Showing posts with label the military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the military. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Behenna Seeks Clemency from Obama

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected his appeal, Lt. Michael Behenna, will "turn full-time toward the clemency and parole process."  Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the unpremeditated shooting and killing of an unarmed Iraqi man during the course of an interrogation. The incident followed an insurgent attack with an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) that killed two soldiers and three Iraqi civilians. Kali Borkoski described it as follows:
The driver of Christofferson’s MRAP didn’t see the IED. As it detonated, the vehicle somersaulted and crashed down on its roof in a cloud of smoke and dust. The force of the explosion rocketed an axle off the driveshaft, hurling it into the desert sky where it hung for a moment before slamming down. 
The driver of the second vehicle threw it into reverse. Some of the men in that MRAP didn’t even wait for him to stop before jumping out and running towards the explosion. Someone shouted into the radio, “Mad Dog 5 has been hit!” When the wounded MRAP settled to a stop it was empty, with its former passengers - depending on their injuries - either limping out of the smoke or lying in the dust around the wrecked vehicle. 
Christofferson had been thrown the farthest away from the wreckage. He landed face up, his mouth and brown eyes agape, hands at his sides with fingers crumpled. The lower half of his body was gone. Kohlhass was dead too, although he didn’t look it. He had barely a scratch. His lips were still quivering as the men from the second vehicle got to him. But then he was gone. Internal injuries, they would learn. 
Intelligence sources had linked the prisoner to the attack. But, Behenna claims that he actually acted in self-defense, when the prisoner reached for a handgun. Behenna's petition to the Supreme Court was supported by 27 retired generals and admirals. See story here. and here. Original documents on the case can be found here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

DeLorean Codefendant Seeks Pardon

Stephen Lee Arrington was born in 1948 in Southern California into a broken family. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and served four tours in Vietnam. He rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the Specialty Warfare Command as a bomb disposal diver, where he worked with the CIA, the Secret Service and NASA. Arrington also earned the Naval Commendation Medal for lifesaving. But, while he was stationed in Hawaii in the late 1970’s, he took up surfing and got caught up in the marijuana culture that accompanied a new group of friends. By 1979, Arrington was caught selling marijuana to another sailor and his military career came to an abrupt end, albeit with an Honorable Discharge.

Two years later, Arrington was lured away from his studies at San Diego State University by one Morgan Hetrick, who offered a job as a pilot and right-hand man. But Hetrick was actually a cocaine transporter for the Medellin Drug Cartel. Soon, Arrington found himself being ordered to co-pilot a plane to Colombia. When he first refused, four men with guns convinced him to go along for the ride. Later, Arrington was ordered to drive a cocaine-loaded car from Florida to California. Desperate to escape from his circumstance, Arrington abandoned the car at Van Nuys Airport and tried to walk away. But heavily armed undercover DEA agents took him back to the car and Arrington was arrested. He was thereafter known as a co-defendant of John DeLorean in a cocaine conspiracy trial. DeLorean was acquitted on all charges. But Arrington plead guilty and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Military: Fraternization Case reports John Gonzales is seeking a presidential pardon. Gonzales is said to have "16 years of experience as an intelligence analyst, including two combat deployments supporting Navy SEALs." He is also said to have "earned a Bronze Star and received the Navy's top award for leadership in the intelligence community." But, Gonzales' record also features a federal conviction for "fraternization" ("an unduly familiar relationship between an officer and enlisted member"). So, Gonzales is submitting a clemency request today to Rear Admiral and commander of the Navy's Mid-Atlantic Region. It also reported that:
the woman, an ensign who served as Gonzales' boss, received a nonpunitive letter of caution and was later promoted. Gonzales was not allowed to re-enlist. He left the Navy in January. The conviction has prevented him from getting work as a military contractor, he said in a phone interview from Atlanta.
It appears that the jury could have recommended two years of confinement and a dishonorable discharge for Gonzales, but instead merely demoted him to petty officer second class.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saunders to Obama: Pardon Marines

Today, Debra J. Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle is calling on President Obama to grant presidential pardons to the four Marines who were captured on video as they urinated on three corpses. Saunders suggests Obama "spare [the Marines] and their families the ordeal of an extended investigation, mounting legal bills and possibly prison time." Writes Saunders:
Obama could use this episode as a teaching moment about the need for respect - not to mention discretion - in the era of the camera phone. It also is a moment for Washington to consider that these Marines have made sacrifices in service to this country that noncombatants cannot begin to understand. These men have had to carry out the commander in chief's orders on the ground - that's a far more daunting duty than ordering a drone attack that kills the enemy and civilians remotely.
And asks, "Want change?" Her suggestion: "How about answering an act of thoughtless inhumanity with an act of unusual mercy?" See full editorial here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Military: Pardon Me Now, Mr. President!

