To the thousands of Michael Behenna supporters,
One year ago today closing arguments were made by the Army prosecutors determined to get a conviction even if that meant withholding evidence and lying to the jury. Captain Jason Elbert told the jury that what Michael Behenna testified to regarding the shooting of Ali Mansur was ‘impossible’. Yet all three prosecutors (Captains Poirier, Roberts, and Elbert) knew better. Their own expert witness, Dr. Herb MacDonell, had told them earlier in the week that the only logical explanation based on the evidence was that Mansur had to be reaching for Michael’s gun when he was shot. Because their expert’s testimony did not help their case the prosecution team sent him home rather than put him on the stand to testify. They were not going to let the facts get in the way of a guilty verdict.
So it was that one year ago at around 8:30pm on a Friday night a jury of non-infantry officers convicted Michael of unpremeditated murder and the following day sentenced him to 25 years in prison. This for killing in self defense a known member of Al Qaeda that Army intelligence knew had organized an attack on Michael’s platoon that took the lives of two American soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers. For those of us sitting in that Kentucky courtroom the moment when the verdict was read is forever seared into our souls. For Michael it was absolute betrayal by a country he (unlike the prosecutors) had risked his life to defend.
As we told you last month, Michael’s clemency board hearing resulted in a five year reduction in his sentence on top of the five year reduction granted by the General of the 101st Airborne. So Michael is now serving a 15 year sentence at Fort Leavenworth and if he serves his full sentence he will rejoin the real world when he is 40 years of age. Short of the Secretary of the Army intervening, the next phase in getting justice for Michael is the Appellate process. Michael’s appellate brief was filed on December 22, 2009 and the military response was due on January 22, 2010. The Army did not produce a response on their due date, but instead asked and was granted a three month extension, which makes their new due date April 21, 2010. Coincidentally that happens to be the anniversary date that Michael’s soldiers Adam Kohlhaas and Steven Christofferson were killed by Mansur and his Al Qaeda cell.
Michael began his incarceration on March 20, 2009. One of the last things he said to us that day as he was being taken away in handcuffs was ‘Don’t let me be forgotten.’ I can proudly say that YOU HAVE NOT LET MICHAEL BE FORGOTTEN!!! It is your cards and letters that gives him purpose each day in prison. The highlight of Michael’s week is when the guard drops off mail to his cell. On one recent day he received 175 pieces of mail. From nearly every state in our great country and from places as far away as Australia he has received cards and letters of support that has lifted his spirits and helped Michael and our family endure something that no American family or soldier should ever face – being prosecuted for defending yourself against the most vicious terrorist group in the world.
Our fight for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. Like Michael, we all have to be prepared for a long fight. But in the end it is a fight we will win and see the day when Michael is free once more. In this next month please raise awareness about Michael’s case and continue to write your Congressmen, Senators, the Secretary of the Army, and the Secretary of Defense to call for Michael’s immediate release pending the appellate decision. And most importantly, please drop Michael another letter or card that reminds him that he has not been forgotten.
The links below will catch you up on Michael’s continuing story and show you the true 1LT Michael Behenna:
Thank you again for your overwhelming support of an American soldier we proudly call our son.
Scott & Vicki Behenna