WASHINGTON — The parents and brother of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna told an Army board on Thursday that the Edmond native would work on a cattle ranch and enroll in Oklahoma State University courses if released on parole this year.
The family members spoke before the Army Clemency and Parole Board at the first parole hearing for Behenna, 30, who has served five years of a 15-year sentence for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.
The Behennas presented the board with a report more than 400 pages long, including support letters from Gov. Mary Fallin, the Oklahoma congressional delegation, state law enforcement leaders, active duty military and veterans.
Behenna already has assurances of employment at a cattle ranch and has been accepted into OSU's cow/calf camps, his mother, Vicki Behenna, said after the hearing. Behenna wants ultimately to get a degree from OSU in ranch operations.
The chairman of the parole board told the family to expect a decision “quickly.” Scott Behenna, the soldier's father, said they may know within two weeks whether parole has been granted.
Behenna was convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi man linked to terrorist activities, including a roadside bombing that killed two of Behenna's men.
Army prosecutors contended Behenna executed Ali Mansur after taking him to an isolated area for questioning and stripping him naked. Behenna claimed at his court-martial that he shot Mansur in self-defense after the man threw a piece of concrete at him and lunged for his gun.
Two military appeals courts upheld Behenna's conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined last year to review the case.
Behenna's parents have appeared before the Army Clemency and Parole Board every year since their son was first incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. However, those appearances were to request reductions in his sentence; in 2010, he received a reduction of five years, but no others were granted.
This is the first year he is eligible for parole.
Behenna met at Fort Leavenworth in October with a panel that will make a recommendation.
The Army Clemency and Parole Board, based in nearby Arlington, Va., will make its own recommendation to a deputy assistant secretary of the Army; a rejection can be appealed, and Behenna can seek parole again next year if it's not granted this year.
“We've gone to these things and felt so good coming out ... but then they don't give you clemency,” Vicki Behenna said Thursday. “So we don't know.”
Scott Behenna said his son “stays on an even keel. He hopes. Everybody has hope.”
All three family members spoke to the board Thursday. Brett Behenna, an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County, said they sought to convey that Behenna had a plan to restart his life and that “he's no risk to society, he's no danger, he has so much to offer if he's just given a chance.”