Army Officer Gets 20 years for protecting his men in Afghanistan

U.S. soldier convicted of murdering two Afghans is "scapegoat:" lawyer
Fri, Aug 02 21:46 PM EDT
By David Adams
(Reuters) - An army lieutenant found guilty of murdering two Afghan civilians was being used as a "scapegoat" by the U.S. Army, his lawyer said on Friday, predicting that the officer's conviction and a 20-year sentence would be overturned on appeal.
Prosecutors at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, accused 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, 28, of illegally ordering the fatal shootings of two men on motorcycles while on patrol in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in July last year. He was found guilty on Thursday of two counts of murder.
Lorance's attorney, Ret. Lt. Col. Guy Womack, said his client had given a legitimate order to soldiers in his platoon to open fire on the approaching motorcycles, suspecting they were Taliban suicide bombers armed with an improvised explosive device, or IED.
"One of his men asked for permission to fire and he gave the order 'engage.' It was a legitimate operation," said Womack.
"They were attacked outside the wire the day before, and there were intercepted communications that enemy in the area were watching, with radios, pointing out U.S. positions and movements of our men," he said.
Lorance is the second U.S. Army officer charged with murder in a combat death during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post. Most other defendants involved in notorious cases, such as the 2005 Haditha massacre in Iraq, or the Kandahar massacre of 16 civilians in March 2012, were committed by enlisted troops.
Lorance, who joined the Army in 2003, had very little experience in Afghanistan and was on his second combat patrol after having taken command of his platoon only a few days earlier, Womack said.
"The Army is using him as a scapegoat so they can tell the Afghan government the person who killed the civilians is being punished," said Womack.
Lorance was accused of violating the rules of engagement and ordering his men to open fire without first establishing if there was a proper hostile threat.
After the shooting, Lorance tried to hide evidence that the two dead Afghans were carrying proper identity, something the Taliban rarely do. "He told his soldiers to forget they saw the IDs. That was wrong," said Womack.
Prosecutors told the jury that Lorance had been overly aggressive and had threatened to shoot an Afghan farmer the day before during an argument over access to the farmer's land.
Lorance, who grew up in Oklahoma, was also found guilty of the attempted murder of a third Afghan, making an illegal threat, and obstructing the investigation.
Womack said Lorance could be granted clemency by his commanding officer after the trial transcript had been reviewed, and under the military justice system an automatic appeal would be heard.
Several members of his family attended the court martial and vowed to fight for his freedom. His mother Anna Lorance, who lives in Celeste, Texas, has launched an Internet petition, saying her son was "protecting his men" from the Taliban.
(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Ken Wills)

Army Officer Gets 20 Years for Trying to Ensure the Safety of His Troops

AUGUST 2, 2013ROEs by politicians continually condemn our troops for trying to stay safe and keep their fellow troops safe! Army officer gets 20 years’ jail for murder after he ordered troops to open fire on Afghan men approaching their checkpoint – but his lawyers say he was protecting platoon
By David Mccormack and Helen Pow
  • First Lieutenant Clint Lorance was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder on Thursday
  • Prosecutors said Lorance recklessly ordered his men to open fire on three men on a motorcycle approaching his patrol in July 2012, killing two
  • His mom, Anna Lorance, says he was only doing what he had to to ensure the safety of his troops
  • He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the U.S. Army
An Oklahoma Army lieutenant has been found guilty of two counts of murder in connection with a series of shootings in Afghanistan.
A jury at Fort Bragg delivered the verdict against Clint Lorance, an 82nd Airborne Division lieutenant, on Thursday evening and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the U.S. Army. Lorance, 28, was found not guilty of making a false official statement.
Prosecutors said Lorance recklessly ordered his men to open fire immediately, after three men on a motorcycle approached his patrol in southern Afghanistan in July 2012. They said this was in violation of the military’s rules of engagement, which requires soldiers to hold fire unless they have evidence of hostile action or hostile intent.
Two of the men were killed and the third ran away.
Devastated mother Anna Lorance claims her son, First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, is being unfairly victimized by the militaryDevastated: Anna Lorance, right, claims her son, First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, left, has been unfairly victimized by the military
Attorneys for Lorance said he was trying to protect his unit, and the soldier’s supporters have attacked the military for turning a war hero deployed in a volatile and remote corner of Afghanistan into a defendant.
‘To put murder charges on him!’ Lorance’s mother, Anna Lorance, protested in an interview with The Washington Post before the verdict. ‘In war, people die. When you’re in a heated combat zone, you have seconds to think.’
Lorance is only the second Army officer charged with murder in a battlefield death in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His devastated mother had campaigned since the charges were filed that her son was innocent and even created a website to build support for their case.
Clint Lorance
Clint Lorance
 Soldier: First Lieutenant Clint Lorance has been removed from his position and was on Thursday found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder
Anna Lorance claims her son has been unfairly victimized by the military for allegedly ordering troops under his command to illegally shoot the two Afghan villagers. He was immediately removed from his position following the deaths.
‘My son does not deserve this,’ the mom told ABC11 in May. ‘He did the only thing he felt he could do, thinking of his troops and himself, to bring them back home alive.’
The incident happened last July when Lorance, a platoon leader, gave the order for his soldiers to shoot the men as they approached a checkpoint on motorcycles in a remote sector of Kandahar Province.
Even though the platoon was in a combat zone, military prosecutors say the men showed, ‘no indication of a hostile act, or hostile intent.’
Lorance claims he was only trying to protect his platoon.
Clint Lorance's family believe he is being treated unfairly and have launched a website to highlight his caseWebsite: Clint Lorance’s family set up a website to highlight his case
He told his mother he was on high alert, heading into enemy territory, and was getting radio warning from Army pilots patrolling the skies when it happened.
His family believe he has been unfairly treated and have launched a website to highlight his case.
More than 3,000 people from around the world have signed a petition to drop the charges.
‘There’s no way my son could do anything besides give 100 percent of himself to be an officer,’ said Anna Lorance.
Lorance was also accused of making false official statements, ordering illegal harassing fire into a village, obstructing justice and making threats against villagers.
The two soldiers who fired the shots have been reprimanded but won’t have to go through a full court martial.
One of them, Private David Shilo, testified at Lorance’s court martial: ‘I was given a lawful order. My life wasn’t threatened at the time.’

Article submitted by:  Veronica Coffin


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