Clint Lorance

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Clint Lorance
Born
Clint Allen Lorance

(1984-12-13) December 13, 1984 (age 36)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUniversity of North Texas
OccupationU.S. Army first lieutenant in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division
Allegiance United States of America
Criminal penalty2 counts second-degree murder, attempted murder, wrongfully communicating a threat, reckless endangerment, soliciting a false statement, obstructing justice; sentenced to 19 years; pardoned after 6 years' confinement
Details
DateJuly 2, 2012 (2012-07-02)
Location(s)Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Target(s)Afghans
Killed2

Clint Allen Lorance (born December 13, 1984) is a former United States Army officer who is known for having been convicted and pardoned for war crimes.[1]

While serving as a first lieutenant in the infantry in the War in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division in 2012, Lorance was charged with two counts of second-degree murder after he ordered his soldiers to open fire on three Afghan men who were on a motorcycle. He was found guilty by a court-martial in 2013 and sentenced to 20 years in prison (later reduced to 19 years by the reviewing commanding general).[2][3][4] He was confined in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for six years.

In 2015, Lorance became a cause célèbre among conservative commentators and activists.[5][6] Fox News personalities, in particular Sean Hannity, advocated for Lorance to be pardoned.[7] Lorance was eventually pardoned by President Donald Trump on November 15, 2019.[8][1]

Early life[edit]

Lorance was born and raised in the small town of Hobart, Oklahoma, and lived in Jackson County, Oklahoma.[2][9][10][11] His father Tracy is a welder, and his mother Anna was a stay-at-home mom.[2][12]

After a deployment in Iraq, he attended the University of North Texas, and graduated in 2010, becoming the first college graduate in his family.[2][9][11] Lorance then lived in Celeste, Texas, and Merit, Texas, in Hunt County, Texas.[12][13][14]

Military career[edit]

On his 18th birthday Lorance enlisted in the U.S. Army.[2][12] He was stationed first in South Korea for two years as a traffic officer, and then in Iraq, where he served for 15 months guarding detainees.[2][9][15] After graduating from college with his bachelor's degree, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2010,[2][15][16] and subsequently promoted to first lieutenant.[9] In March 2012 he was deployed to a small outpost in southern Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division.[2][15][17]

Shooting[edit]

Another lieutenant in the 4th Brigade Combat Team was wounded in a roadside bombing by shrapnel; one of four injuries the platoon suffered in a matter of days. The 28-year-old was chosen as his replacement, and became the platoon leader of 1st Platoon, C Troop.[2][9][15][17][18][19][20]

In his short time as Platoon Leader, Lorance engaged in tactics that drew scrutiny at his later court-martial. On June 30, 2012, Lorance threatened a farmer and a small boy by pointing a rifle at the boy. On July 1, 2012, Lorance ordered two of his soldiers to fire at the villagers and instructed one of his NCOs to provide a false report to the Troop TOC (Tactical Operations Center).[21]

Early the next day, on July 2, 2012, Lorance and his patrol went on his second combat patrol, with most of his two dozen soldiers on foot.[2][10][12][15][16][22] The patrol entered the same location in which they had been fired upon, in a dangerous valley in a Taliban-controlled volatile area of Zhari District in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.[2][10][12][15][16][22] The area was a hotbed of Taliban insurgent activity.[20]

In a post-conviction legal filing, a U.S. government contractor, Kevin Huber, claimed to have observed the area through cameras on a stationary blimp.[20] He wrote: "I saw three fighting-aged males shadowing the American patrol at a distance of about 300 meters (980 ft). In my experience, they had every indication of Taliban or insurgent fighters because they were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and using ICOM radios while moving along the back wall of the village toward the American position."[20] According to the Army Times article reporting Huber's claim, "Court records do not indicate that those motorcyclists—if they were indeed the same ones who Lorance later ordered soldiers to shoot—were armed at the time of the shooting."[20]

Daniel Gustafson, who served as the Battalion command sergeant major over Lorance's platoon, testified that he was 100 percent confident that Lorance's platoon was being scouted for an impending attack. He noted that:

"the three Taliban scouts riding the motorcycle approached Lorance’s platoon from the Northeast ... several insurgents were using ICOM radios and maneuvering into fighting positions to the North, and ... a motorcycle rider came down to the West who was stopped, detained, and was found to have [homemade explosive material] on his hands".[20]

Three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle were near the platoon.[2][10][12][16][20][22] Lorance said that the motorcycle was just seconds away from his troops.[15] His soldiers testified that the motorcycle was spotted approximately 600 feet (180 m) away, and several testified that the motorcycle could not have reached the platoon's position.[5][23] Attorneys for Lorance attempted to cast doubt on four of the soldiers' accounts, arguing that they were granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.[5] The other five soldiers who testified against Lorance did not receive immunity.[17]

