A Special Christmas Gift to Army Private LaVena Johnson And Her Family - By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on December 24, 2016
The indisputable evidence reported in my exclusive investigative series of articles on the "The Murder of Private LaVena Johnson" establishes that Private Johnson's death during the early morning hours of July 19, 2005, on a U.S. military base in Balad, Iraq, was a murder. Because the murderer was one of Private Johnson's decorated Commanders, the Army covered up this crime and falsely claimed it was a suicide. The physical, forensic and other tangible evidence in this case supports our conclusion that Private Johnson was murdered.
Many friends and supporters of the Johnson family have all but given up hope that justice will be served in Private Johnson's case. I do not share this belief. I know from personal experience that the road to justice in America is often long and hard, especially when the victim is young and black and the perpetrator is rich and white.
The first step toward justice -- solving the crime -- has already occurred. It took more than 10 years to solve Private Johnson's murder, but we did it this year.
The next step entails bringing Private Johnson's murderer and his after-the-fact accomplices to justice. This task is possible as well.
This step will also be a long and hard fought process because this was no ordinary crime and was not committed by an ordinary street criminal. Private Johnson's murder was committed by a four-star Army General and was subsequently discussed directly with President George W. Bush by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other top military officials. Afterwards, Secretary Rumsfeld and the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff classified Private Johnson's "suicide" as a "national security" matter. This classification was intended to bury the truth about her murder for a very long time. And, this sequestration and suppression of the truth almost worked.
Fortunately for Private Johnson, in 2000, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) co-sponsored the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 ("MEJA") with Senator Zell Miller (D-Georgia). The Act confers jurisdiction upon federal courts for criminal acts committed by members of the United States military while they were serving in foreign countries.
The totality of evidence in this case supports the conclusion that General Kevin P. Byrnes murdered Private LaVena Johnson while he was an Army Commander who was visiting military bases in Iraq. General Byrnes is now a civilian living and working for a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama.
In November, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Senator Sessions to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States. I have known Senator Sessions, personally and professionally, for 46-years. Sessions was my law school classmate from 1970 to 1973. He is one of three white students in my freshman class of 150 who openly embraced my humanity when George Jones and I desegregated our incoming class at the University of Alabama's law school in the fall of 1970.
Senator Sessions, who served in the military for 13 years, is a staunch supporter of rank and file members of our Armed Forces. In 2005, for example, Sessions joined with Sen. Joe Lieberman, a conservative Democrat who later became an independent, to author, co-sponsor and pass the Heroes Act of 2005. This federal law expanded death benefits for the families of fallen combat personnel from $12,000 to $100,000. It also increased the servicemen/women's group life insurance maximum benefit from $250,000 to $400,000.
Senator Sessions will likely be confirmed in January as Attorney General. After he is confirmed, I will personally deliver to Attorney General Session all of the physical, forensic, and other evidence supporting our conclusion that (a) Private Johnson was murdered by General Byrnes and (b) her murder was covered up by top Pentagon brass after her death. I will also request a thorough and independent investigation of Private Johnson's death by the Justice Department's top criminal prosecutors.
Senator Sessions is a tough but fair-minded former prosecutor. To him, no man or woman is above or beneath the law. He treats crime victims with the utmost respect.
Sessions has also worked to eliminate some of the most egregious injustices in the federal criminal justice system. For example, Sessions worked with Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) to pass the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The Act reduced sentences for crack cocaine possession in order to align them with sentences for powder cocaine. It also became a signature piece of drug reform legislation for President Barack Obama.
I have never discussed the murder of Private Johnson with Senator Sessions. As Attorney General, I firmly believe that Jeff Sessions will get to the bottom of this case. Absent a prior grant of immunity from prosecution to Kevin Byrnes by federal law enforcement authorities in 2005, or the issuance of an undisclosed Presidential pardon to Byrnes by President Bush, I am confident that Sessions will follow the evidence in this case wherever it leads him. He will also prosecute Private Johnson's killer if his own independent investigation confirms that Private Johnson was murdered.
Unlike many public officials in Washington who give beautiful speeches but run from making tough decisions, Senator Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated to me over a 46-year period that he has courage when it counts the most. If there is one public official in Washington who will stand and fight for justice for a 19-year old Army Private who was murdered by her military Commander, it is Jeff Sessions.
My gift to Private LaVena Johnson and her family this Christmas is my firm commitment to present her murder case to the next Attorney General of the United States and to do it with all of the passion, accumulated goodwill, and advocacy skills that God has given me.
I am not the Johnson family's attorney and I have nothing to gain financially from this case. I am just an American civilian who truly honors the military service, dedication, and loyalty of our men and women in uniform.
There is no other way I can properly thank Army Private LaVena Lynn Johnson for her military service to this nation. And, she deserves nothing less.
Donald V Watkins
Donald V Watkins