Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leavenworth 10: Behenna Family tells Michael's story

"Leavenworth 10" Freedom Ride

“Leavenworth 10″ Freedom Ride

By Earl Glynn on September 4, 2010
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Hundreds on motorcycles and in cars took part in the Leavenworth 10 Freedom Ride on Saturday to raise public awareness of imprisoned U.S. soldiers at Ft. Leavenworth

Leavenworth. Vicki Behenna, Oklahoma City, mother of First Lt. Michael Behenna, explained “this Ride and Rally was organized by people who are supporting soldiers who have been charged with combat-related incidents. This ride was organized for the purpose of raising public awareness, so the public begins to understand and know that many of our soldiers are being charged in combat for decisions they make while they’re trying to survive in the combat zone.”

According to Behenna “there are 10 soldiers right now in Ft. Leavenworth and we’re going to be doing this … until all 10 soldiers are home.”

Hundreds attended the event on Saturday from all parts of the U.S. including Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina.

Melanie Dianiska traveled 1200 miles from Charleston, SC to support her son, Corey Clagett, who is imprisoned at Ft. Leavenworth.

According to Dianiska her son “was accused of premeditated murder and killing Iraqi insurgents” but her “son doesn’t deserve to be sentenced to 18 years in Leavenworth for following orders, and we’re trying to make an awareness of what’s going and the treatment the soldiers receive while they are incarcerated.”

Clagett’s attorney, Tim Parlatore, who traveled from New York City to attend the event, said “they do nothing to” the ones giving the orders,” but rather “they’re charging the lowest ranking soldiers — the ones who carry out the orders.” Parlatore said his client had been in solitary confinement for the last four years.

Offering their views in the video above:

  • Vicki Behenna (mom), Oklahoma City, OK
  • Melanie Dianiska (mom), Charleston, SC
  • Tim Parlatore (attorney), New York, NY
  • Jessica and Mark Behenna (aunt and uncle), Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • Retired Lt. Col. Allen B. West, congressional candidate from south Florida
  • Jim Williams, St. Joe, MO, Vietnam war vet

According to the L10FreedomRide press release:

These decorated and committed soldiers/Marines who honorably served their country — achieving a significant number of combat medals over multiple deployments — are now serving sentences ranging between 10 and 40 years. They and their families have fallen victim to the untenable rules of engagement, demoralizing “catch and release” policies, and climate of political correctness that govern our troops’ actions while trying to survive in a combat zone.

While these soldiers/Marines have been judged very harshly by the military, our military leadership is currently releasing imprisoned enemy combatants back to the battlefield. We request the same mercy for these troops, many of whom have been denied clemency time and again. The Leavenworth 10 do not pose any threat and deserve to be returned to their families.

Retired Lt. Col. Allen B. West, who traveled from south Florida to speak at the event, said “this is a very important issue that we need to be talking about.”

West added: “I think there is something systemically wrong with the United State of America on how we continue to prosecute and persecute our warriors. My own episode that I went through in 2003 is the reason why I’m here because I think that will add some credibility and validity to address this issue.”

West is a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress from district FL-22. West received his master’s degree in political science at Kansas State University.

Update on MIchael's Appeal

To all Michael Behenna supporters,

With the Freedom Ride for the Leavenworth 10 almost here I wanted to give all of Michael’s supporters an update on his appeal. Seven long months after Michael’s lawyers filed his brief with the appellate court the government finally filed its response brief on July 20, 2010. As a government lawyer myself I have to say that I am very disappointed in the government’s brief. In my 22 years as a federal prosecutor I have never seen a government lawyer misrepresent facts to an appellate court as was done in this brief. I understand that a lawyer must advocate their position, but as a young lawyer in the Department of Justice I was taught that my primary goal was to seek justice. Justice requires that a prosecutor act fairly, ethically and in all things uphold the constitution which we are sworn to defend.

Unfortunately, the principals of justice and professional ethics have been completely disregarded by the military lawyers in Michael’s case. They seemingly created facts to fit their arguments rather than argue the case on its merits. Michael’s lawyer Jack Zimmerman needed no less than 18 pages in his reply brief to correct the countless misrepresentations of fact repeatedly made by the government. It is a sad day for the military justice system for the government attorneys to be so disingenuous in their arguments.

