Michael Behenna watched as people lept from the upper-floors of the North Tower on September 11, 2001, their bodies tumbling earth-bound to certain death. Away from the black-filled rooms, they fell with eyes closed – alone with only their cries for help and final pronouncements of love and despair.
The images seared into Michael Behenna’s blueprint. He became an Army Ranger and deployed to Iraq to fight the terrorists where they lived. Then On March 20, 2009: The unthinkable..
1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was unjustly sentenced to 25 years in Leavenworth for killing Al Qaeda member Ali Mansur. Now, after a 5-year battle – and with a mother’s undying love and the help of patriots like One America’s Rick Amato – Michael Behenna is finally free:
** According to the non-profit United American Patriots there are more young, American soldiers serving prison time for errors on the battlefield than all of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam combined.
Rick Amato has used his show to raise thousands of dollars in legal defense funds for lower level, enlisted military members accused of wrongdoing in the War on Terror and for severely wounded veterans.
The back story:
Michael Behenna told his parents he wanted to enlist in the Army and “fight terrorists.” After Officer Candidate School and Infantry Officer Training, he was selected to attend the U.S. Army’s Ranger School. Behenna was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as a platoon leader and deployed to Iraq in 2007.
- May 5, 2008: Based on information from US Army intelligence, LT Behenna’s platoon detained known terrorist Ali Mansur at his home for the attack on LT Behennaʼs platoon. Mansur had illegal weapons and a passport indicating trips to Syria.
- May 16, 2008: Without explanation, Army Intelligence ordered the release of Mansur.
- LT Behenna, who lost two members of his platoon just weeks earlier, was ordered to transport Mansur to his home.
- LT Behenna attempted a final field interview of Mansur prior to his release.
- During the interview, Mansur attacked LT Behenna, and LT Behenna reacted to defend himself by firing two shots which killed Mansur.
- July 2008: The U.S. Army charged LT Behenna with premeditated murder for the death of the Al Qa’ida operative and terrorist Ali Mansur
- February 23, 2009: 1Lt. Behennaʼs trial begins.
- Defense experts testify that Mansur was standing with his arm outstretched when shot.
- On the evening of February 25th, prosecution expert witness Dr. Herbert MacDonell told the prosecution attorneys the only logical explanation for what happened was that Mansur had to be standing, reaching for LT Behennaʼs gun when he was shot. This contradicted the prosecution’s theory that Mansur was executed while seated on a rock.
- On February 26th LT Behenna testified that while he was interrogating Mansur he turned his head towards his interpreter, and when he did, Mansur lunged for his gun. The LT fired a controlled pair of shots. This explanation was identical to what Dr. MacDonell told the prosecution team in a private meeting the night before.
- During a recess after 1LT Behennaʼs testimony, Dr. MacDonell met with the prosecution team and told them again that the LT’s testimony was exactly what he had demonstrated to Prosecutors the day before and that the LT must be telling the truth. The prosecutors sent Dr. MacDonell home to New York. Leaving the courtroom, Dr. MacDonell told defense counsel he would have made a great witness for LT Behenna.
- The defense counsel asked prosecutors if they have any exculpatory evidence about Dr. MacDonell, and the prosecutors denied possession of such evidence.
- In the prosecution’s closing arguments they argued LT Behennaʼs testimony that Mansur was reaching for his gun was “impossible” based upon the evidence (despite knowing that their own expert witness had told him it was the only logical explanation.)
- Later that Friday night a military panel of seven officers, none of whom had combat experience, convicted LT Behenna of unpremeditated murder and assault.
Behenna, who learned Arabic in his spare time, was known for his efforts to engage Iraqi civilians, and he encouraged his soldiers to learn about their culture and eat their food. “He was the type of guy that liked Iraqis,” Spc. Cody Atkinson told the Los Angeles Times. “That was the only annoying thing about him. He was always about saving the country.”
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Rick Amato is an award-winning television talk show host for One America News. He has been called ‘a rising star of the conservative movement’ by former Executive Editor of The Washington Times John Solomon.
His columns have appeared at Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, Politico, Real Clear Politics and Townhall.com.