Trump Pardons Michael Behenna, Former Soldier Convicted Of Killing Iraqi Prisoner< < Back to
President Trump has granted a full pardon to former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, whom a military court convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being part of al-Qaida. Behenna was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison; he was freed on parole in 2014.
Behenna, 35, was found guilty of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone, for shooting Ali Mansur Mohamed in 2008. But he claimed he acted in self-defense, and as the White House announced his pardon, it also said a U.S. Army appellate court had “noted concern about how the trial court had handled Mr. Behenna’s claim of self-defense.”
Mansur was killed during questioning about roadside explosives that, weeks earlier, had killed members of a platoon under Behenna’s command. Mansur was naked when he was shot; Behenna said the prisoner had tried to take his weapon. In his legal appeal, he has also said that during the trial, prosecutors had withheld evidence from his defense attorneys.
The push for a pardon for Behenna, an Oklahoma native, was taken up by the most powerful politicians in his home state. Members of Congress offered their support; so did former Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Mike Hunter — who repeatedly asked Trump to pardon Behenna.
Welcoming news of the pardon, Hunter issued a statement saying, “Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life.”
Behenna’s family has worked vigorously on his behalf — and they are well-positioned to do so, with deep ties to law enforcement and the legal system. His father is Scott Behenna, who has worked for both the FBI and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. His mother is Vicki Behenna, an attorney and former longtime federal prosecutor in Oklahoma City who has led the charge to help her son — first to win parole and then to gain a presidential pardon.
When that pardon finally came, Michael Behenna missed the White House’s initial call to him because he was speaking to his father on the phone, according to The Oklahoman. Finally, he called the White House back to speak to the president.
“My heart was beating fast,” he told the newspaper. “I had big ol’ tears in my eyes. He said he’d heard about my case, and ‘you have a lot of support behind you. Your case came highly recommended.’ I’m choked up and I’m trying to say, ‘Thank you very much.’ ”
With his record now cleared, Behenna no longer faces the restrictions that would have come with being on parole through 2024.
In addition to support within Oklahoma, the White House statement about Behenna’s pardon also mentioned other factors, from the Army Clemency and Parole Board reducing his sentence and granting him parole to some 37 military officers and others signing a brief supporting his claims.
The White House statement about his pardon added, “Further, while serving his sentence, Mr. Behenna was a model prisoner. In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency.”