One of Lorance's soldiers asked if it was acceptable to open fire on the men on the motorcycle, and Lorance, suspecting the approaching men were insurgents, responded "yes."[2][12][22] Private David Shilo said: "I was given a lawful order."[2] At trial, Private Skelton was attributed as spotting the motorcycle and he stated that "there was no reason to shoot at that moment in time that presented a clear, definitive hostile intent and hostile act."[24]

The American soldier opened fire and missed. The three Afghans then dismounted and walked towards the Afghan National Army soldiers who were at the front of the mixed US-Afghan patrol, who gestured for the three men to leave. A second U.S. soldier then opened fire and killed two of the Afghans.[2][10][20] Lorance said later: "I made the best decision I could make, given the conditions on the ground. I would make the same exact decision again today if I was faced with that decision."[25]

Court-martial proceedings[edit]

Lorance was investigated after the soldiers in his platoon reported the incident.[2] Lorance was charged nine months later, though the soldiers who fired the shots were not themselves charged.[2][12] He was tried in August 2013 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.[2] Nine members of his platoon testified against him.[5]

Lorance never testified in the court hearings, though he did take responsibility for his men's actions. Lorance's lawyer said Lorance's actions were justified by the threat level at the time, by the information conveyed to him by Army helicopter pilots that insurgents were loitering on three sides of the platoon, and by intelligence reports that men on motorcycles were presumed to be Taliban members, which led him to believe that the men on the motorcycle were Taliban suicide bombers and an imminent threat.[2][9][22]

At the end of a three-day trial, in August 2013 the 28-year-old Lorance was found guilty by a military judge of two counts of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, and other charges "related to a pattern of threatening and intimidating actions toward Afghans" as the platoon's leader.[2][3][10] He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay, and dismissal from the Army.[3]

Appeals and post-conviction developments[edit]

Lorance greeting President Donald Trump in December 2019

In December 2014, an attorney for Lorance filed pleadings alleging that Lorance was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct.[26] On January 5, 2015, the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, Major General Richard D. Clarke, completed a review, upheld Lorance's conviction, and directed one year off Lorance's original sentence of 20 years' confinement due to post-trial delay.[8]

United American Patriots (UAP), a non-profit group that defends U.S. soldiers accused of war crimes, assisted Lorance on his appeal.[27][28] The group, led by retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel David Gurfein, said it assists the accused personnel it believes might not be receiving due process.[28][29] The publicity spurred by Lorance's case helped the UAP increase its fundraising by 150%.[27]

In September 2015, defense attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals for a new trial, arguing that evidence linking the two killed Afghans to terror networks was left out of Lorance's court-martial proceedings.[30] They argued that biometric evidence showed that one of the men on the motorcycle was linked to an improvised explosive device incident prior to the shooting, a second rider was also involved in an insurgent attack, and the third rider was connected to a hostile action against U.S. troops.[20] The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Lorance's appeal in June 2017, ruling that the evidence would not have been admissible at trial, and even if it had, it would not have helped Lorance's case.[31][32]

Pardon[edit]

Pardon of Clint Lorance

Campaign for Pardon[edit]

Lorance became a cause célèbre among conservative commentators and activists.[5][6] In January 2015, supporters of Lorance created a petition on the White House website asking President Barack Obama to grant a presidential pardon to Lorance. It received 124,966 signatures.[33] In its response to the petition, the White House said that requests for executive clemency for federal offenses should be directed to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.[33]

Supporters of Pardons[edit]

Republican Party of Louisiana[edit]

In 2017 the Republican Party of Louisiana passed a unanimous resolution in 2017 in support of Lorance's exoneration.[34] Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, as well as Representatives Garret Graves, Mike Johnson, Clay Higgins, Ralph Abraham, and Steve Scalise all called upon Trump to release Lorance.[35] At Trump's direction, Graves called Lorance's mother from Air Force One on November 14, 2019 to tell her about the impending pardon.[36]

Congressional caucus forms[edit]

Representative Louie Gohmert founded the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus with the goal to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On August 9, 2019, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Norman, Scott Perry, Duncan D. Hunter, Jody Hice, Paul Gosar, Mark Meadows, Brian Babin, Daniel Webster, and Steve King sent a letter to the Army Clemency and Parole Board urging Lorance's release.[37]

Judge Advocate General's Investigation[edit]

