SGT. Evan Vela

The Leavenworth 10; soldiers wrongfully incarcerated for doing their duty in the theater of war. Men convicted for merely following orders. Soldiers stripped of their rank, benefits, and their good names. In a war with no clear objective for victory and unrealistic Rules of Engagement our soldiers are being set up to fail. Adding insult to injury, it seems our own government is trying to appease the enemy and our brave men are paying with their freedom.

SGT. Evan Vela enlisted in the Army at the age of 21. His intent was to be a career military man. SGT. Vela completed Airborne, Expert Infantry and Ranger training and was stationed at Fort Richardson in Alaska with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

In May of 2007 while deployed to Iraq, SGT. Vela was part of a sniper squad. He and his squad operated in one of Iraq’s most dangerous areas known as the “Triangle of Death” for more than nine months but field commanders desired bigger kill numbers.

In the spring of 2007, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley became team leader of the sniper squad. Staff SGT. Hensley was an expert marksman and under his leadership the kill rate began to increase. On a May 2007 mission, SGT. Vela and his five-man sniper team implanted in a “hide” behind an earthen berm.Typical of the previous missions under Staff SGT. Hensley, the team was operating on minimal sleep. During the several days, enduring 120 degree heat, water rations, and only 3—4 hours of sleep during each 24-hour cycle, and what sleep they had was divided into fifteen-minute segments.

On May 11, 2007, SGT. Vela fell asleep at his post. He awoke to find an Iraqi national, Genei Nasir al-Janabi, standing just feet from him. He immediately woke his squad, informing them that their position had been compromised. Staff Sgt. Hensley awoke, immediately took charge and pinned Al-Janabi to the ground and searched him. Soon after that, Al-Janabi’s 17-year old son followed his father into the “hide” area. The squad held Al-Janabi and his son until Al-Janabi started making a lot of noise. Concerned about their position being further compromised, Staff SGT. Hensley ordered that Al-Janabi’s son be released and he then ordered SGT. Vela to kill Al-Janabi in order to protect his men. SGT. Vela shot Al-Janabi with his 9 mm sidearm. When Hensley was asked later  he didn’t shoot Al-Janabi himself, he said, “Vela happened to be the one with the pistol. I would have gladly shot him myself.”

William Norman Grigg writes in his article “Seeking Clemency from a War Criminal: The Case of Evan Vela

Immediately thereafter, Hensley ordered the squad to plant an AK-47 on Janabi’s dead body. He also began to concoct cover story; this involved multiple spurious radio calls to Lt. Matthew Didier at the squad’s patrol base describing concerns about a suspected insurgent and requesting permission to kill him.

SGT. Vela broke down during questioning. He  was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony against Staff SGT. Hensley and another squad member. Hensley was tried in Baghdad. He was acquitted on the murder charge, but found guilty of planting evidence. He was sentenced to 135 days confinement (time served), receive a letter of reprimand, and reduced from Staff SGT. to SGT. The other squad member, Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr., was acquitted of murder. However, he was convicted of planting command wire to mislead investigators in a separate incident. Specialist Sandoval, Jr. received a 5 month sentence (time served), a letter of reprimand, and a reduction in rank.

Incredibly, despite the agreement for immunity, SGT. Vela was brought to trial with Hensley testifying against him. Curtis Carnahan, Evan’s adoptive father, told Pro Libertate:

“the Iraqi Human Rights Minister was present at every session of Evan’s military trial, which the Army insisted on holding in Baghdad…. The trial didn’t begin until November [of 2007], after Evan’s unit had returned to Alaska. They could have brought Evan back to the United States, and we repeatedly filed motions to have the trial moved stateside. Instead, the Army, at great unnecessary expense, held the trial in Iraq, under the constant scrutiny of Iraqi officials. It’s clear to me that Evan was being used as a scapegoat, as a political sacrifice, in order to appease Iraqi government officials.”

Hensley admitted that SGT. Vela carried out his order to kill Al-Janabi. SGT. Vela was convicted of murder without premeditation, aiding and abetting in the planting of evidence, and of lying to military investigators about the incident.  The married father of two young children was sentenced to 10-years in Prison.

Fortunately, after 6 years, SGT. Vela is due to be paroled on March 21, 2013. If released as scheduled, he will rejoin his wife and children and take up residence in Idaho. Vela will have nothing to start his new life as he’s been stripped of all military benefits. United American Patriots has already donated $2,500.00 to Vela’s wife. If you’d like tohelp SGT. Vela and his family donations may be sent to

United American Patriots
7800 Airport Center Drive,
Greensboro NC 27409

Mark your donation for “Evan Vela”. Every penny received will be sent to Evan’s wife.

This report is part of a new DCX series titled The Leavenworth 10 – Uncommon Injustice