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Army board rejects Oklahoma soldier's request for clemency

The mother of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, an Edmond soldier, says the family will continue to fight for his release after the parole board declined to reduce his 15-year sentence for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone in Iraq.
by Chris Casteel Published: February 20, 2013

— The U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board has declined the recent request by 1st Lt. Michael Behenna for clemency and maintained his sentence at 15 years for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.

The Edmond soldier's brother and parents appeared before the board two weeks ago in Arlington, Va. Brett Behenna, an Oklahoma County prosecutor, argued to the board that justice was no longer being served by keeping his brother in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for killing a suspected terrorist in Iraq after questioning him at gunpoint.

In 2010, Michael Behenna received a five-year reduction in sentence from the clemency and parole board. His last three requests for parole or clemency have been rejected.

Vicki Behenna, mother of the imprisoned officer, said Tuesday that her son learned late last week his request for a sentence reduction had been rejected.

“Our feelings are that we again are devastated,” she said. “I cannot understand what the Army hopes to gain by keeping someone like Michael incarcerated. Our family spent the weekend trying to regroup and find the strength to continue the fight.”Michael Behenna, 29, has an appeal of his conviction pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not decided whether to take the case.

Army prosecutors contended Behenna executed Ali Mansur, an Iraqi, in 2008 after taking him to an isolated area for questioning and stripping him naked. Behenna claimed at his court-martial that he shot Mansur in self-defense after the man threw a piece of concrete at him and lunged for his gun.