That being what it is the next step in the appeals process is for oral arguments to be made before the Army Court of Appeals. Once this is done then we wait for their decision which we pray will come before Christmas. We firmly believe that the truth will literally set Michael free when the appellate court applies the rule of law and reverses his conviction. One truth that Michael has learned from this unimaginable experience is that events don’t define a person; rather it is a person’s reaction to those events that defines them. We have seen our son at his best throughout this travesty of justice. He does not wallow in anger or bitterness and is using his time in prison to help those around him and to gain a deeper wisdom beyond his years. To paraphrase a few lines from the poem Invictus, ‘In the fell clutch of circumstance he has not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance his head is bloody, but unbowed.’ Michael is a rock and no amount of injustice will break his unconquerable spirit.

We hope to see many of you at the Leavenworth 10 Freedom Ride and Rally at Leavenworth, Kansas on September 4, 2010. This Rally is going to be very exciting and if you have not already visited www.L10freedomride.com please do as it contains all you need to know about this monumental event. We have participants attending from all over the country and are honored to have Congressional candidate Lt Colonel (R) Allen West as our keynote speaker. Our goal is to bring awareness to the plight of ten young men who served their country bravely on the front lines of the war on terror; eight of whom still find themselves behind bars. We believe their stories deserve to be told and our prayer is that these soldiers, who were all charged with combat related incidents, will be given the same mercy and clemency as the Army is affording members of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Note that the Freedom Ride is open to vehicles and motorcycles alike so please spread the word to join us in Leavenworth on the 4th. For additional details about the route of the Freedom Ride you can read this article in the Leavenworth Times by clicking on www.leavenworthtimes.com/news/x35357254/Rally-planned-for-Leavenworth-10. You can also go to ww.L10freedomride.com to purchase a flag, patch, or t-shirt for the ride to Leavenworth or to simply make a donation to help underwrite this event.

And finally please take a moment and watch Larry Mendte’s piece entitled Is that Justice? It is very thought provoking to say the least. Click on

www.wpix.com/videobeta/5a140145-f50b-4770-8afc-e547720c47a6/News/Lar to watch this video.

Thanks again for your overwhelming support of an American soldier we proudly call our son. We hope to thank you in person at the Freedom Ride on September 4th in Leavenworth.

Scott & Vicki Behenna

Proud Parents of 1LT Michael Behenna

www.defendmichael.com

www.L10freedomride.com

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freedom Ride for the Leavenworth 10

To all Michael Behenna supporters,

The Ride is on!!! FREEDOM RIDE FOR THE LEAVENWORTH 10 is set for September 4, 2010 in Leavenworth, Kansas. Motorcycles and vehicles of all kinds are welcome. A new website has been created to keep you updated on this important and exciting event as well as to tell the stories of each of the Leavenworth 10 soldiers (www.L10freedomride.com.) We already have a commitment from Congressional candidate Lt. Colonel Allen West (Florida) to speak, in addition to the families of the Leavenworth 10. We have received many responses from the media and people who want to participate in this event so we know it is going to be very successful.

The intent of the Freedom Ride is to bring awareness to how our soldiers are being imprisoned for killing the enemy during a time of war which one news commentator compared to ‘giving speeding tickets at a NASCAR race’. These soldiers, serving multiple deployments, are provided complex and ever changing Rules of Engagement and then have to deal with untenable “Catch and Release” policies against an enemy the US military General’s have yet to figure out how to defeat. An enemy that these same General’s have recently decided to release back to the battlefield on a ‘pledge’ that they won’t rejoin the Taliban. This while our soldiers who took actions to protect themselves and their fellow soldiers are imprisoned from 10 to 40 years in Leavenworth and receive no clemency whatsoever.

The FREEDOM RIDE will originate in many states across this nation and culminate in Leavenworth on the morning of September 4th. We will assemble south of Leavenworth on HWY 73 and move in a procession north through the city of Leavenworth and then past the Leavenworth Base and Disciplinary Barracks where our soldiers are being held. We know that traveling long distances on a holiday weekend to participate in this event is not without its challenges; but I want you to know how much this ride means to these soldiers who are imprisoned at Leavenworth. By your show of support each of these soldiers will feel some hope in the knowledge that they have not been forgotten and that you have their back. They have become casualties of war by their own government. We need to show them that ‘we the people’ are fighting to get them exonerated. If you are not able to attend the Freedom Ride then please consider making a donation at www.L10freedomride.com to help underwrite this important event.

As you think about this Independence Day consider that these 10 soldiers love the United States of America and chose to volunteer their service to this country. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedoms we all cherish. Despite the fact that our military has construed their activities to be that of a criminal please know that each of them took action in a war zone because they thought it was the right thing to do and that their actions were not for personal gain. The military’s second-guessing of their actions does not erase the many years of honorable and distinguished service of these soldiers. Please remember each of these 10 soldiers and all our military on this FREEDOM holiday.