On October 21, 2019, nine members of the Congressional Justice for Warriors sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan McArthy urging the Secretary to launch in investigation as to the conduct of Brigadier General Joseph B. Berger III, then the Chief Judge of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.[38] The letter alleges violations of "ethical canons of judicial conduct."[39]

In March 2018, one of Lorance's defense attorneys, lawyer and author Don Brown, published a book in 2019 entitled Travesty of Justice: The Shocking Prosecution of Lt. Clint Lorance. In it he argued that the Army did not permit the jury to consider evidence showing that Afghan National Army soldiers accompanying Lorance's patrol began firing at the motorcycle first, and that the Army kept biometric evidence from the jury that suggested that the motorcycle riders were Taliban bombmakers.[40] Brown frequently urged on Fox News that President Donald Trump should free Lorance.[41][42][43][44]

In October 2019, Lorance's case was featured in the Starz documentary series Leavenworth, the only documentary known to exist featuring footage inside the secretive United States Disciplinary Barracks.[45]

President Trump pardon[edit]

On November 15, 2019, President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Lorance, and he was released from prison after serving six years.[1][13][46] Fox News covered Lorance extensively prior to the pardon. Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Pete Hegseth reportedly played a leading roles in persuading Trump to pardon Lorance.[7] [47]Many Republican members of Congress had urged Trump to grant executive clemency.[46] Trump described Lorance as a hero operating in difficult circumstances.[6]

Life after release from prison[edit]

Public statements[edit]

Following his release, Lorance appeared on media thanking Trump and accusing leaders at the Pentagon of being part of the "deep state."[48] Lorance also appeared in late 2019 at a political fundraising event in Florida, and in early 2020 at another in Chicago where he toured a congressional district speaking on behalf of dairy magnate, state senator and congressional candidate Jim Oberweiss. [49][50] In June 2021, Lorance published his second book Conservative Millennial Playbook[51]

Memoir[edit]

In September 2020, Center Street published his memoir Stolen Honor: Falsely Accused, Imprisoned, and My Long Road to Freedom. [52] In the book, Lorance claims to have been made a "scapegoat for a corrupt military hierarchy."[53]

Law School[edit]