Talking Points Memo notes that the defense fund for former Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin has issued a statement calling on President Obama to grant a "full and complete presidential pardon" for his court martial conviction "including restoration of pay, benefits, and service." The statement argues that Lakin would have never refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan had the President simply provided his birth certificate "years ago." Lakin was, instead, court-martialed and sentenced to six months in a military prison. See story here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Benjamin Harrison, Pardons and Military Mercy

In his 1897 work, This Country of Ours, Benjamin Harrison called the pardoning power "one of the great executive powers." Harrison described the power to pardon as a remedy for "rigidity" in the criminal code, "the liability to error of every human tribunal" and the discovery of "new evidence" or "extenuating facts." But, he also noted that it was "not a pleasant thing to have the power of life and death. No graver or more oppressive responsibility can be laid upon a public officer."

Harrison's book also noted there was "an increasing amount of pardon business" coming to the desk of the President and he "often has many cases waiting." In March of 1890, the New York Times reported Harrison “stirred up the whole army establishment” by remitting the unexpired portion of a one-year sentence imposed upon trooper Dell P. Wild of the Eight Cavalry at Fort Yates, North Dakota. A lieutenant had asked Wild to assist him with the placement of a canvass on the roof of a shed behind his personal quarters. When Wild complained that he was not a servant, the lieutenant struck him then had him arrested. Harrison’s pardon came after the United States Senate had passed a resolution calling for the Secretary of War to produce a record of the trial.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Clemency Hearing for Behenna

25-year old 1st Lt. Michael Behenna (U.S. Army) claims he was wrongly convicted of killing a suspected terrorist, one Ali Mansure Mohaned, in Iraq last year. Begenna's original sentence of 25-years has already been reduced once, to 20 years. He had suspected Mansure was involved in the planting of a roadside bomb that killed two members of his platoon. After questioning Mansure, Behenna shot and killed him, claiming that Mansure tried to grab his weapon. A clemency hearing will be held this Thursday. See complete story here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A clemency request from Pvt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III (convicted of killing an Iraqi man in 2006) has been rejected. Hutchins had received an 11 year prison sentence despite his claim that his actions were the byproduct of "the fog of war.” The formal rejection noted that Hutchins' original sentence (of 15 years) had already been reduced. See full story here

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Military Mercy Revisited: Obama and Hasan

The Associated Press has produced an article (here) which notes that the death penalty is rarely used in the federal system and is even more rare in the military system of justice. The interest in the matter, of course, flows from the recent terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas, where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 men and women and wounded 29 others. In the days and weeks to come, we will learn of decisions related to Hasan's mental health and a possible request for a death sentence. PardonPower's interest in the case flows from this observation in the article:
Fifteen members of the military have been sentenced to death in the past 25 years. Commanding generals commuted two of those sentences to life in prison and eight others were overturned on appeal. The president's involvement also sets military death-penalty cases apart. The president can commute any federal death sentence, civilian or military but must personally approve each military execution and sign an order to carry it out. "That's a political act,'' Silliman said. ''The president of the United States personally approving a death penalty is a political act.'' When President Bush signed Ronald Gray's execution order in July 2008, it was the first time a president had done so in 51 years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Military: Commutation of Sentence

Stars and Stripes reports the life sentence of Master Sgt. John Hatley (convicted for the 2007 execution-style killings of four Iraqi detainees) has been reduced to 40 years. The Army has not specified when Hatley will be eligible for parole, but he will be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank to private. According to Stars and Stripes, members of Hatley’s unit "testified during his court-martial that the killings were committed out of frustration, partly due to the release of several other Iraqi detainees who were believed responsible for the deaths of some soldiers in the unit." See story here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mercy for Sgt. Leahy

Joel Hood of the Chicago Tribune has done some nice reporting in a story about 28-year old Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., a former resident of Downer's Grove, who was sentenced to life in prison "for his role in the grisly, execution-style slayings of four bound Iraqi prisoners." Hood has uncovered that a brigadier general in Germany recently extended clemency to Leahy, reducing the sentence to 20 years with the possibility of parole. As a result, it is possible that Hood could be released after serving less than seven years. However, Hood's many supporters believe a full pardon is in order. At trial, soldiers testified that the killings were in "retaliation" for the deaths of soldiers from their unit. For additional details on the case, see full story here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Military Mercy

 In chatting with a reporter from the Chicago Tribune this afternoon, PardonPower recalled some famous - or at least "notable" - examples of federal executive clemency in American history that have been related to the military

(Click on the name associated with each entry to see additional information):

