My guest today is author Don Snyder. Welcome back to OpEdNews. A few months ago, you and I talked about Lt. Clint Lorance and his incarceration at Leavenworth Prison for actions that took place on the ground in Afghanistan. There have been numerous developments since then. Many readers are unfamiliar with his case. Can you give us the main points before we proceed?
Lt. Lorance was convicted of murder in the deaths of two innocent Afghan males while out on patrol in Kandahar Province on August 1, 2012. He is the only officer convicted of murder of civilians during the thirteen year war. We have evidence now that these were not innocent civilians, but were scouts used by the Taliban that day who planned to ambush Lt. Lorance's patrol.
Who's "we"? And how did you come up with this crucial evidence that the prosecution did not use or share?
Four years before I ever heard the name of this soldier, I had met two brilliant, former JAG lawyers, Lt. Col. John Maher, and Captain John Carr, both of Chicago. I reached out to them and they agreed to represent Lt. Lorance. Using their sources, they have discovered that there were seven male Afghans on the battlefield in Kandahar province that morning and none of them was innocent. We have now tied them to the deaths of 41 US soldiers. And it is clear that they were intending to ambush Lt. Lorance's platoon. This information makes the murder conviction outrageous. Had the jury known the identities of these men, they never would have convicted Lt. Lorance.
I may be naive, but isn't withholding evidence illegal? Wouldn't that be clear grounds for a new trial or for clemency?
Withholding exculpatory or mitigating evidence is a violation of due process guaranteed by the US Constitution. This is why Lt. Col. Maher and Captain Carr are confident that the Army Court of Criminal Appeals will grant Lt. Lorance a new trial. I am not so confident. I believe the army will stand by their conviction for political purposes. I believe the court-martial was political in the first place. Four months before Lt. Lorance's patrol, an army sergeant had slaughtered sixteen Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, in a village in the same province. I believe the army decided then that the next time civilians were killed by a US soldier, that soldier was going to have to be sacrificed and sent to prison. And having done this to Lt. Lorance, I don't believe the army will ever risk being exposed for this.
There was an appeal for clemency already. How did that go?
The commanding authorities at Fort Bragg, where we filed a petition for clemency, refused to even acknowledge this new evidence and denied clemency. This is not surprising conduct in an army that lied to the family of Pat Tillman, their most celebrated warrior, and then in seven investigations concluded seven times that they had not intended to deceive the Tillman family. The army as an institution is corrupt. And that is why I decided to take this matter to the Commander and Chief in the form of a White House petition asking the President to pardon Lt. Lorance. On the morning of January 2, I began the petition with the 121 names on my email list. We needed 100,000 signatures by today, February 1. We now have 122,775. And so, the president will have to at least consider our petition for a pardon. I am trying now to get a meeting in the White House to speak with someone about this.
122,000 signatures is not chopped liver. That's a lot of support. Have you been able to enlist the media on Lorance's behalf?
Rick Kogan's "After Hours" on WGN in Chicago was a tremendous help and put us over the 100,000 mark on the petition. We have been on Fox & Friends twice on their national broadcast, and on the Sean Hannity Show three times as well. The New York Times and The Washington Post are working on stories now. In the last hour our number went over 123,000.
Future coverage by the NYT and WaPo sounds promising; this story needs to go beyond Fox and Hannity and into the more mainstream press. You've mentioned another case that was being investigated around the time of Clint's. What can you tell us about that?
General Jeffrey Allen Sinclair was in Afghanistan for the 82 Airborne like Clint was. The general was charged with sexually terrorizing a young female soldier in his command and was court-martialed at Fort Bragg when Clint was. The general faced life in prison but was allowed to plea bargain away most of the charges. He still faced fifteen years in prison. At his court-martial, he wept and begged to be spared prison time. He was ultimately allowed to retire with a pension. At Clint's court-martial, the only thing he said was "I take responsibility for my actions and the actions of my men."
Hmm, quite a contrast. Isn't the army embarrassed by Sinclair and his case? You would certainly think so" It's actually much more egregious than the bare outline would suggest: Sinclair's behavior continued for a long period of time in two different combat zones and he made repeated death threats against the female soldier and her family if she outed him. What a nightmare!
Clint's case continues to torment you. You contacted the lawyers, spearheaded the petition, and now you have something else up your sleeve. What can you tell us about it?
I am currently writing a screenplay for a feature film about Clint's story. It is one of those stories that you absorb deep into your heart and your mind for almost a year and then you write from the darkness into the light. As I am working on it each day, I feel that it has the power to draw opposing sides together in this country where we are currently split apart in a civil war of accusation and derision. I, for one-- an old, anti-war liberal--have felt myself deprived of some of my indifference toward soldiers, and my assumptions as well as I have been drawn toward the middle where this love story resides. The love story of a boy for his mother and his country. There is one small beat in the screenplay based on something Clint told me one night on the telephone. He was so happy because he had been moved into a different cell. It had the same configuration of every cell of course, but in this cell, the narrow slit of a window looked out onto the parking lot where he could see the American flag flying the first thing each morning. He was so pleased about this. It is the kind of thing that a liberal like myself seldom thinks about. But I'm thinking about it now. His story is changing me.
Are you writing this in part to exorcise your anger over how this has been handled and with a vague hope that it will get picked up by a studio? Or do you already have some interested parties involved? And while this can be an effective way to garner more massive public attention to Clint's cause, it's also exceedingly slow. Are you pulling out your hair?
I am writing this because I believe a movie about Clint's story could help pull opposing sides together in this country and help heal some of the wounds caused by this long and divisive war. I also believe it could bring about some much needed change in the military justice system. And I wouldn't be writing it if I didn't believe it will be made. Some of the people who were involved in making AMERICAN SNIPER have offered to help open the right doors in LA. And I will also be asking help from Gary Sinise who starred in a movie of mine in 2003.
We'll certainly follow any and all developments with great interest. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
Thank you, Joan.
Thanks so much for talking with me again, Don. Always a pleasure.
Please consider signing the petition asking for a presidential pardon for Lt. Clint Lorance
Web site is Free Clint Lorance - Fighting For Justice
Facebook Page - Free Clint Lorance
Facebook Group - Free Lieutenant Clint Lorance
Clint's online petition
Hannity Radio Interview - Cody Lorance, Anna Lorance and Lawyer, John Maher
twitter- Free Clint Lorance
my previous interviews with Don:A Soldier's Story 11.20.14