In 2020, Lorance became a student in the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Philipps, Dave (November 15, 2019). "Trump Pardons Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Londoño, Ernesto (August 2, 2013). "Army officer convicted in shooting deaths of 2 Afghans". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Ramsey, John (August 2, 2013). "Army first lieutenant found guilty of murder, other charges for actions in Afghanistan". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Alberto Luperon (October 26, 2020). "Clint Lorance Says He Wants to Be a Lawyer". Law & Crime. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  5. ^ a b c d e Phillipps, Dave (February 24, 2015). "Cause Célèbre, Scorned by Troops". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Wu, Nicholas; Fritze, John (November 16, 2019). "Donald Trump pardons Clint Lorance, Mathew Golsteyn in war crime cases". USA Today. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Jaffe, Greg; Post, The Washington (2020-07-02). "For the forgotten men of 1st Platoon, Trump's pardon of an officer they helped convict of murder is a crushing betrayal". Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
  8. ^ a b Tan, Michelle (January 5, 2015). "Conviction stands for LT convicted in Afghan slayings". Army Times. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Fort Bragg soldier accused of murder fighting for freedom," WRAL, July 29, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Raache, Hicham (November 16, 2019). "Trump pardons Oklahoma soldier in prison for ordering deaths of unarmed Afghan civilians". KFOR. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Casteel, Chris (March 18, 2013). "Oklahoma-born Army officer faces murder charges from 2012 incident in Afghan village". The Oklahoman. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "North Texas soldier accused of murder for wartime order". WFAA. May 8, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "North Texas Soldier Pardoned After Serving 6 Years In Prison For 2nd-Degree Murder". CBS Dallas / Fort Worth. November 17, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  14. ^ Cowie, Brian. "Army Lt. Clint Lorance returns home to Merit". eExtra News. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Philipps, Dave (February 24, 2015). "Ex-officer jailed in Afghans' deaths, has supporters − but not in his platoon". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d Kellar, Brad (November 16, 2019). "Clint Lorance receives full pardon". Herald Banner. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Michelle Tan (January 12, 2015). "Hero or murderer? Soldiers divided in 1LT Lorance case," Army Times.
  18. ^ "North Texas soldier found guilty of murder in deaths of Afghani civilians". KVUE. August 1, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Katie Moore (October 19, 2019). "Ex-Army soldier in Leavenworth prison asks Kansas judge to vacate murder conviction," The Kansas City Star.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kyle Rempfer (July 1, 2019). "Army officer convicted of murder in Afghanistan to get another look by civilian court," Army Times.
  21. ^ U.S. v. Lorance, Army 20130679 (US Army Ct. Crim. App. June 27, 2017).
  22. ^ a b c d e David Adams (August 2, 2013). "U.S. soldier convicted of murdering two Afghans is 'scapegoat:' lawyer", Reuters.
  23. ^ Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee (November 15, 2019). "Trump dismisses murder charge against Green Beret, pardons Army officer". NBC News. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  24. ^ U.S. v. Lorance, Army 20130679 (US Army Ct. Crim. App. June 27, 2017).
  25. ^ Choi, David (December 6, 2019). "Army Officer Pardoned by Trump After Murder Conviction Says He Can't Even Get a Job at Walmart". Military.com. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  26. ^ Carr, Nicole (December 26, 2014). "Army prosecutor's credibility questioned in call for Fort Bragg soldier's freedom". ABC News. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  27. ^ a b Greg Jaffe, The Cursed Platoon, The Washington Post (July 2, 2020).
  28. ^ a b Todd South (December 27, 2018). "Nonprofit pushes new appeal for Army lieutenant convicted of war crimes murders," Army Times.
  29. ^ Lamothe, Dan (November 12, 2019). "War-crimes cases: More intervention from Trump could come soon, officials say". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  30. ^ Carr, Nicole (September 23, 2015). "Appeal filed in former Fort Bragg soldier's murder case". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  31. ^ Brooks, Drew (August 17, 2017). "Army court denies appeal for former 82nd officer convicted of Afghan murders". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  32. ^ U.S. v. Lorance, Army 20130679 (US Army Ct. Crim. App. June 27, 2017).
  33. ^ a b "A Response to Your Petition on Pardoning Clint Lorance | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government". petitions.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  34. ^ Crisp, Elizabeth (December 8, 2019). "U.S. Rep. Garret Graves plays key role in helping soldier get presidential pardon, eyes more cases". The Advocate. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  35. ^ correspondent, ELIZABETH CRISP | Washington. "U.S. Rep. Garret Graves plays key role in helping soldier get presidential pardon, eyes more cases". The Advocate. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  36. ^ correspondent, ELIZABETH CRISP | Washington. "U.S. Rep. Garret Graves plays key role in helping soldier get presidential pardon, eyes more cases". The Advocate. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  37. ^ "Gohmert and CJWC Praise President Trump for Taking Action on Military Injustice Cases & Recommend Two More Warriors for Consideration". Louie Gohmert. 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  38. ^ "Gohmert and CJWC Praise President Trump for Taking Action on Military Injustice Cases & Recommend Two More Warriors for Consideration". Louie Gohmert. 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  39. ^ "Gohmert and CJWC Praise President Trump for Taking Action on Military Injustice Cases & Recommend Two More Warriors for Consideration". Louie Gohmert. 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  40. ^ Brown, Don (2019). Travesty Of Justice: The Shocking Prosecution of Lt. Clint Lorance. WildBlue Press. ISBN 978-1948239110. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  41. ^ "Member of the Lorance legal team: We need President Trump to take action". Fox News (video). April 13, 2019.
  42. ^ "New documentary mini-series examines the case of Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance". Fox News (video).
  43. ^ Don Brown (May 7, 2019). "President Trump, please free Army Lt. Clint Lorance, unjustly convicted of murder in Afghanistan," Fox News.
  44. ^ Don Brown (July 1, 2019). "Prosecuting American warriors for killing the enemy undermines 'America first'," Fox News.
  45. ^ "Leavenworth; overview," Starz.
  46. ^ a b "Statement from the Press Secretary". whitehouse.gov (Press release). November 15, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2020 – via National Archives.
  47. ^ reporterEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollow, Greg Jaffe Greg JaffeNational security. "He was convicted of murder, then pardoned by Trump. His troops suffered a different fate". Washington Post. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  48. ^ Choi, David. "He was sentenced to 19 years for war crimes. After his pardon, Clint Lorance is fueling Trump's 'deep state' conspiracy about the US military". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  49. ^ Sweet, Lynn (2020-01-15). "Oberweis pours $1 million into GOP bid; seeks nomination to run against Rep. Underwood". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  50. ^ "Trump brought on stage Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who Trump pardoned last month for cases involving war crimes. Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers shoot at unarmed men in Afghanistan, and Golsteyn was to stand trial for the 2010 extrajudicial killing of a suspected bomb maker". Task & Purpose. 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  51. ^ "Millennial Conservative Playbook". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  52. ^ Clint Lorance (2020). Stolen Honor: Falsely Accused, Imprisoned, and My Long Road to Freedom. Center Street.
  53. ^ "Stolen Honor". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2021-04-30.