Oklahoma AG asks President Trump for pardon for convicted former soldier

The attorney general of Oklahoma is seeking a presidential pardon on behalf of a former U.S Army soldier and Oklahoma resident convicted in 2009 of killing a suspected terrorist in a combat zone.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a letter on Monday to President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr that renewed an initial request made in 2018 for a pardon for the paroled soldier.

Pardon for Parolee?

The Army Times reported that former Army Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted a decade ago of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone for the killing of a man suspected of being an al-Qaida operative in Iraq. The suspected terrorist was allegedly killed during a search for those responsible for an IED attack that claimed the lives of two men under Behenna’s command.

Behenna was eventually paroled in 2014 after five years of incarceration for the crime, but remains on parole until 2024.

But Hunter has suggested that the initial conviction of Behenna was unjustified, largely due to erroneous instructions to the jury and the failure of prosecutors to disclose evidence supporting Behenna’s claim of self-defense in the killing.

Now, Hunter is asking for assistance from the president.

Mistakes and misjudgments

According to a press release from Hunter’s office, the problem lies with Justice Department’s advisory regulations, which prohibit certain individuals from even requesting a presidential pardon, including those currently incarcerated, those released within the past five years, and those who are still on parole.

Behenna’s status as a parolee resulted in the 2018 request for a pardon on his behalf being denied.

Hunter argued in his letter to the president and attorney general that that particular regulation unjustly interferes with the president’s otherwise broad power to issue pardons.

“The U.S. Constitution gives the president nearly absolute authority to pardon people from federal crimes,” Hunter wrote. “For DOJ officials to use such strict regulations in determining who can even apply, they are interfering with the president’s prerogative and eliminating the ability for hundreds of thousands of eligible people, like Mr. Behenna, to have their case reviewed.”

“I strongly encourage Attorney General Barr to review and revise the regulations to better align with the president’s authority under the Constitution,” the attorney general continued. “Likewise, I implore President Trump to review Mr. Behenna’s case and strongly consider granting him a pardon.”

Hunter went on to laud Behenna’s service prior to his “mistakes,” writing: “He courageously served his country in combat in Iraq and he has more than paid for his mistakes and misjudgments in attempting to root out terrorism.”

Looking forward

It remains to be seen if Hunter’s request of a pardon for Behenna will be granted or if the constraints of the DOJ regulation will prevail in this case.

Still, given President Trump’s obvious respect for those who serve this nation, odds are good that he will at least try to find a way to sidestep the regulation preventing Behenna from applying for a pardon and ensure that this former soldier’s case is addressed.

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