EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been following the case of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna since 2009. In addition, I wrote a book, Three Days In August, about Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, another wrongfully-convicted man he befriended while both served time behind the walls of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Today, I share an email from someone very familiar with his case:
To the thousands of Michael supporters,
My name is David Wahl. I am the father of Michael Behenna’s girlfriend Shannon Wahl and run the DefendMichael.com website. I have known Michael for several years going back to when Michael and Shannon first started dating. I attended Michael’s officer school graduation at Fort Benning, his Ranger school graduation, and his deployment to Iraq from Fort Campbell. I was in the courtroom for Michael’s trial for premeditated murder at Fort Campbell, including the moment when a jury of seven non-combat officers convicted him of unpremeditated murder. I witnessed the stunned look of betrayal on Michael’s face. I was in that same courtroom again three weeks later when the trial judge denied a request for a mistrial on a Brady Law violation (the government had withheld evidence.) And I was in the small room at the back of that courtroom with Michael and his family for his last thirty minutes of freedom before he was taken away.
These past four years that Michael has sat in a small prison cell at Fort Leavenworth have been a tortuous journey for those closest to him – but as you can imagine, most of all for his parents Vicki and Scott. They have endured the emotional pain of seeing their son treated as a criminal at the hands of a broken and blind military justice system, of five hour drives to ‘celebrate’ birthdays and holidays in a noisy visitation center, of the heartbreak of one court ruling after another go against Michael, of bizarre prison rules that change from visit to visit and which make civilian prisons look like Club Med.
But beyond the emotional toll that the Behenna’s have carried is the financial burden of taking on the United States government that has unlimited resources at their disposal (our tax dollars hard at work.) Starting with the original trial to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces [sic] appeal which we lost by a narrow 3-2 vote the Behenna’s have spent well over $400,000 in their fight for their son’s freedom. I know that so many of you have already graciously stepped forward and lightened this financial burden, but unfortunately a significant shortfall remains. And if the Supreme Court decides to hear Michael’s case that shortfall will grow by at least another $100,000.
The Behenna’s are a proud family and asking for financial support is not something they are comfortable doing, especially given how many people are in need today, including so many fellow Oklahomans devastated by the recent tornadoes. So I humbly ask each of you who believe in Michael’s cause, to consider giving a few dollars to his legal fund, which can be found on his web site at DefendMichael.com. If each one of the thousands of supporters of Michael gave $20 then the Behenna’s would be able to cover most of the current deficit. Donations can be made through PayPal on Michael’s web site, or if you prefer you can mail a check directly to his Michael’s defense fund at:
Michael Behenna Legal Defense Fund
c/o Jack Dawson, co-trustee
100 Park Avenue, Second Floor
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102-8099
Please know that your support for Michael, whether in the form of a donation, a card, or a letter, is appreciated more than words can say. For Michael and his parents this difficult journey has only been possible because of the outpouring of support from all of you. It has sustained them in their darkest hours, of which there have been many. Finally, please keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers as we await the ultimate decision by the highest court in the land on whether they will hear Michael’s case.
I remain, now and forever, a proud supporter of a young man who some day I hope will be my son-in-law.