Incarcerated soldier's brother appeals for clemency

By CHRIS CASTEEL | The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City | Published: February 8, 2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna has been punished enough for killing a suspected terrorist in Iraq and should be released from prison, Behenna's brother argued Thursday before the Army Clemency and Parole Board.

Brett Behenna, in an interview after the closed-door hearing on Behenna's request for clemency, said he told the board that his brother had served four years of his 15-year sentence and further confinement was not justified.

“The fact that he will be dishonorably discharged, the fact that he will be a convicted felon the rest of his life, the fact that he'll lose constitutional rights that every fellow American enjoys — all these things are a sufficient punishment, a punishment that is proportional and a punishment that does justice,” Brett Behenna, an Oklahoma County prosecutor, said.

“And we asked them to release Michael and allow him to come home to his family.”

Michael Behenna, 29, was convicted of killing Ali Mansur in Iraq in 2008 and is serving his sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Michael Behenna, a platoon leader, had taken Mansur to a remote area, forced him to strip naked and then questioned him at gunpoint about his activities in regard to a roadside bomb that had killed two members of Behenna's platoon.

Behenna testified at his 2009 trial on charges of premeditated murder in a combat zone that he shot Mansur twice after the Iraqi threw a piece of concrete at him and reached for his gun.

The top military appeals court narrowly upheld Behenna's conviction last year. A team of attorneys last month submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on Behenna's behalf.

Though the U.S. Justice Department initially declined to respond to Behenna's petition, the high court asked for a government response.

Vicki Behenna said the Supreme Court agrees to hear very few cases, but she said she was encouraged the justices wanted a response from the government.

“It's not just Michael's case that's being litigated,” she said. “It's whether soldiers have the right to act in self-defense. We think that's an issue of national importance.”

Brett Behenna said the five-person parole board was interested in what Michael Behenna would do if released and where he would live.

Vicki Behenna said Michael wants to pursue a degree in Spanish language and has expressed interest in becoming a rancher.

Michael Behenna can ask for clemency every year. He received a five-year reduction of his sentence in 2010.

Also attending the hearing on Thursday were two top aides to Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City.

The entire Oklahoma congressional delegation submitted a letter to the board, asking that members take into consideration Behenna's personal development, the unique nature of the case and sentences given in similar cases.


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