The Ballad of Michael Behenna’ Released Today (11/30/11); and

Parents of Army Lieutenant Issue Urgent Plea for Support (11/10/11).

Soldiers’ Hearings to Take Place Four Days Apart in April (3/28/12)

Green Beret’s Fight to Clear Name Continues After Prison

Much of the book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, chronicles events in the life of Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart leading up to his wrongful conviction by a court-martial panel during three days in August 2009.  Below, however, is an excerpt describing the day he was released from prison:

Kelly Stewart

It was a day Stewart had looked forward to with both excitement and trepidation. On one hand, he was getting out of prison. On the other, it was humiliating for him to think about his parents having to come to the prison to pick up their son.

On March 31, 2011, Stewart was released from the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Stewart’s wife, Freija, would have been there to pick him up that day, but the legal battle had drained their finances so much that they decided it would be best for all involved if she and their children waited until the fall—while they were en route to her next Army assignment in Colorado—to see him. Instead, his parents met him outside the prison gates at around 11 o’clock that morning.

Living outside of prison as a “free man” required Stewart to make several adjustments, one of which involved doors.  Stewart said he waited for his dad to open the door of the truck for him.  Why?

“Because, in prison, we don’t open our doors,” he explained.  “(The guards) open the doors for us and they close them behind us.”

As soon as he got into the truck, Stewart spent time several minutes on the phone with his wife and a few other people.

After that, his dad drove him to a convenience store so he could buy a pair of sunglasses to replace the ones he forgot in his cell amidst the excitement of leaving prison.

“I actually had cash in my hands that I had just gotten five minutes earlier,” he explained. “I hadn’t seen cash in several years.  Now, I’ve got a couple twenties and some change in my hand.  Loose change.  I hadn’t seen change in several years.”

At the convenience store, Stewart felt like everybody knew he had just gotten out of prison.

“I felt like everybody was staring at me,” he said.

He went on to describe the thoughts swimming through his mind as he grabbed a bottle of water, some sunflower seeds and other items.

“I actually wanted to buy up like 50 things in there, but I was trying to pace myself,” he said, describing himself as being like the proverbial “kid in a candy store.”

“You’ve been eating the same bland food for two years,” he continued, comparing prison food to what it might be like to eat nothing but the 12 different types of meals on a McDonald’s menu for two years straight.

Stewart said he was tempted to eat some of every kind of food imaginable, but soon learned—thanks, in part, to a headache and a “sugar rush”—that doing so was dangerous for someone coming off a bland prison diet.

In addition to dietary concerns, Stewart talked about having to make other adjustments to life outside prison.

“I’d be lying to say I haven’t had to make some adjustments,” he said, before explaining that he found out that your face gets sore if you laugh and smile a lot for the first time in a long time.

“I spent the first 30 or 40 minutes when we were driving trying to look at so many different things,” he said, “because I’d been living in the same gray area where the farthest distance you could see was maybe 150 meters.”

He went on to describe the jubilation of being able to see colors, things and people he hadn’t seen in a while.

Asked if his experience was similar to the scene played out in so many movies when a man leaves prison and is struck by how green the grass is or how blue the sky is, he said it was and then elaborated on life inside the walls.

“Only in prison do you see a plane fly overhead and actually try to dream about what it would be like to be on that plane,” he said, explaining that such effort serves to provide you with an escape from where you are.

“After several months in prison, you don’t dream outside the walls,” Stewart said, “because the reality is you don’t know what it’s gonna be like outside the walls.”

To learn why Stewart is still fighting for a new trial and to clear his name, order a copy of Three Days In August.  It’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.

SEE ALSO:  Soldiers’ Hearings to Take Place Four Days Apart in April

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

‘The Ballad of Michael Behenna’ Released Today

On June 4, 2009, I wrote the first of more than 50 posts about Army Ranger 1LT Michael Behenna, the native of Edmond, Okla., who was charged with the premeditated murder of a known Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq after Army prosecutors ignored their own expert witness during court-martial proceedings in February 2009. Today, I share some bittersweet news that proves some people still care about this soldier with whom Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart became friends while both were behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

1LT Michael Behenna

“The Ballad of Michael Behenna,” a song written and performed by fellow Oklahoman Chad Evan Todd, was released today.

