First Lieutenant Clint Lorance never imagined that following the rule of engagement to save not only his life, but the lives of his fellow soldiers against Islamic enemies would result in him spending nearly two decades in prison. But it did.
Lorance, 30, had been trained to make split-second decisions and his training culminated in a real-life scenario in July 2012 when he and his squad were on a foot patrol in southern Afghanistan. He had just been made Platoon Leader after his predecessor had been severely wounded.
At that time, Lorance led his troops into a Taliban-infested territory, where their air support had indicated that there were enemy personnel were in the vicinity.
Jennifer Bucholtz reports what happened next.
While crossing a barricaded road designated only for military and police use, his platoon encountered a dreaded–and possibly deadly–threat: Three men on a motorcycle speeding directly towards them. Not only were the men driving on a prohibited road, but they ignored the platoon’s verbal shouts and hand signals commanding them to stop. They also fit the description of the enemy personnel as described by the overhead surveillance team. Fearing an impending ambush and/or vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, either of which could have resulted in the loss of additional men (his unit had already lost four soldiers), Lorance commanded his gunners to open fire on the motorcycle. The first shots missed the riders. The three Afghan men on the motorcycle roared through the platoon formation, then came to a halt nearby. All three dismounted and began walking aggressively towards Lorance’s troops, still ignoring commands to stop.
Not knowing whether the men might be armed with traditional weapons and/or suicide vests, he again gave permission to his men to open fire, resulting in the death of two of the Afghans. The third ran away but was found and detained later that day. His hands tested positive for homemade bomb-making materials residue, lending to the suspicion that he and his cohorts were preparing for an attack against American soldiers. Another local Afghan quickly retrieved the motorcycle from the scene and rode away on it before it could be collected as evidence or assessed for explosives.
While this kind of scenario has happened many times during both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this particular scenario resulted in Lorance being convicted of murder of the two Afghans. No charges were brought against his men, who not only opened fire against the Afghans, but who also testified against him.
PFC. James Skelton told the Army Times, “He told me to engage.”
“The ANA (Afghan National Army) started telling them to go back, waving to them to return towards the motorcycle, to stay away,” Skelton testified. “They turned around and went back towards the motorcycle.”
Skelton claimed that his shots missed, but didn’t say whether any of his squad hit the two Afghans.
The soldiers of his squad said that he had tormented the Afghans and had made death threats against them.
Col. Allen West comments, “Any time two or more individuals are on a motorcycle approaching your convoy or position you can bet — if unarmed — they are scouts. And if they are scouts for a main attack, they are just as dangerous a threat.”
After Lorance was convicted, and sentenced to twenty years at Ft. Levenworth, the decision was subsequently upheld, but his sentence was reduced by one year.
“Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke carefully reviewed the facts of US v. Lorance, to include the clemency requests submitted in August, October, November and December 2014,” said Maj. Crystal Boring, a spokeswoman for the XVIII Airborne Corps, in a statement. “After an in-depth study of the case, he upheld the guilty verdict from the court martial panel and directed one year off the original sentence of 20 years confinement due to post-trial delay.”
“The defense has now identified information linking five of seven Afghan military-aged males on the field that day with terror,” said John Maher, Lorance’s attorney, who believes that his client did not receive a fair trial. “Because the government has always had that information and did not disclose it to the command or the trial defense counsel, examining 1st Lt. Lorance’s decision-making takes a back seat. We never get to that question.”
In a report on January 21, the Army Times stated:
Basically, the government is obligated to disclose evidence that could negate guilt, reduce the degree of guilt or reduce the punishment for the accused, Maher said, citing the Rule for Courts-Martial.
“The first day at the Army JAG school, we’re taught you turn over everything,” said Maher, who also is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.
The government made a “serious legal error” by not turning over exonerating and/or mitigating evidence contained in government computer databases, Maher said.
If that information had been turned over, the defense might have taken a different approach, or the case may not even have made it to trial, said Maher, who points out Lorance never fired his weapon that day.
Three members of Congress have stepped forward and written a letter imploring the Army that Lorance’s case should be further reviewed.
“Too often, cases involving rules of engagement present difficulty, Reps. Duncan Hunter, Ryan Zinke and Matt Salmon,” wrote in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh. “The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a warzone.”
“While the rules of engagement are in place for a reason and serve a critical purpose, any case that projects an alleged violation of the rules of engagement deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny,” the letter continued. “It is our belief, based on information brought to our attention, that Lorance’s case requires further review.”
While Hunter does not believe the military justice system has failed Lorance, due to the fact that his case is still under appeal, he did write, “information brought to our attention raises the prospect that investigators and Lorance’s command are in possession of information that could validate the assertion that the deceased Afghans were enemy fighters and responsible for the emplacement of improvised explosive devices.”
“We sincerely hope that as Lorance’s appeal is heard, the proper documentations are made with reliance on the full scope of evidence regarding Lorance’s actions,” the congressmen wrote. “Further, should the outcome not change, we ask for your immediate commitment to allow us to view specific (and possibly overlooked) evidence.”
While the Army claimed that the men on the motorcycles were not enemy combatants at Lorance’s court martial, Fox News reports, “new evidence in the case is leading to calls for clemency for Lorance. Anna Lorance said the family has not heard anything from the Army since Nov. 30, when their lawyer submitted papers seeking to have the conviction overturned. Lorance said new evidence obtained by the family’s lawyer indicates the men who were shot may actually have had ties to terrorism.”
According to Lorance’s mother, the Army withheld that information.
Since that time, a petition has been made to grant a presidential pardon to Lt. Lorance. I have signed the petition, which now has over the necessary 100,000 signatures to warrant a response from the usurper-in-chief, which I admit I’m not expecting anything positive from since he is a traitor to this nation. Furthermore, it is his rules of engagement that have led to the deaths of hundreds of our military men, including those of Extortion 17.
In this writer’s opinion, it is not Lt. Lorance or his men that should be made to pay for what took place. They did what they were sent to do by an enemy of America, Barack Hussein Obama. Obama won’t be issuing a pardon, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for Lt. Lorance, who in this situation seems to have been sold out by his fellow soldiers, who fired at his command, but don’t want to take the responsibility for acting in a manner to save lives.