MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 7, 2013

Parents of convicted soldier to testify in DC

— OKLAHOMA CITY — The parents of an Oklahoma soldier convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner are hoping the Army Clemency and Parole Board will reduce his sentence to time served.

In Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the board heard an appeal on behalf of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna. The 29-year-old from Edmond has been in a military prison since 2009, serving a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of unpremeditated murder for killing an unarmed Iraqi man.

Behenna said he shot the man when he lunged for Behenna's gun. The Army argues that Behenna could not claim self-defense because he was pointing his weapon at the prisoner when the man allegedly reached for the gun.

"We asked for time served," Vicki Behenna, Michael Behenna's mother, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. She attended the hearing with her husband, Scott. "It'll be four years in March and that's enough for this incident."

Prosecutors said Behenna took detainee Ali Monsour Mohammed to a secluded railroad culvert and shot him execution-style after interrogating the man at gunpoint about an April 2008 roadside bombing that killed two men under Behenna's command.

"Michael violated an order and went out to interview this man. He didn't do that to try and kill him but to get information to try to save his troops," Vicki Behenna said. "It obviously went badly.

"Just understand what a young officer goes through in combat," she said in reference to her son, who was 24 at the time.

The board asked few questions, Behenna said, and a ruling is not expected for about two weeks.

She said her son, herself and her husband are doing well.

"He's still very grounded and very centered and forward-thinking, 'I'm going to get out of here someday,' I don't know when that's going to be ... we're doing well because Michael is doing well," she said.

The Behennas are also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but that is considered a "long shot," said Vicki Behenna, who is a veteran federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Oklahoma City.

"They hear 1 percent of cases filed annually, they haven't taken a military case in 10 years or so."

The court postponed a scheduled Feb. 15 conference to discuss the case after asking the government for a response. Behenna said she doesn't expect to learn for several months whether the court will accept the case.

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