2000 - Preston King (draft evasion)
1999 - Henry Flipper (embezzlement, first African-America USMA graduate)
1999 - Freddie Meeks (mutiny, Port Chicago incident)
1960, 1977 - Maurice Schick (murder, case to Supreme Court)
1950 - Leon Gilbert (insubordination, cowardice, 600,000 supporters!)
1945 - A Christmas amnesty to thousands of convicts who served honorably in the War
1945 - Sidney Shapiro (formally charged with obstruction of justice one hour before trial)
1944 - General Robert C. Richardson (charged with contempt, preemptive pardon)
1921 - Chaplain Franz J. Feinler (treason and propaganda)
1918 - Houston Rioters (riot, murder)
1913 - Thomas Franklin (financial irregularities, West Point treasurer)
1907 - John L. Lennon (AWOL, nephew of famous boxer, John L. Sullivan)
1900 - Admiral Bowman H. McCalla (had a thing for cruel and unusual punishments)
1890 - Dell P. Wild (refused to do "menial" work)
1890 - Lewis Carter (assault, robbery, desertion and a 99-year sentence)
1883 - John A. Mason (attempted to assassinate Garfield's assassin, Guiteau)
1882 - Fitz John Porter (disobeying an order, misconduct - blamed for Union loss at Bull Run)
1860 - Aaron Dwight Stevens (riot, assault, later one of John Brown's "officers")
1848 - General John C. Fremont (mutiny, declined pardon and resigned, aka "the Pathfinder")
1814 - General William Hull (surrendered Fort Detroit to British without a fight!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Military Mercy: Contact Information

U.S. Army James Vick
U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board
1914 Jefferson Davis Highway
CCM4 2nd Floor, Room 222
Washington, DC 22202
Phone: 703-607-1504 / Fax: 703-607-2047

U.S. Air Force James Johnston
U.S. Air Force Clemency andParole Board
1535 Command Drive EE
Wing 3rd Floor
Andrews AFB, MD 20762
Phone: 240-857-5329/ Fax: 240-857-1814

Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard:
President, Naval Clemency and Parole Board
720 Kennon Street, SE, Room 309
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, DC 20374-5023
Phone: 202-685-6455

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Military: Requests

Seth Robsen has written a piece in Stars and Stripes on the fate of Master Sgt. John Hatley, Sgt. Michael Leahy and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo, three U.S. soldiers sentenced to long prison terms for the premeditated murder of four detainees in Baghdad in 2007. The single hope of the men lies in the wide discretion of Brig. Gen. David R. Hogg who is reviewing transcripts of the trial and supporting materials. Interestingly, the piece also raises the topic of the My Lai Massacre of 1968 which resulted in a life sentence for 1st Lt. William Calley Jr. Calley's sentence was reduced to 10 years and he was released after only three and a half years of house arrest.See article here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Naval Academy: Request

The Capital reports two Naval Academy graduates (and football players) will seek presidential pardons after being court-martialed in unrelated cases for sexually assaulting two female midshipmen. It is argued that neither men received fair trials and that they "could make greater contributions to society if they didn't have the convictions hanging over their heads." Jerome P. Mullins, who is said to specialize in "sentence mitigation and pardons," expects a "tough fight" ahead. See additional details on this story here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Idaho: Support for Vela

January 6, 2009
President George W. Bush
The White House, West Wing
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502

Ref: Sgt. Evan Vela, Prisoner Reg No. 84486

Dear President Bush:

I write this letter in support of the commutation request of Sergeant Evan Vela, a constituent of mine from the state of Idaho assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He is currently confined at the Army Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Idaho: The Case of Evan Vela

The Army Times reports that the White House has confirmed "President Bush is considering a request that an eastern Idaho soldier convicted of killing an unarmed Iraqi receive a pardon." More specifically, a letter from the White House says “views" on the matter would be "seriously considered.” Sgt. Evan Vela, an Army sniper, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian who stumbled upon him and five other soldiers who were sleeping, for planting an AK-47 rifle on the dead man’s body and for lying to military investigators. His father recently send 235 letters of support to the White House, including letters from Senator Mike Crapo (R) and Representative Mike Simpson (R). See complete story here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Idaho: Solider Seeks Pardon

Sgt. Evan Vela, a U.S. Army sniper, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February for killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian who came upon him and five other soldiers as they were sleeping in May of 2007. During the trial, Vela and others with his unit testified they were "confused and exhausted" after more than two days of trekking in high temperatures. Vela also testified that he couldn't remember shooting Genei Nasir al-Janabi. But Vela was also convicted of planting an AK-47 on the dead man's body and of lying to military investigators. His father says, "We have gathered many letters asking President Bush to grant Evan a presidential pardon before he leaves office." A web site supporting the pardon can be found here. See full story here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hawaii: Denial

A story that was really more about judicial decision making than it was about the pardon power seems to have come to an end. Governor Linda Lingle has denied the pardon application of Sgt. 1st Class Ernie Gomez who was convicted of terrorizing his former wife with a loaded gun and beating her three years ago. Previous reports suggest the Army provided particular support for Gomez and his former wife even pleaded on his behalf. So, Gomez was allowed to remain outside of prison during his appeal and during his quest for pardon. Now it appears he is on his way to a five-year term. See story here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mercy Denied. A Military Death Sentence

The News Observer has an interesting piece on President Bush's approval of the execution of Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, who was convicted of several rapes and four murders in the late 1980s. According to the Observer, it is "the first time in more than 50 years that a president has ordered the execution of a member of the armed services." A White House spokesman says, "the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted." The Observer also reports that presidential approval of executions of members of the Armed Services has been required since 1951, but PardonPower is fairly certain that this requirement was actually installed in the aftermath of the Houston Riot of 1917. See story here.

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