In an email this morning, The Band of Mothers founder Beverly Perlson told me she hopes supporters of the effort to free Behenna from prison will download the song and contact their local radio stations and ask them to play it often. She also let me know what kind of person the singer-songwriter is.

“Chad is a humble man and a good man,” Perlson wrote. “I remember when he first started writing the song back in January and he read me some of the lines, he told me that he felt God was with him on this project.”

Please get behind this project. We can’t let this good soldier be forgotten behind bars as he continues serving his 15-year sentence behind bars. The fight to free Michael Behenna must continue!

To listen to the song, go to this website — http://www.ourstage.com/profile/chadevantodd/songs — and scroll down to the list of songs where you’ll find “The Ballad of Michael Behenna.”

To purchase “The Home Brew Album” featuring “The Ballad of Michael Behenna,” visit http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ChadEvanTodd.

UPDATE 7/5/12 at 6:30 p.m. Central:  Sad news. The Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces upheld by a 3-2 margin the conviction of Michael Behenna, according to this report. This means that, without a presidential pardon, the 29-year-old soldier will remain behind bars until he turns 40.

You can read more about Lieutenant Behenna and other soldiers like him in the foreword of the book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.  It’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.

UPDATE 11/30/11 at 10:15 a.m. Central:  I spoke with Chad this morning and he explained that he signed over publishing rights to the song to Scott and Vicki Behenna so that they — and their son’s legal defense fund — benefits every time the song is played over the airwaves.

Parents of Army Lieutenant Issue Urgent Plea for Support

Today, I share a letter from the parents of Army Ranger 1LT Michael Behenna about what appears to be his final hope for justice.

1LT Michael Behenna

On July 31, 2008, Behenna was charged with the premeditated murder of Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda agent operating near Albu Toma, an area north of Baghdad. Seven months later, the leader of the 18-member Delta Company, 5th platoon of the Army 101st Airborne Infantry Division was convicted of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years confinement at Fort Leavenworth. Though his sentence has been reduced to 15 years, Behenna remains behind bars for a killing that should have been deemed self-defense.

After you read the letter (below), you’ll understand why I share it on this site usually dedicated to the case of Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A Stewart:

To the thousands of supporters of 1Lt Michael Behenna,

It has been awhile since we sent out an update. Michael’s lawyers have filed the petition to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF). The CAAF is the highest court for the military justice system and is similar to the Supreme Court as they do not have to take your appeal. There were four issues on Michael’s case presented to the CAAF and we would expect to hear within 30-60 days whether the CAAF will hear his case. If the CAAF does not choose to hear any of the issues, then Michael’s appeals are done. So you can see the importance of this appeal. We desperately need your prayers so that Michael’s conviction will be seen by the CAAF for what it is – an abomination of the military justice system. The CAAF judges are civilians, so it is our hope that they will look at Michael’s case much differently than how the military judges have thus far.

Michael has his next Clemency Hearing the first week of January 2012. Although the Clemency Board disappointed us last year in not granting any Clemency (despite Michael being a model prisoner for the past two years), we know we will get to present Michael’s situation before a new panel. In addition, we are hopeful that with the US military leaving Iraq at the end of December, that the atmosphere of appeasement towards the Iraqi government may be different. If you want to help with Michael’s Clemency you can draft a letter to the Clemency Board. A sample clemency letter is included below, but we ask that you PLEASE change up the language and add some additional thoughts, so the letters don’t all look the same.

Also, we would like to get Michael’s petition (currently 28,400) to over 35,000 signatures before our meeting with the Clemency Board. We would really appreciate it if you could blast out this request to everyone you can. You can sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/MBehenna/petition.html.

