President Donald Trump issued a full pardon Monday to former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who served five years in prison after being convicted of murdering a suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist.
In May 2008, Behenna was questioning Ali Mansur Mohamed, a suspected terrorist who had allegedly been involved in an IED attack that killed two U.S. soldiers. The interrogation ended when Behenna fired two rounds into the terrorist — which the 1st Lt. claimed was in self-defense after Mansur lunged for his pistol.
A military court convicted Behenna of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone in 2009. The prosecution said Behenna was not acting in self-defense, but in retaliation for the deaths of his fellow soldiers, and killed Mansur while returning him to his hometown.
In a statement released Monday announcing the pardon, the White House noted that Behenna’s 25-year sentence was greatly reduced following certain concerns about the case. Behenna was released from prison on parole in 2014.
“After judgment, however, the U.S. Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Mr. Behenna’s claim of self-defense. Additionally, the Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible in 2014—just 5 years into his sentence.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has repeatedly petitioned the White House for clemency, writing to Attorney General Bill Barr last month that Behenna’s conviction was predicated on improper procedure by prosecutors.
The White House cited Hunter’s support in its announcement, adding, “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.”
In March 2018, the president pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who served a year in prison for taking photos of classified areas of a submarine.