Finally, to get an idea of what kind of charismatic leader Lt Colonel Allen West is click on the following link (Speech by Lt Colonel West). This is the kind of leadership we need in Congress.

It’s Time to Stand Up For the Leavenworth 10!!!

Scott and Vicki Behenna

Defendmichael.com

L10freedomride.com

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Outrageous Double Standard!

To the thousands of Michael Behenna supporters,

The New York Times recently reported (see link below) that the US military has initiated a policy to “reintegrate” imprisoned Taliban fighters to their Afghan communities. These Taliban fighters were caught with evidence that they had killed our soldiers, but are released to their families in an active war zone with merely a ‘pledge’ that they will not return to the Taliban. This appears to be the latest attempt to win the hearts and minds of our enemies and taking the ‘catch and release policy’ to a whole new level.

This brings us to Michael’s case. Michael has been incarcerated by the Army for over a year now. We have asked at every level that Michael’s constitutional right to a fair trial be granted so that all the evidence is disclosed to the jury. Doesn’t seem too much to ask for an American citizen who fought for his country does it? Yet Michael’s request for a new trial has been stranded. The Army seems to be in no hurry to have Michael’s case in front of the Army Court of Appeals as they have yet to file their response to Michael’s brief which was filed back in December 2009.

There is a double standard in play here where enemy combatants are given mercy, but our soldiers/Marines are denied mercy. For example, Marine SGT Larry Hutchins whose conviction was overturned several weeks by the Navy Appellate Court is STILL IN CUSTODY while the Navy appeals the decision to the next appellate level.

During the past year we have come to know the families of the other soldiers/Marines who have been charged and convicted of ‘murder’ of Al-Qaeda or insurgents while in a combat zone. We have watched as these soldiers/Marines and their families prepare for clemency hearings before the military clemency boards. (The Armed Forces have a procedure, independent of the appellate process, where an incarcerated soldier/Marine can appear before a clemency board and ask for a reduction of his sentence, or if the individual has served at least 1/3 of his sentence they may request parole.) We have heard the hopelessness in the voices of the families when they learn that their son or husband will not receive ANY reduction in their sentence. It is difficult for these military families to know that based on a ‘solemn’ pledge Taliban fighters are released by the SAME US military leadership and allowed to return home to their families. What message does the US military send when we punish our own soldiers more harshly then we punish the combatants who have killed our brave men and women on the front lines of this war on terrorism?

Many of the soldiers/Marines I am speaking of, including our son, would never find themselves involved in the criminal justice system but for their combat experience. These soldiers/Marines do not have previous criminal histories, and their military records are replete with honorable service including purple hearts, bronze stars, and multiple deployments in defense of our country. Some of these soldiers fell victim to the military’s ‘catch and release’ policy that returns enemy combatants to the battlefield where they return to fight our soldiers time and time again. Yet others were protecting themselves or their men in a combat zone. Even if they made mistakes in judgment during war, should they be sentenced to 10-40 years while the enemy is totally forgiven? Why shouldn’t the SAME military leadership afford our combat soldiers/Marines a second chance!

If the US military will release Taliban fighters simply on a pledge by their families that they will not rejoin the Taliban then we ask the same for our troops. These soldiers/Marines are not a threat to our society and deserve to be home with their families. We ask that you the American public stand with us. Our request is that each of you vouch for these soldiers/Marines and demand that our military extend the same mercy to them as they did to the enemy combatants who are trying to kill our soldiers every day.

Please write a letter to your Senator, Congressman, and the Secretary of Defense and advise them that this double-standard will not be tolerated.

Bless you for your continued support,

Scott and Vicki Behenna

http://www.defendmichael.com



NY Times Article - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/world/asia/24reconcile.html?src=mv

Diana West Article on releasing the Taliban - http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/1415/Clemency-for-Our-Troops.aspx

Please use this link to find you Congressional Delegates:

http://contactingthecongress.org/cgi-bin/newseek.cgi?site=ctc&state=ok

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301-1400

Motorcycle Rally to Leavenworth

To all Michael Behenna supporters,

Today is Michael’s 27th birthday. While he won’t be ‘celebrating’ it in any real sense (no cake and candles in prison), his spirits have been incredibly lifted by the hundreds and hundreds of cards of letters he’s received in the just the past week alone. He is overwhelmed by your support and personally wanted us to tell you how much it means to him.

As mentioned in the last newsletter, we are still eagerly awaiting the Military response to Michael’s appeal, which will allow Michael’s appeal to be docketed and hopefully, by this summer, be argued before the Army Court of Appeals. In the meantime, we continue to encourage Michael’s supporters to contact their Senators and Congressmen. These Congressional Delegations will be vital to ensure the Army handles Michael’s case properly moving forward. Your assistance thus far has produced many important connections and unleashed scrutiny of Michael’s case we would not have thought possible.