Michael is handling his prison life remarkably well and is not caught up in the negative mindsets and daily doldrums of incarceration. His sights remain firmly on the day he will be released and finally returns home to his family. He very much appreciates all the support that you have given him and looks forward to being able to thank each of you for all your efforts on his behalf. Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away and despite our struggles to free Michael from this injustice we have much to be thankful for. As the holidays near and Michael spends his 1000th day behind bars please keep him in your prayers and consider sending him a card or letter at:

Michael Behenna #87503
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304

Lastly, a Special Forces soldier who Michael befriended in Leavenworth, named Kelly Stewart, has a new book about Stewart’s politicized military trial (the author talked about Michael’s case in the foreword). I won’t ruin the story for you, but suffice it to say that it is the most tragic, unjust conviction I have ever encountered. The book, Three Days in August, can be purchased here. Please pray that Kelly will receive a new trial so that he can clear his name once and for all.

Yours in the fight for justice,

Scott & Vicki Behenna
http://www.defendmichael.com

Below is the text of a sample clemency letter you can send in support of Michael:

SAMPLE CLEMENCY LETTER

Deputy Assistant Secretary Mitrano
c/o Army Clemency and Parole Board
1901 South Bell Street
Arlington, VA 22202

Re: Clemency for 1LT Michael Behenna

Dear Ms. Mitrano,

I have followed the case of 1LT Michael Behenna since hearing about his conviction for killing an al-Qaida operative. I have read many news accounts about his conviction, the email written by the government forensic expert Dr. Herbert MacDonell, and the outstanding background of this young man, including his Officer’s Evaluation. I request, on his behalf, that you grant him clemency and immediately release him. His immediate release would give him the same opportunity that our military is affording enemy combatants who are being released in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Please consider the “fog” this young man was operating under after having survived an attack on his platoon which took the lives of two of his soldiers just three weeks before, and the questionable decision to require 1LT Behenna to return the terrorist home. I have many questions about his conviction, especially hearing that critical evidence was withheld from his defense counsel and the jury. Give this young man the benefit of the doubt and release him so that he can begin to pick up the pieces of his life.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Please share this post, send a letter and encourage others to do the same — and DO IT NOW!  Thanks in advance!

Three Days In August is available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.

SEE ALSO:  Soldiers’ Hearings to Take Place Four Days Apart in April

Special Forces Soldier Recalls Unusual Experience With TSA

In a previous post, I shared details about what Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart experienced upon his arrival at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.  Today, I share his recollections about an experience he had with Transportation Security Administration officials during a trip he took as a prisoner traveling under heavy security escort on a commercial passenger jet from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City.  The details come in the form of an excerpt from my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight for Military Justice:

Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart

Around 10 o’clock that morning, Stewart’s handlers asked if he was hungry.  He told them he was, and they got him some food.

A short time later, a TSA officer appeared and told Stewart they would take him to the search point, search him and then load him aboard the aircraft before everyone else boarded.  He thought things were looking up, but was wrong.

“They wheeled me out, and we get up there to the security checkpoint,” Stewart said.  “Of course, the TSA people there clearly weren’t briefed.

“They were like, ‘Well, we’ve gotta wand him,’” Stewart recalled.  “Now, think about wanding someone who has two sets of metal handcuffs on.  How do you do that?”

Recalling that he had to stand up in his hospital gown, Stewart vividly remembers all of the people in the airport passing by, seeing these people in uniforms and saying, “Thank you for your service.  Thank you for your service.”

TDIA_Promo_Photo-300x224“And here I am, standing in double-handcuffs and hospital clothes with a Chuck Norris beard, and they’re just scared of me,” Stewart said, adding that he felt bad because he knew the scene probably frightened some people, especially little kids, at the airport.

Before boarding his flight, the TSA folks told his handlers they needed to see if Stewart had any bombs on him.  They proceeded to swab the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands until they were confident he had not somehow smuggled a bomb out of his prison cell at Quantico and transported it to the airport while double-handcuffed and under escort.

Details about why Stewart was transported halfway across the country through commercial airports and on commercial jets — and in full view of the traveling public — while in a wheelchair and wearing only a hospital gown and socks can be found in Three Days In August.

Three Days In August is available in paperback and ebook.  Order your copy today!

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.