LT MICHAEL BEHENNA WAS CONVICTED IN 2008 FOR SHOOTING AN AL QA’IDA OPERATIVE IN IRAQ; BEHENNA WENT TO LEAVENWORTH PRISON AND WAS RELEASED IN MARCH 2014 AFTER SERVING 5 YEARS OF A FIFTEEN YEAR SENTENCE.
On March 20th, 2009, Army Ranger 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing Ali Mansur, a known Al Qa’ida operative while serving in Iraq. Mansur was known to be a member of an Al Qa’ida cell operating in the lieutenant’s area of operation and Army intelligence believed he organized an attack on Lt. Behenna’s platoon in April 2008 which killed two U.S. soldiers and injured two more. Army intelligence ordered the release of Mansur and Lt. Behenna was ordered to return the terrorist to his home.
During the return of Mansur, Lt. Behenna again questioned the Al Qa’ida 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.
Michael Behenna was released in March 2014 and since that time has acclimated back into Oklahoma where he works on a ranch running thousands of head of cattle. He has also purchased his own small ranch where he raises horses, goats and chickens. Michael spends his free time with family, advocates for those who have been wrongly convicted, and volunteers in homeless shelters.
We urgently need your help to correct this terrible wrong against a loyal and faithful soldier. Please contact your congressman and ask them to support a petition for a Presidential pardon on behalf of 1LT Behenna. Below is a brief recap of the relevant aspects of Lt. Behenna’s case.
- September 2007: 1LT Michael Behenna deployed to Iraq for his first tour of combat.
- April 21, 2008, Al Qa’ida operatives attacked 1LT Behennaʼs platoon. The IED attack resulted in the death of two of 1LT Behennaʼs platoon members with two other platoon members severely injured, one Iraqi civilian (clc) killed, one US citizen interpreter of Arab descent killed, and one Iraqi civilian (clc) injured.
- May 5, 2008: Based on information from US Army intelligence, 1LT Behenna’s platoon detained known terrorist Ali Mansur at his home for the attack on 1LT Behennaʼs platoon. Mansur had illegal weapons and a passport indicating trips to Syria.
- May 16, 2008: Without explanation, Army Intelligence ordered the release of Mansur.
- 1LT Behenna, who lost two members of his platoon just weeks earlier, was ordered to transport Mansur to his home.
- 1LT Behenna attempted a final field interview of Mansur prior to his release.
- During the interview, Mansur attacked 1LT Behenna, and 1LT Behenna reacted to defend himself by firing two shots which killed Mansur.
- July 2008: The U.S. Army charged 1LT Behenna with premeditated murder for the death of the Al Qa’ida operative and terrorist Ali Mansur
- February 23, 2009: 1LT Behennaʼs trial begins.
- Defense experts testify that Mansur was standing with his arm outstretched when shot.
- On the evening of February 25th, prosecution expert witness Dr. Herbert MacDonell told the prosecution attorneys the only logical explanation for what happened was that Mansur had to be standing, reaching for 1LT Behennaʼs gun when he was shot. This contradicted the prosecution’s theory that Mansur was executed while seated on a rock.
- On February 26th 1LT Behenna testified that while he was interrogating Mansur he turned his head towards his interpreter, and when he did, Mansur lunged for his gun. The 1LT fired a controlled pair of shots. This explanation was identical to what Dr. MacDonell told the prosecution team in a private meeting the night before.
- During a recess after 1LT Behennaʼs testimony, Dr. MacDonell met with the prosecution team and told them again that the 1LT’s testimony was exactly what he had demonstrated to Prosecutors the day before and that the 1LT must be telling the truth. The prosecutors sent Dr. MacDonell home to New York. Leaving the courtroom, Dr. MacDonell told defense counsel he would have made a great witness for 1LT Behenna.
- The defense counsel asked prosecutors if they have any exculpatory evidence about Dr. MacDonell, and the prosecutors denied possession of such evidence.
- In the prosecution’s closing arguments they argued 1LT Behennaʼs testimony that Mansur was reaching for his gun was “impossible” based upon the evidence (despite knowing that their own expert witness had told him it was the only logical explanation.)
- Later that Friday night a military panel of seven officers, none of whom had combat experience, acquitted 1LT Behenna of premeditated murder but convicted 1LT Behenna of unpremeditated murder and assault.
- After 1LT Behenna was convicted, but before sentencing, Dr. MacDonell sent an email to the prosecution team requesting that the information provided in his demonstration be turned over to the defense.
- A mistrial was requested by the 1LT’s defense counsel, but on March 20, 2009 the military judge denied both defense motions to declare a mistrial and to order a new trial.
- 1LT Behennaʼs attorneys have exhausted his appeals through the military courts and was denied certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
- On March 14, 2014, 1LT Behenna was paroled from Ft. Leavenworth prison after serving 5 years of a 15-year sentence (the original 25 year sentence was reduced five years by the commanding General of 101st Airborne and the Army Clemency Board reduced it another five years.) 1LT Behenna still must serve 10 years of parole before he will be formally released from his sentence with a felony conviction for life. In the meantime, all efforts are being made to achieve a Presidential Pardon for LT Behenna.
1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was an excellent officer. He received his call to serve his country on 9/11/2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. He attended the University of Central Oklahoma to achieve his officer commission and then was sent to the front lines of Iraq during the surge to command a platoon. He is from a family of public servants, his mother was an Assistant United States Attorney and his father a retired Special Agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and an FBI Terrorism Analyst. He has served the Army and the United States with honor and dignity. To continue to deny this Oklahoma soldier his constitutional rights over the death of a known terrorist, is a breach of faith with all who are serving our country. Please stand with us and demand a Presidential pardon for this American hero!!!
He fought for you; now please fight for him!