Michael Behenna is a former Army First Lieutenant from Oklahama who was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a military court in 2009, for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.
On Monday, May 6, Behenna was granted clemency from President Trump, per a press release from the White House. The press release reads,
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.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Behenna Deployed to Iraq in 2007, & Led an Infantry Platoon of 18 Men
Per The Washington Post, Behenna was an Army Ranger in the 101st Airborne Division. He was convicted of murdering Ali Mansur, but always maintained that he was acting in self defense. He was given parole five years ago, but has continued to fight to overturn his conviction.
2. Behenna Attended the University of Central Okaloma for College
According to SCOTUS Blog, Behenna grew up in Edmond Oklahoma, as the oldest of three sons. His mother, Vicki, was a federal prosecutor, and his father, Scott, was an Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations officer. Behenna wanted to enlist and not go to college at all, per the blog, but his parents encouraged him to attend college first, so he enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma. Though he wasn’t a member of ROTC there, he did work out with them and form connections with the university.
3. Behenna Reportedly Stripped Mansur Naked & Interrogated Him Without Authorization Before Killing Him
In 2008, Behenna shot and killed Ali Mansur, an Iraqi man. An intelligence report confirmed that Mansur was an explosives transporter for an Al Qa’ida cell. Per SCOTUS Blog, Mansur was held for ten days by the Army, and on the day he was supposed to be released, Behenna told him he was going to interrogate him one last time, and that he would kill him if he didn’t give him the information he wanted.
You can read the full description of events by SCOTUS blog, many of which might be disturbing. But in short, Behenna shot Mansur twice, once to the head, and once to the chest, during an interrogation, while they were on their way to return Mansur back to his hometown. At his trial, he testified that Mansur tried to reach for his handgun, and he was acting in self defense .
4. Trump Voiced Support for Former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher in March
Trump has voiced support for military members convicted of crimes during his presidency; he announced the decision to move Eddie Gallagher into “less restrictive” confinement on March 30. His apparent sympathy for military service members is one of the reasons why Behenna appealed to him, according to his lawyer.
John Richter, a former head of the Justice Department’s criminal division who is representing Behenna, said to The Washington Post on April 23, “We know we have a president who is very sympathetic to the very difficult situation that soldiers, sailors and Marines were put in during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
5. The Michael Behenna Defense Fund Website Includes Photos, a Petition, Trial Documents, & More
For those looking to learn more about Behenna’s case, and about him in general, the Michael Behenna Defense Fund website offers a plethora of information. The defense of Behenna reads in part,
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.