A soldier from Edmond who has spent the last five years in a military prison after being convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee during questioning won his parole Wednesday morning.
Former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna will be released from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas March 14. The Oklahoman reports Behenna called his parents in Oklahoma City early this morning, telling them he received a letter saying the military denied his clemency request, but approved his parole request.
“They came and got him about 7:30 this morning and gave him a letter to read,” Vicki Behenna said.
She said, “I think he’s in shock. I started crying immediately when he told me. Of course over the phone I can’t see his expression. He would kind of go, ‘Yeah, it’s good, mom. It’s good.”
His parents appeared before the U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board in Washington, D.C. on January 9th with letters of support from Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma's congressional delegation.
Fallin praised the announcement, saying the Army “acted appropriately and compassionately in offering him parole.” The Edmond native was convicted in 2009 of unpremeditated murder in the death of an unarmed Iraqi civilian he had detained to interrogate.
"I am glad this long ordeal has finally come to an end for Michael Behenna and his family,” Fallin said in a statement. “Michael went to Iraq to serve his nation and to defend liberty both here and abroad. Instead, he found himself mourning the loss of his friends from the inside of a cell.”
“Along this journey, the Oklahoma delegation has fought to ensure Michael's rights as a service member to a fair trial, appeal and parole process were protected,” Inhofe said. “Ultimately, the board's latest decision would not have been possible without the dedication and devotion of the Behenna family, their community and friends who remained vigilant throughout the process."
Fifth District U.S. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) says he and his staff worked closely with the military and his fellow GOP House members during the appeals process.
Freshman Second District U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) says civilians can never fully understand the circumstances soldiers encounter every day while in war zones.
The Army officially dismissed Behenna last month. The dismissal had been pending as his appeal worked its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. During the January hearing, his family told board members Behenna would take agriculture classes at Oklahoma State University, and work on a cattle ranch in Western Oklahoma.
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