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.

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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.

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.

Convicted Army Officer Loses Final Military Appeal

Short of a presidential pardon or a United States Supreme Court ruling in his favor, which isn’t likely in this day and age, it appears Army Ranger 1LT Michael C. Behenna will remain behind bars at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., until he turns 40 years old. The Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., has upheld the 29-year-old Edmond, Okla., native’s conviction stemming from a May 16, 2008, shooting in Iraq.

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

The sad news arrived shortly after 6 p.m. Central Thursday, almost 11 weeks after the five-member CAAF panel heard Lieutenant Behenna’s final appeal of the verdict that found him guilty of unpremeditated murder in the shooting death of Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq.

It is beyond comprehension how multiple levels of the military justice system were able to reconcile the lieutenant’s conviction with the fact that the government’s own expert witness reached the conclusion that the lieutenant acted in self defense — see this post and this post for more details — but they did. And by a 3-2 margin.

Below is the cruxt of the majority opinion in the decision:

We granted review in this case to determine whether the military judge provided complete and accurate self-defense instructions, and whether the Government failed to disclose favorable and material information to Appellant’s prejudice. We hold that, although the military judge’s instruction on escalation was erroneous, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because escalation was not in issue. Moreover, contrary to Appellant’s arguments, withdrawal also was not in issue. We further hold that, even assuming that the information Appellant asserts the Government failed to disclose was favorable, it was immaterial in regard to findings and sentencing because the evidence substantially overlapped with other evidence presented by other defense experts, Appellant was not entitled to an escalation instruction, and the members clearly rejected the Government’s theory of premeditated murder. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).

Next, the dissenting opinion:

A death occurred in the theater of operations. A soldier has been convicted of murder. Was it murder or self-defense? By law, the responsibility for making that factual determination rested with the court-martial panel, not with this Court. The ambiguous, confusing, and incorrect instructions from the military judge deprived Appellant of the right to have a panel of officers make that decision. The military judge compounded that error by failing to take corrective action with respect to the Government’s failure to provide timely disclosure of exculpatory evidence. This Court should reverse the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals and authorize a rehearing.

The entire document, warts and all, can be found here.

Since June 4, 2009, I’ve written more than 60 posts about Lieutenant Behenna and fight for military justice, and this certainly will not be the last.

Below is a list of several posts I’ve shared about the lieutenant with whom Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, the man at the center of Three Days In August, became friends while both were in prison at Fort Leavenworth:

• Soldiers’ Hearings to Take Place Four Days Apart in April

• Top Military Court to Hear Army Officer’s Appeal

• ‘The Ballad of Michael Behenna’ Released Today

• Parents of Army Lieutenant Issue Urgent Plea for Support

• Why Should People Care About Kelly Stewart’s Story?

FYI:  Stewart is still awaiting the outcome of his Army Court of Criminal Appeals hearing that took place April 19, details of which are mentioned in this post.

CORRECTION 7/6/12 at 10:58 a.m. Central:  After publishing this post, I was informed that Behenna can appeal his case to the United States Supreme Court; therefore, I amended the lead paragraph to reflect that change.

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)