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Convicted US soldier could soon have sentence commuted after Trump ordered review of charges, lawyer says

A US service member who was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder for ordering his men to fire on three men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan could soon have his sentence commuted by President Donald Trump, his lawyer told CNN late Tuesday.

Army Lt. Clint Lorance has been ordered by the inmate administration to start clearing for out processing, his lawyer, John Maher, told CNN. Lorance was ordered to pack his bags, forward his mail and close his bank account, the lawyer said. Maher said he is with Lorance’s immediate family in Leavenworth, Kansas, where Lorance is being held waiting for any action.

Trump ordered a review of Lorance’s case along with two other high-profile military criminal cases, and he has been considering intervening in the cases despite objections from his top military advisers. Maj. Matt Golsteyn, who has pleaded not guilty in the killing of an Afghan man in 2010, said Tuesday that the possibility Trump could take action in his case gives him and his family “hope.”

Last week, however, Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Trump not to dismiss or change the sentences of service members facing war crimes allegations, according to defense officials.

Esper told reporters he had “a robust discussion with the President” and offered “the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations.”

Beyond that, Esper said, “we’ll see how things play out,” adding that he has “full confidence in the military justice system.”

Esper’s intervention followed a meeting with Army and Navy leaders called to discuss the matter.

Those leaders, like most Army and Navy military and civilian officials, are expressing extreme dismay at the possibility that the service members’ sentences could be dismissed or changed, according to several sources directly familiar with their thinking.

CNN has spoken to a dozen officials throughout the Pentagon who say the military legal justice system should be allowed to run its course, especially because the cases involve war crimes allegations.

The stakes are high, they say, with a presidential pardon potentially damaging the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military leaders to ensure good order and discipline, and the confidence of US allies and partners who host US troops.

“This goes directly to our military culture,” one official previously told CNN.

This story has been updated.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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