Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

Former Army officer Michael Behenna discusses his murder conviction and his five-year incarceration at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas during an interview in September 2014.

BONNIE VCULEK | CNHI OKLAHOMA FILE PHOTO

EDMOND, Okla. — Former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna expressed relief and joy when granted a full pardon by President Trump on Monday.

In 2009 Behenna was convicted by a military court for killing an Iraqi prisoner suspected to be loyal to al-Qaida. Behenna a former Army Ranger from Edmond who now lives in Guthrie, was released on parole in 2014 after first being sentenced for 25 years.

“I thank President Trump for his tremendous act of mercy. I also want to express my sincerest gratitude for the incredible outpouring of support for my family, including former Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, my lawyers at King & Spalding, who handled the matter pro bono, and all those members of the public who wrote letters and sent words of encouragement on my behalf,” Behenna stated on his Facebook page.

“Although this brings great peace to my family, we as a country must never forget Adam Kohlhaas and Steven Christofferson and all those who gave their lives in service of this great nation. They represent the finest of our society, and their families will forever be in our thoughts and prayers,” Behenna wrote.

His brother, Curtis Behenna, also stated his joy for Michael’s pardon.

“Today my brother Michael received a call from the POTUS granting him his freedom. Politics aside, a wrong was made right. Thank you to President Trump for making my brother whole. Thank you Mike Hunter for your petition letter. And thank you to those who have supported my brother over the past decade ... we’re lucky to have such wonderful friends and family. Finally, thank you to my brother for jeopardizing his freedom to protect ours,” Curtis stated on Facebook.

Scott Behenna, Michael’s father, stated, “Michael and our whole family are so grateful for all the support provided by our family, friends, and so many of you we have never had the pleasure to meet. Bless you all and we will get together soon to celebrate this momentous day.”

Attorney General Hunter also applauded President Trump’s pardon of Michael Behenna. Hunter has worked behind the scenes to secure Behenna’s release.

“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” Hunter said. “Mr. 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. My hope is that Michael and the rest of his family can rest easy this evening knowing they can put this tragic situation behind them.

“Again, I applaud President Trump and his team for acting on Mr. Behenna’s case and giving him back the freedoms he deserves.”

Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) also issued statements on Behenna’s pardon.

“I’m grateful that the long road for Michael Behenna and his family has finally come to a joyous end,” Lankford said. “Michael now gets a clean slate and a second chance at life. Michael’s family, the Oklahoma congressional delegation, and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter have worked tirelessly for years to ensure Michael received justice throughout this entire painful process.”

Inhofe said, “I want to thank President Trump for reviewing Lt. Behenna’s case and granting him clemency. I am happy for Michael and his family as they close this difficult chapter. He served his time and the president has granted him a clean slate and a fresh start. I wish him all the best for the future.”