Free A War Hero
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John Hatley is currently a prisoner of war in his own country! He has lost ten years of his life after devoting the previous twenty to the service of his country. Some comments about John from those who know him.
G. Clifford - 1SG Hatley and I go way back. I was his driver when I was a private. I deployed with him three times. He helped me get my citizenship. He's more of a father figure to me than anyone in my life. If there’s ever anything I can do for him, please let me know.
Medina - I got to serve under him in Bagdad, and he was the greatest NCO I have ever met. He truly loved his soldiers. The justice system made a mistake and imprisoned a great man. I will never forget how he took us in and the things he taught us.
Bo Speck - John is the most selfless person I have ever met. His ability to tend to the needs of others before his own is second to none. I look forward to the day that this country we love releases one of its greatest sons.
Here’s the story of how an innocent man was convicted of murder by the military and slandered by the press.
In 2007, John’s patrol was engaged in a firefight by 5 Iraqi combatants. They chased the men to a house where they found the men’s wives and children and a large cache of light and heavy armaments and ammunition. The men were transported to the Command Outpost (COP) where John conferred with the Headquarters Platoon Sergeant, the de facto detainee specialist who confirmed that the strict policy regarding rules for detaining insurgents would make taking them into custody a waste of time. The decision was made to take them to the outskirts of the sector where they would pose less of a threat to the platoon on the return trip to the COP. This was done without incident.
Approximately 10 months following this incident, a subordinate sergeant was facing charges of striking a fellow NCO on 2 different occasions and of threatening an officer with great bodily harm. That soldier asked that his attorney offer CID a deal—information on a homicide in exchange for immunity. He provided a statement that alleged that instead of being released, the men were taken to a remote area and executed, their bodies dumped in a canal. Immunity was not granted, so the soldier cooperated no further with CID. But CID already had his statement and began an investigation without his help.
They selected the sergeant they thought would be the most easily manipulated and had him wear a wire for 3-4 weeks. No incriminating conversations were recorded.
They then had a 7-man dive team search the canal, but they found nothing—NO BODIES, NO BRASS, NOTHING! They interviewed the wives at the house where the men had been caught. They said no one was missing or dead. They canvassed the area and no one knew of anyone missing or dead. Ditto for the landowner where the killings supposedly took place.
1SG Hatley was convicted without one single shred of physical or forensic evidence and no witnesses other than the handful of frightened soldiers who had been threatened with life in prison if they didn’t “cooperate”. They were told that they would never see their families again and that their buddies had pointed the finger at them. Since the Army has a conviction rate approaching 98%, these men were, with good reason, not willing to take the risk of insisting on their innocence. All of them took plea deals except for Hatley, who was offered the same deal if he would roll over on his superiors. John would not lie and say he was guilty of something he didn’t do, and he certainly wouldn’t implicate another innocent man.
Witness testimony was full of contradictions. Accounts to CID varied from those at trial. Among the major inconsistencies were: The number of men detained (4 or 5). In the case of 5, no one knew what happened to the 5th man. One man even testified that there were 4 men, then described a crime scene consisting of 5 men. The number of shots fired (3 – 15) Position of the men when “executed”: Facing the canal vs facing away from the canal. Standing vs. Kneeling. Who led the patrol. Who took pictures at the arrest site. Who shot first. Who had a tracker in their vehicle. Whether or not one vehicle was stuck in mud and had to be exchanged for another.
When the case was brought to trial, all of the other cases were heard before before John’s. This was by design. John was the ‘big fish’ the prosecution wanted to nail. The press had a field day with each trail, dubbing them “the canal killings.” Their coverage of John was brutal. Upon advice of his legal counsel, John did not testify on his own behalf. Therefore, his side of the story and his refutation of the charges were never heard. Public opinion, molded by the press coverage, saw John as the mastermind behind a cold-blooded execution. The trial occurred following the scandal of Abu Ghraib and the US was eager to make amends by proving to the government of Iraq that they would hold US soldiers accountable. If a few innocent ones got caught in the gristmill, well, it was an acceptable cost.
It should be noted that it took less evidence to CONVICT an American soldier than was required to even DETAIN an enemy combatant, and soldiers in the field were not permitted to use the same tactics that were used to interrogate them when they questioned the enemy.
The two other men convicted of the same crime in the same case were both released in 2015 while John has been refused parole time and time again. Not only have John’s fellow defendants been released, he has witnessed the release of GTMO terrorists who went right back to killing US troops,
John still maintains his great attitude and has maintained a perfect record at Ft. Leavenworth. He is still the man who earned 2 bronze stars, the Audie Murphy Club Medallion, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and numerous other awards. He has contributed to a more stable environment at the prison by encouraging men to see the benefit of a better atmosphere in which to live. He has completed his bachelor’s degree and has only 2 courses to go to obtain his master’s degree. He has even saved a life since being there to add to the ten he saved in combat.
John has paid a debt to society he never even owed. Instead, we owed him. Now, it is time for us to do something about that.
Please visit John’s Facebook page at: Pardon John Hatley
You can read his entire story at: FreeJohnE.Hatley.com
This petition will be emailed to the WhiteHouse.gov site, mailed to the White House, and included in the packet delivered to the president requesting a reversal of findings in John's case.
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