John E. Hatley
John E. Hatley is a former Master Sergeant in the United States Army serving a 40-year sentence in the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks for the murder of four Iraqi detainees. Hatley was originally sentenced to life with the chance for parole. Hatley is colloquially associated with a group of US military personnel convicted of war crimes known as the "Leavenworth 10".
Early life and education
Hatley was born in Decatur, Texas in 1968 to Darryl and Ann Hatley. One of five children, Hatley dropped out of high school and joined the United States Army, graduating Basic Training at Fort Benning in December 1989. He later earned his GED and attended the University of Maryland while on active duty.
After basic training Hatley was assigned to the Army's 101st Airborne Division and deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1999 Hatley deployed with the 5th Cavalry Regiment to Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2001 Hatley again deployed to the Balkans this time as part of Operation Joint Guardian II in Kosovo. The first of Hatley's two deployments to Iraq came in 2004 where he worked in the 1st Infantry Division's Operations section. His second deployment was as the First Sergeant of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment.
2006 Deployment to Iraq
Hatley was patrolling with his unit in the al Rashid district of Baghdad when they came under small arms fire. As the unit moved to storm a building, later found to contain small arms and explosives, four Shi'ite fighters associated with the Mahdi Army were caught fleeing the building and placed into custody. The four detainees were taken back to the unit's staging area when Hatley's unit received word from their chain of command that the four men were likely to be released due to insufficient evidence. According to the allegations, Hatley and two other senior non-commissioned officers took the four men to a remote location, handcuffed and blindfolded and placed them on their knees before shooting all four in the back of the head. The bodies were subsequently dumped into a canal. All members of the platoon were interviewed and admitted to either participating or witnessing the murders.
Prior to the beginning of the investigations into the murders, Hatley became involved in the Scott Thomas Beauchamp controversy. Hatley was serving as Beauchamp's Company First Sergeant in Iraq at the time that Beauchamp authored a diary published as an article in The New Republic, an American political magazine. Subsequently a conservative blogger, looking for information on Beauchamp's claims, initiated an email exchange with Hatley. Hatley's response refuting Beauchamp's stories was then published. Hatley was also involved in the Army's official criminal investigation into the article in The New Republic as necessitated by his position as the senior non-commissioned officer in Beauchamp's company.
In April 2009 a U.S. Army court in Vilseck, Germany found Hatley guilty of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder over the killings at the canal in Baghdad. According to testimony given at his trial, Hatley, Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo and Sergeant Michael Leahy had transported the detainees to a western neighborhood of the Al Rashid district in Baghdad, shot the bound and blindfolded men in the back of the head and then dumped their bodies in a canal. At the time of the murders the three American soldiers were assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment. Hatley was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole after 20 years. He was reduced in rank to private, dishonorably discharged and forfeited all pay and allowances.
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