John E. Hatley

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John E. Hatley
Born (1968-07-30) July 30, 1968 (age 53)
Decatur, Texas, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUpper Iowa University
EmployerU.S. Army
Known forWar crimes
Criminal statusFreed
Allegiance United States of America
Conviction(s)Premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder
Criminal penaltyLife in prison with opportunity for parole (later reduced to 40 years), reduction to E-1, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
DateMarch, 2007
Location(s)Al Rashid district, Baghdad, Iraq
Date apprehended
February 2008

John E. Hatley is a former first 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.[1] Hatley is colloquially associated with a group of US military personnel convicted of war crimes known as the Leavenworth 10.[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Hatley was born in Decatur, Texas, in 1968 to Darryl and Ann Hatley. One of five children, Hatley dropped out of Groesbeck 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.[5]

Military education[edit]

Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course, Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Bradley Master Gunner School, Bradley Fighting Vehicle Leaders Course, Senior Instructor Operator Course, Bradley Crew Evaluator Course, Jungle Operations Training, Unit Armor Course, Combat Lifesaver Course. German Head Start, Combative Instructor[6]

Military career[edit]

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.[5]

2006 Deployment and murder allegations[edit]

Hatley and his unit were on patrol in the al Rashid district of Baghdad when they came under small-arms fire. They moved in to counterattack the building and captured four Shi'ite fighters (later associated with the Mahdi Army) attempting to flee.[7] The detainees were taken back to the unit's staging area, when the 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 noncommissioned officers took the four men to a remote location, handcuffed and blindfolded them, and placed them on their knees before shooting all four in the back of the head. Their bodies were subsequently dumped into a canal.[8] Members of Hatley's unit were later interviewed, and some said they participated or witnessed the murders.[8]

Previously, Hatley was involved in the 2007 Scott Thomas Beauchamp controversy. Hatley was serving as Beauchamp's company first sergeant when Beauchamp authored a diary published as an article in The New Republic. 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.[9] As Beauchamp's senior NCO, Hatley was interviewed during the Army's criminal investigation into The New Republic allegations.[citation needed]

Court martial[edit]

Pretrial conditions and trial timeline[edit]

In January 2008, after appellant's unit returned to their home station in Schweinfurt, Germany, one of the soldiers reported the murders. On 18 January 2008, appellant's battalion commander gave appellant an order to have no contact with the other soldiers in his company until the investigation was complete. The commander also ordered appellant to remain under the supervision of his command sergeant major (CSM, the most senior ranking NCO of battalion and higher units) until he was interviewed by Army criminal investigators the following day and to remain on the installation.

Appellant continued his preparations for reassignment, cleared his family quarters, and placed his household goods in shipment. In February 2008, however, his orders were revoked and he was assigned to live in bachelor quarters at a soon-to-close installation in Würzburg, Germany, about a 30-minute drive from Schweinfurt. Appellant was denied leave to accompany his wife back to the U.S. His wife returned to live with appellant in Germany a few weeks later. By April, appellant was again assigned family quarters in Schweinfurt and received his household goods from storage.

From February to May 2008, appellant's primary duty was to report daily to his CSM. From February to April, appellant drove himself from Würzburg to Schweinfurt. Appellant's CSM sought an appropriate position for appellant, and in late May or early June 2008, appellant began duties at the housing office in Schweinfurt, where he worked until his trial in April 2009. During this time, appellant was granted several leaves, but he was not permitted to travel outside Germany.

On 16 September 2008, appellant's command preferred court-martial charges against appellant. On 8 October 2008, appellant waived his right to an Article 32 pretrial investigation hearing (a prerequisite to trial by general court-martial). The convening authority referred appellant's case to a general court-martial on 5 January 2009. Appellant was arraigned on 11 January 2009, 119 days after referral of charges. At arraignment, appellant requested a trial date in early February 2009. Over defense objection, the military judge set trial for 13 April 2009 based on the government's request to complete the trials of multiple co-accuseds, including SFC Mayo and SGT Leahy, whose trials had not yet concluded. In February 2009, Sergeant Leahy pled not guilty, but was found guilty of premeditated murder and was sentenced, as required by UCMJ Art. 118, to a mandatory sentence of life in prison, with possibility for parole. In March 2009, SFC Mayo pled guilty to premeditated murder in exchange for a pretrial agreement limiting his confinement to 30 years, rather than confinement for life otherwise required for conviction of premeditated murder.[10]


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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[11]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Bronze Star Medal-2, Meritorious Service Medal-2, Valorous Unit Award-2, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, Army Commendation Medal-3, Army Achievement Medal-7, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge- 2, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, German Marine Schutzenschnur (Marksmanship) Badge (Gold), Army Service Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Southwest Asia Service Ribbon w/2 BSS (Bronze Service Star), Saudi Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Saudi Liberation Medal (Kuwait), National Defense Service Medal-2, NCO Professional Development Ribbon-3, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal-S, Overseas Service Ribbon-S, Kosovo Service Medal, NATO Service Medal-2, Overseas Service Bars (Combat Stripes), Marksmanship Badge (Expert)[6]


  1. ^ Chris Ball. "Army gives clemency to U.S.soldier convicted in slaying of 4 Iraqis".
  2. ^ "Rally Supports 'Leavenworth 10'". KMBC. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012.
  3. ^ Earl Glynn. "'Leavenworth 10' families tell their stories". Archived from the original on October 3, 2010.
  4. ^ Earl Glynn. "'Leavenworth 10' Freedom Ride". Archived from the original on September 11, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Hatley's Bio". Defend John Hatley. Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Biography – Free John Hatley". Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  7. ^ von Zielbauer, Paul (August 27, 2008). "U.S. Soldiers Executed Iraqis, Statements Say". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b Langewiesche, William (June 16, 2015). "How One U.S. Soldier Blew the Whistle on a Cold-Blooded War Crime". Vanity Fair.
  9. ^ Beutler, Brian. "Sergeant Who Smeared Fellow Soldier, New Republic Writer Executed Four Iraqi Men". Talking Points Memo. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009.
  10. ^ "United States v. Master Sergeant John E. Hatley, Army 20090329 (A.C.C.A. 2011)". Court Listener. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Robson, Seth (April 17, 2009). "NCO gets life for slaying Iraqi detainees". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  12. ^ "Iraq Developments". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Associated Press.