Having previously gotten nowhere with their appeals to the military, the attorneys for former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance will soon have their appeal heard by a civilian federal court in Kansas. Lorance was convicted by a military court-martial of murdering two unarmed Afghan civilians on July 2, 2012. Lorance’s platoon, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, was operating in a hotbed of insurgent activity. The unit had already sustained four casualties on that deployment, including the platoon leader Lorance had replaced just days before.
Just minutes after leaving their base for a patrol, the platoon spotted three military-age Afghan males riding a motorcycle. Lorance ordered one of his men to fire. He squeezed off two rounds but missed.
The Afghans stopped and dismounted their motorcycle, then began walking toward some nearby Afghan troops located at the front of the platoon’s column. The Afghan soldiers motioned for the civilians to go back. At this point, Lorance ordered one of his soldiers, manning an M-240B machine gun, to open fire. Two of the Afghan civilians were killed. The third was wounded but managed to escape.
Lorance was charged in August 2013 with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, and other charges “related to a pattern of threatening and intimidating actions toward Afghans” as the unit’s platoon’s leader.
Several of his own soldiers testified against him, stating that the civilians posed no imminent hostile threat at the time of the incident. This helped secure his conviction. He was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor at the disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; forfeiture of all pay and allowances; and was given a bad conduct discharge from the Army.
In December of 2014, his lawyers requested an appeal citing prosecutorial misconduct. His supporters generated a petition with nearly 125,000 signatures calling on then-President Obama to pardon Lorance. The president refused to act, stating that any petition should be forwarded through appropriate channels via the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
The commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen Richard Clarke, completed a review of Lorance’s case in January of 2015 and upheld the guilty verdict. Clarke did, however, reduce his 20-year sentence by one year due to post-trial delay.
In September 2015, Lorance’s attorneys appealed the verdict, calling on the Army’s Court of Criminal Appeals to grant a new trial, claiming the prosecution had withheld evidence linking the two killed Afghans to terror networks. His legal team argued that biometric evidence proved at least one of the two men killed on the motorcycle had been linked to an improvised explosive device incident prior to this event.
Nearly two years later, in June 2017, the court rejected the appeal, stating that the evidence would not have been permitted at Lorance’s trial and, even if it had, it would not have changed the verdict.
One member of Lorance’s legal team, attorney Don Brown, has written a book titled “Travesty of Justice,” in which he makes several allegations. The first: Afghan troops fired at the suspected Taliban members first. Brown also states that Afghan civilians rushed out and grabbed the motorcycle before it could be examined for explosives.
Brown is also imploring President Donald Trump to intervene and pardon Lorance, claiming his client was, in fact, defending his men from an impending suicide attack. He has also offered other evidence that may work in Lorance’s favor.
In a recent Army Times piece, Ken Huber, a former soldier and government contractor, claims to have watched the entire scene unfold on a stationary blimp camera.
“I saw three fighting-age males shadowing the American patrol at a distance of about 300 meters,” Huber wrote in a statement. “In my experience, they had every indication of Taliban or insurgent fighters because they were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and using ICOM radios while moving along the back wall of the village toward the American position.”
Mr. Huber’s entire statement can be read here.
This directly refutes the prosecution’s assertion that the men were unarmed civilians. Huber reached out to Lorance’s defense team at the time of his trial but was never contacted regarding his observations.
Lorance’s battalion sergeant major, Daniel Gustafson, has also written a statement for the defense team. The CSM was located in the battalion TOC (tactical operations center) on that day and is convinced the Afghan men were preparing to attack the platoon.
“I understand that the three Taliban scouts riding the motorcycle approached Lorance’s platoon from the northeast, that several insurgents were using ICOM radios and maneuvering into fighting positions to the north, and that a motorcycle rider came down to the west who was stopped, detained, and was found to have explosive material on his hands,” Gustafson wrote in his statement.
Gustafson added that he and the chain of command thought highly of Lorance, which is was why he was given command of the platoon after the previous leader was wounded.
“The chain of command thought so highly of him that when the previous platoon leader was wounded, there were a number of lieutenants who could have been selected for this tough assignment that would absolutely result in gunfights occurring while on every patrol,” he wrote.
His entire statement can be accessed here.
The one piece of evidence that stands out is the local populace rushing out to grab and hide the motorcycle after the shooting occurred. Why would they risk being shot if, in fact, there were no explosives on it? Perhaps it is nothing, but perhaps it proves the locals, many of whom were known Taliban supporters, were covering up another planned attack on the Americans in this area.
Other parts of the story, however, do not bode well for Lorance: threatening local Afghans, firing indiscriminately into an Afghan village, and ordering an NCO to make a false report about taking fire from the killed men. Those charges will be tough to defend, but the murder charges are obviously the ones the defense hopes to get thrown out.
In the past week, NEWSREP has reached out to soldiers who have served with Lorance in an attempt to unearth any new information that is out there. As of now we’ve received no answers to our queries. If any new information becomes available, we’ll update this article.
Featured image: Free Clint Lorance Facebook group