It is estimated that more American soldiers have been charged with war crimes related to the war in Iraq than in previous wars combined! Many believe that this is the result of the current Washington policy to prosecute members of the military for a political purpose—pandering to the Iraqi government. In an effort to build awareness to this perversion, we are considering organizing a motorcycle/vehicle Rally to Ft. Leavenworth in early fall, 2010. Michael is among ten decorated soldiers (coined the Leavenworth 10) in Leavenworth prison who have been wrongfully charged and convicted for murdering Al-Qaeda or insurgents. Their convictions are not publicized, but we have come to know each of their stories and they all answered the call of their country to defend our values and way of life against an enemy who wishes to destroy us. After defending themselves or their fellow soldiers/Marines in a combat zone, they have fallen victim to untenable Rules of Engagement, demoralizing “Catch and Release” policies, and political correctness that left them abandoned by the country they fought for.

Many of Michael’s supporters have contacted us for additional ways to help. This rally will aid Michael and the other Leavenworth 10 in creating awareness for those who have not heard their stories. We envision this Rally to begin in at least the following 12 states; Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and culminate in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Due to the significance of 9/11 to these soldiers call to duty, we are considering holding the event the weekend before, on Labor Day 9/4/2010. Before we finalize our plans, we would like to know if you would assist in the following areas:

Help put together the event in Leavenworth

Help coordinate a state leg of this journey to Leavenworth

Design and maintenance of a web site

Help sponsor the event (not necessary to attend)

Graphic Design (t-shirts, signs, flyers)

Most importantly - make the ride to Leavenworth (motorcycles and vehicles would be welcome)

Please reply about your interests and we will build a database of who can help us on this event. We are also very interested in your thoughts and ideas about this event! The size of this event is dependent upon those involved and our ability to attract other concerned Patriots. This rally is a way to show these soldiers that we appreciate their unselfish service to our country and they are not forgotten. Please consider being a part of the show of support these men never received from our country when they returned home from war.

The proud parents of an American hero. Happy Birthday Michael!!!

Scott and Vicki Behenna

www.defendmichael.com

Another Birthday Behind Bars In Leavenworth

To the thousands of supporters of Michael Behenna,

Many of you have been asking about the latest on Michael's appeal. Michael’s appellate brief was filed on December 22, 2009 and the military’s response brief was due January 21, 2010. The military asked for and was granted a three-month extension to April 21, 2010. Then sometime in early April the military filed for and received yet another three-month extension making their response brief not due until July 22, 2010! But most amazing of all was that the extension was granted without notice being provided to Michael’s attorneys to argue against it.

From the start of this hell we have tried to put our trust in the military justice system. But time and time again this ‘justice’ system has failed this young man who defended our liberties in the face of a ruthless enemy. First it was the withholding of evidence in Michael’s trial and now this. The government will have had seven months to respond to Michael’s appellate brief when it should have taken only seven weeks. It appears to us that the Army is deliberately doing everything it can to delay Michael’s appeal process. And for what end you ask? We may never know, just as we may never know what was really behind the Army prosecuting Michael in the first place. But in the face of these delay tactics we have become even more convinced of the strength of Michael’s appeal (which the military is struggling to counter.) As Thomas Paine wrote, 'Tyranny is not easily conquered, but our consolation is that the harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.'

Despite everything Michael is faring well. He draws strength from the many letters he receives and your continued correspondence will help him leave Leavenworth the way he arrived – with his head held high. Michael ‘celebrates’ his 27th birthday behind bars on May 18th. This will be his second birthday in Leavenworth Prison and is yet another reminder of how long he has been away from family and friends. Please consider sending Michael a birthday card to let him know he is not forgotten and to encourage him to keep the faith. You can send your cards and letters to:

Michael Behenna #87503

1300 N. Warehouse Road

Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304


Finally, good news was received this week concerning the two Navy SEALS exonerated of injuring an Al Qaeda leader. In addition, Sgt Larry Hutchins, a Marine held at Leavenworth, had his case overturned in the Navy Court of Appeals. These men are decorated heroes who have served this country honorably and deserve our support. It is my hope that the pendulum is truly swinging back in favor of our soldiers and away from a capricious and political military justice system led by people who have NEVER been in harms way. Please continue to contact your Congressmen and Senators and let them know that our soldiers deserve our unending support, especially when they are defending themselves in a combat zone.

Bless each of you for supporting all of our troops,

Sincerely,

Scott and Vicki Behenna

Proud Parents of 1LT Michael Behenna