Groesbeck: Soldier convicted in death of detainees gets bittersweet news

GROESBECK, Texas (KWTX) A Central Texas soldier who has spent a decade behind bars at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for war crimes he claims he did not commit received bittersweet news Tuesday.

First Sgt. John Hatley, a highly-decorated soldier who served 20 years in the military, is held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. (Courtesy photo)

The parole board in Arlington, Va., announced First Sgt. John Hatley of Groesbeck will be paroled, but not until October 2020.

Hatley was convicted in a military court of the murder of four detainees, despite the fact there was no physical evidence to support the charges.

This was the fourth time the U.S. Army Board of Clemency and Parole heard Hatley's case.

The soldier's family was hoping he would be home in time for the holidays.

"Well, the turkey is going to be cold because I was really expecting him to be out by Thanksgiving," said Darryl Hatley, the soldier's father.

Family members don’t want to appear unappreciative; quite the opposite, they are very grateful to the coalition of congressmen who testified on Hatley's behalf before the parole board last week.

However, news that their soldier will have to spend another year behind bars is not exactly what they wanted to hear.

Hatley told his father he was not surprised by the bittersweet news.

"He said, 'I have to admit. It don't surprise me. I've been here enough times and went through it, you can almost predict what they're going to do,'" Darryl Hatley said.

Central Texas Congressman Bill Flores and East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert were part of the coalition that testified on Hatley's behalf last week.

The family has been in contact with them and the congressmen are vowing to continue to fight for an earlier release date.

"I don't think you insult our congressman this way and think you can get away with it," Darryl Hatley said, "because I take this as an insult to our congressman because you think they would lay their name on the dotted page unless they had confidence that that person could live up to their expectations. I think his life shows it."

The congressional delegation known as Warriors for Justice said it will continue to reach out to President Donald Trump for a possible presidential pardon.

Meanwhile, the soldier's family finds comfort in knowing that a year from now, Hatley will be home.