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Published: Tuesday, 8/10/2004

Marine to ask clemency on abuse conviction

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tom Sobecki, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves Judge Advocate General Corps, said the petition for clemency includes letters of support from Sting's commanders in Iraq.

"We believe we put together an excellent package for clemency," Mr. Sobecki said yesterday. "Andrew is a very good Marine, and his chain of command is supporting his clemency petition. . . . That doesn't mean it's going to be granted, but we think we have a good chance of having it granted."

Sting, 19, admitted he touched electric wires to an Iraqi detainee's wrist in April, but said he did so at the order of his sergeant.

Family members said Sting was initially reprimanded for the incident, but four weeks later - just after the Army's prisoner abuse scandal broke - he was told he would be charged and court-martialed.

Charges were presented at a general court-martial, and Sting quickly pleaded guilty to assault, cruelty and maltreatment, dereliction of duty, and conspiracy to assault. He was sentenced to a year in prison, a reduction of rank, forfeiture of pay, and a bad-conduct discharge.

In addition, Sting agreed to testify against others who were involved in the case.

Mr. Sobecki said the clemency petition is not likely to be viewed by the general who commands the First Marine Division in Iraq until late September or October because Sting still has to testify at the court martial of the sergeant who allegedly gave him the order to shock the prisoner.

The lengthy petition for clemency includes reasons why Sting feels he should be pardoned as well as letters of support from both his commanders in Iraq and friends and families at home, Mr. Sobecki said.

He declined to talk specifically about the reasons for the clemency request, but he and Sting's father, Jeff, have said in previous interviews that they believe the Marines had caved to public pressure after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was exposed when they upped his punishment. Mr. Sobecki said they plan to present the petition within the next month.

They also said Sting was pressured into waiving his right to a trial and was threatened with a 5 to 15-year prison term if he did not sign the plea agreement.

Sting's stepmother, Sharon, said yesterday that the family has gotten an incredible amount of support for Andrew.

The Bradner American Legion gathered some 2,500 signatures on a petition that was forwarded to U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) asking that his case be re-examined.

Mrs. Sting said her stepson calls home when he can.

"He's trying to keep his spirits up," she said.

Sting, who grew up in Saginaw, Mich. and moved to Bradner to live with his father when he was 17, dropped out of high school and joined the Marines last year.

While Sting has the right to appeal his conviction, Mr. Sobecki said the first step is to request clemency.

"It's premature to appeal," he said. "If the clemency petition is denied by [the general], we will appeal the original bad conduct discharge and prison sentence."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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