More on SSG Mitch Warner and his appeal process

I am the lead counsel in US v. Warner. I am a military lawyer and nothing in this blog is meant to be construed as developing an attorney-client relationship between me and you.  If you want me to be your lawyer, contact either –www.jamesphillipslaw.com and www.ucmjlawyer.com.  Also, this update is written with the permission of my client SSG Mitch Warner.  He has consented to waive any attorney-client privilege to help clear his name.

For anyone who has read my blog on SSG Warner, you will know that I believe in SSG Warner as both a soldier and a citizen.  Over the time I have defended him in this Court-Martial, I have come to respect him as a person and as a combat veteran.  He deserves better than he is getting from the US Army.

Mitch Warner was convicted of several offenses and is currently beginning to serve his 17 month sentence.  He was convicted of the maltreatment of a suspected Al Queada member who may have been linked to the death of several members of SSG Warner’s platoon.  At trial, Ali Mansur, the Iraqi detainee that was ultimately killed, was made out by the government to be a humble citizen of Iraq who was unfairly treated by our US Soldiers.  There is evidence that this is just not true.  One of the reasons that this entire tragic event took place, which resulted in the killing of Ali Mansur by 1LT Behenna, was that Ali Mansur was suspected in participating in the killing of American Soldiers near COB Speicher.  5th Platoon, the platoon the both 1LT Behenna and SSG Warner, were assigned to, took significant casualties just a few weeks prior to the May 16, 2008 death of Ali Mansur.  Mr. Mansur was picked up by 5th Platoon and was detaineed as part of the investigation of those deaths.  For a reason unknown to the defense team, Ali Mansur was order to be released from custody and was to be returned to his home by 5th Platoon.  Now, it doesn’t take a genius to know this was probably not a good decision on the part of the chain of command.

For SSG Warner, these facts do not change the outcome of his trial.  He now must begin to ask for both clemency and to appeal his sentence.  In the Army, the appeals process is two-fold, (1) the convicted Soldier may appeal to the convening authority, and (2) after that, they may appeal to a higher level court.

The first part of the process is termed as 1105 and 1106 matters.  Essentially, this will allow the defense team to submit additional matters in mitigation to the “convening authority.”  In the military, a military judge makes a determination as to the appropriate sentence in every judge alone case.  After the verdict is read, it still must be approved by the convening authority.  In this case, the Commander of the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) may take action on the case and has the option of lowering the sentence.  It is his discretion based on matters submitted by the defense and a recommendation submitted by the Staff Judge Advocate of the Post. 

In Mitch Warner’s case, we will ask the convening authority to lower the sentence.  SSG Warner has distinguished himself as a soldier and in this case, based on the nature of the offenses, SSG Warner should not serve any additional time in confinement.  SSG Warner has an impeccable service record, to include Air Assault instructor, three tours in Iraq, numerous firefights and heroic actions in combat.  In addition, he has spent the past months defending himself against a charge of premeditated murder that he was not guilty of.

If the sentence, as approved by the convening authority, includes death, a bad-conduct discharge, a dishonorable discharge, dismissal of an officer, or significant confinement, the case is reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.  In this case, both the type of discharge and the amount of confinement warrant an appeal.  Although SSG Warner would be afforded a military lawyer for his appellate defense, we would like for him to be represented by a team of civilian lawyers.  If you want to help with this endeavor and participate in the ongoing legal defense of SSG Warner, you may donate money to the Phillips Law, PLLC Trust Account.  Call our office at (931) 552-5679 for instructions on how to get involved in this case.  Get the word out to everyone you know.  This is a soldier that we should not forget and the more the better.

5 thoughts on “More on SSG Mitch Warner and his appeal process

  1. Jim…although a long-time participant in a few MSN Group/Prodigy/Yahoo type forums with mostly relatively small and stable memberships, please excuse my complete unfamiliarity and perhaps non-compliance with any existing blogging protocols. But not wishing to diverge from or perhaps obfuscate our other – https://jaglaw.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/behennas-verdict/ – in-process exchange of views regarding Lt Benhenna’s parallel case, I thought it best to post to this separate blog of yours regarding SSG Mitch Warren.

    With that, I’ve tried (with only partial success) to piece together the specifics regarding Mitch’s SCM trial and sentance, perhaps best generally summarized by the following quote from your https://jaglaw.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/ssg-mitch-warner-update-alleged-detainee-abuse/ blog (do you have a better reference I may have missed?):

    “SSG Mitch Warner was sentenced by Judge Theodore E. Dixon at Fort Campbell, Kentucky to 17 months of confinement, reduction to E-1, and a Bad Conduct Discharge. He was found guilty, based on his own pleas to charges of Assault Consummated by Battery, False Official Statement and Maltreatment. Three charges were dismissed by the Government prosecutors: premeditated murder, obstruction of justice, and accessory after-the-fact.”

