Groesbeck: President passes on pardon for local soldier

GROESBECK, Texas (KWTX) The Trump Administration is getting push back from military leaders after the pardoning of three U.S. service members late last week.

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

The three were serving time at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas for alleged war crimes.

Absent from that list was a central Texas soldier recently cleared for parole by the U.S. Army Board of Clemency and Parole.

On his fourth time before the board in October, Groesbeck native 1st Sgt. John E. Hatley was granted parole.

His release date was set for October 2020.

The decision did not sit well with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler.

"This man has two Bronze Stars. He would have had a Silver Star, but they withdrew the recommendation after he was charged with murder. He should never had gone to prison. He's the kind of people who have saved this country through their heroic action. He needs to be out...not a year from now but now," Gohmert said.

The pardons were opposed by military leaders including Defense Secretary Mark Esper who felt the move undermined their authority and threatened the "good order and discipline" in the military.

"If they think that punishing people who are heroes and were fighting for their country...if they think that’s good for the good order and discipline then they need to talk to the people who I have, who are concerned. They want to go serve our country, but they're concerned about being put in prison if they go kill bad guys," Gohmert said.

Hatley was convicted of killing four Iraqi detainees, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence, no bodies found, no missing people reported and the only testimony came from other soldiers who themselves were facing discipline.

Congressman Gohmert says Hatley's best chance of being released is for the public to contact the White House and remind President Trump that there is a wrongly convicted central Texas war hero who will have to spend another year behind bars for crimes that aren't supported by any evidence.

He also says the Defense Department should remember who has continuously fought for its budget requests.

"If that's the kind of mentality he has, we have a continuing resolution coming up. It's always been the Republicans that fought for the defense department so they can have their money. But if that's what they're going to do with the money... if they're going to spend it on a (Uniform Code of Military Justice) that needs to be fixed, that's going after and harming our own heroes then we need to cut the money that's going to the defense department. If that's the kind of people we got running it," Gohmert said.

Gohmert is a member of the Justice for Warriors Caucus who has been pushing for reform in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

''I hope that we now we can have enough people let the White House know: quit listening to deep staters at the Defense Department and listen to the American people who have a sense of what's right and it's not right what happened to 1st Sgt Hatley," said Gohmert.