The White House announced Monday night, President Donald Trump would be granting clemency to a former Army Ranger from Edmond who was convicted of the murder of an Iraqi man while serving in the Iraq war.
Michael Behenna was released on parole in 2014 and wasn't set to be fully released until 2024, but the fight for his release has been a decade in the making and not without controversy.
Behenna was convicted of the un-premeditated murder of an Iraqi man in 2009. The man was being held prisoner as a suspected terrorist with connection to a roadside bomb that killed members of Behenna's platoon. The military was unable to find evidence the prisoner was connected to the bombing.
Behenna was supposed to be escorting the Iraqi man back to his village. Instead, he stripped him naked, interrogated him without authorization along the side of the road and shot him twice, according to reports of the incident. Behenna maintains the shooting was in self-defense claiming the prisoner attempted to lunge for his firearm.
In the official White House statement Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "Behenna's case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public."
He has garnered favor with dozens of former military leaders, former Governor Mary Fallin (R), Attorney General Mike Hunter. Hunter has a close relationship with Behenna’s mother, fmr. US Attorney Vicki Behenna.
Both Oklahoma Senators praised the presidential pardon.
"Michael now gets a clean slate and a second chance at life," Sen. James Lankford (R) wrote. In a statement of his own Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) wrote, “[Behenna] served his time and the president has granted him a clean slate and a fresh start.”
Attorney General Mike Hunter also praised the President's decision saying "[Behenna] has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on." Hunter wrote a letter in 2018 asking the Mr. Trump to review Behenna's case. At the time Hunter wrote some of Behenna's actions were "undoubtedly wrong and condemnable" although did not think he deserved to remain a convicted killer.
After learning of his pardon Behenna said "I cannot thank President Trump enough for his act of mercy."