AP

Trump Pardons Former US Soldier Convicted of Stripping Naked and Killing Iraqi Prisoner

May 07, 2019 - 11:06 am
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(KNX 1070) -- Monday President Donald Trump granted a pardon for a former first lieutenant in the Army who was sentenced to prison in 2009 for murdering an Iraqi detainee, according to the White House.

Michael Behenna, of Oklahoma, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a military court for the 2008 murder of Ali Mansur Mohamed during the occupation of Iraq. Behenna claimed at his court-martial the murder was in self-defense. 

An Army Ranger in the famed 101st Airborne Division, Behenna was deployed to Iraq in 2007 --  at the height of the U.S. troop surge. A year later, on a mission, two friends and soldiers of Behenna were killed in a roadside explosion, according to the Washington Post

Soon after the roadside incident, an intelligence report was released that Mansur had planned the explosion. Mansur was interrogated, but then released, as there was no significant evidence connecting him to the explosion, the Post reported. 

A month later, as Behenna, who was 24 at the time, admitted in his 2008 trial, instead of taking the prisoner home as instructed, he stripped him naked, then interrogated him on his own at gunpoint, and shot him twice. 

Behenna was sentenced, but Sarah Sanders explained in a statement that "After judgment, however, the U.S. Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Mr. Behenna’s claim of self-defense." "Additionally, the Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible in 2014 — just 5 years into his sentence," she added. Sanders referred to Behenna as a "model prisoner" while serving his sentence. 

Behenna's pardon was endorsed by several powerful members of Congress -- former Gov. Mary Fallin and state Attorney General Mike Hunter -- who all advocated on his behalf to President Trump. 

Behenna's mother Vicki Behenna, is an attorney and former federal prosecutor, even working on the prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Behenna's father worked as an F.B.I. analyst and Oklahoma state investigator.

With his record now cleared, Behenna will not face the average restrictions that most parolees face.