    So speaking to that summary, let me enumerate several concerns/questions I have:

    1) First, why do you suppose that Google gives me ONE HUNDRED AND THIRT-FIVE THOUSAND hits searching “1LT Michael Mehenna,” yet totally strikes out…zero, nada for a “SSG Mitch Warner” search (evidently Google can’t handle databasing blogs!)? Despite the still significant differences in penalties, it doesn’t make sense to not discuss the two treatments and dispositions in the same discussion, or that only one of these guys has the media’s (and therefore the public’s) attention. Both these men appeaar to me as professional soldiers who, despite serving our nation and their calling honorably and professionally, have been the undeserved victims of the same scenario, with both hung out to dry with their lives and reputations ruined by a military/political establishment more concerned with politics than justice! We should all be on our knees thanking them for their service and sacrifices, no way sending them off to penetentiary to serve hard time along with thieves, murderers, rapists, drug dealers and similar scum felons who prey on our society. WHAT IN THE WORLD can our military moguls possibly be thinking of??? Do we all have to suffer the consequences of total idiots in positions of power in our country?

    Oops, sorry to get carried away, I shouldn’t have started down that path, one I’ve just aborted…my apologies to readers.

    2) If you’ve covered it all somewhere in your blogs and I’ve missed it, would you please extend the same level of detail and specifics to review and describe the relevant facts related to Mitch’s case, either here or in whatever separate blog of your choice?

    3) I’ve not had time at the moment to research this further, but it seems to me that Mitch’s sentance of “17 months of confinement, reduction to E-1, and a Bad Conduct Discharge” FAR exceeds the UCMJ’s authorized scope for Summary Courts Martials…which to my reading, limit penalties to no more that 30 days of confinement, forfeiture of 2/3 pay for one month, plus reduction in rank of one or more pay grades (depending). Please explain this apparent disconnect.

    Hey,it’s dinner time on the west coast, so gotta bail. I’ll await your reply, hopefully with some objectivity regarding my own assumptions. Oh…and please, if you have one, include in your reply where those of us who care may contribute to Sgt Warren’s legal appellant process. Thank you.

    1. Bill,

      I am out of the office tomorrow so I will answer your second comment first. I will try to get to your other questions on Friday.

      LT Behenna and SSG Warner both were given General Courts-Martial, which means that each of them at the time of the initial preferral of charges faced life without the possibility of parole. Although we were able to get many of the charges dismissed, in the end, SSG Warner decided to plead guilty to the charge he was truly guilty of- false official statement. At the time he was initially questioned, he did not tell his first sergeant that he had seen Ali Mansur get killed. For this, and two other minor charges, he faced a penalty of six years in prison, possible dishonorable discharge and loss of rank. The actual sentence, which was still before a General Court Martial was seventeen months, loss of rank and a bad conduct discharge.

      SSG Warner made the decision to plead guilty because of the kind of soldier he is. He wanted to own up to what he had done wrong. He felt, being an NCO with numerous deployments under his belt, that he should have been able to stop this event from taking place. He believed that it was his responsibility to take care of LT Behenna and he truly had not expected to see Ali Mansur shot that night. Now, he did believe that Ali Mansur was involved in the death of the soldiers in the squad but he did know that the events of that evening would lead to Ali Mansur’s death.

      Initially, our case received equal coverage with LT Behenna’s case, but since SSG Warner ultimately was not convicted of murder, he has fallen off the radar screen. This is a tragedy because SSG Warner had spend over 12 years as an infantry soldier and was a war hero.

      SSG Warner is a great American hero. For me, the fact that he was given a bad conduct discharge is a huge loss to the Army. SSG Warner was deployed multiple times to Iraq. He is and has always been a consummate professional and a great infantryman. He has seen his buddies die in combat, has been exposed to massive IEDs and always risked his life for his buddy. Everyone that testified on his behalf, testified to his character and his abilities as a soldier. Even the prosecution witnesses spoke of his bravery and professionalism. He deserves and deserved better. He had never been in trouble prior to this event and when this event took place his initial thought was to cover his LTs back.

      For me, I have been somewhat reluctant to talk to much about SSG Warner’s case because as a Lawyer I am do not like to cross over the boundaries of confidentiality. Now, Mitch Warner has allowed me to talk about his case, but I am always reluctant to say too much because I don’t want to speak for Mitch, I would like him to do that for himself.

      Very soon, he will be released from Fort Sill’s Regional Correction Facility. If it were in my power, I would try to start a fund to get him some help starting his new life. Knowing him, I don’t know what he will do. His whole life revolved around being a great American soldier. Now, he will have to just be a great American.

      I appreciate your comments because they allow me to see what pieces of the story I may have left out or forgotten. Within the next week, I will write a blog with the details of Mitch’s story and his case and why the outcome was so different from LT Behenna’s.

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