Multiple news agencies report that President Trump issued a pardon to former Army Lieutenant Michael Behenna. Fox News quotes White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cited “broad support” for Michael Behenna, of Edmond, Okla., “from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public” — including 37 generals and admirals, along with a former Pentagon inspector general — as the reason for Trump’s clemency grant. Sanders also said Behenna had been a “model prisoner” while serving his sentence.
“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” Sanders concluded.
In April 2008, Behenna was a Platoon Leader deployed to Bayji, Iraq (north of Baghdad). That month he shot and killed a detainee named Ali Mansur. The shooting occurred during an unauthorized interrogation in a desert culvert, during which Behenna stripped Mansur naked and threatened him with a pistol. Behenna was charged with murder, and at court-martial in March 2009 he claimed self-defense, asserting that Mansur had thrown a piece of concrete at him and tried to grab his pistol just before the shooting. Nevertheless, members convicted Behenna of unpremeditated murder and assault consummated by a battery, and sentenced him to a dismissal, total forfeitures, and confinement for 25 years., The convening authority later reduced the confinement 20 years, and the clemency and parole board reduced it to 15 years.
CAAF affirmed the convictions in United States v. Behenna, 71 M.J. 228 (C.A.A.F. 2012) (CAAFlog case page), holding that Behenna lost and did not regain the right to self-defense as a matter of law during the encounter, and that the prosecution’s late disclosure of a potentially-exculpatory opinion held by a prosecution expert was harmless. The Supreme Court denied certiorari in 2013. Behenna was subsequently granted parole and released from confinement in 2014, and became a ranch hand.
Behenna’s pardon isn’t President Trump’s first pardon for a former servicemember. The President gave Kristian Saucier a pardon for his conviction of violating 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) for illegally retaining photographs of classified areas of a nuclear submarine.
President Obama also granted clemency, including the commuting the death sentence of Private Loving and commuting the 35-year sentence of Private Manning. Loving murdered two taxicab drivers in Killeen, Texas (near Fort Hood), and attempted to murder a third, on December 12, 1988. Manning stole hundreds of thousands of classified documents and gave them to Wikileaks. Loving’s sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole and Manning’s was commuted to confinement until May 17, 2017 (effectively a 7-year term). Both actions were taken on January 17, 2017; three days before the end of Obama’s second term. Loving remains in post-trial confinement, while Manning is newly confined – and has been for the past two months – for contempt of court.