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US soldier jailed after joining French Foreign Legion

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Soldier deployed to the Central African Republic and Djibouti with the French Foreign Legion (AFP Photo/Lionel Healing)

An American soldier who abandoned his unit to join the French Foreign Legion has been convicted of desertion and sentenced by the US military to four years in prison, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Second Lieutenant Lawrence Franks told a military court that he had been struggling with suicidal urges and that the arduous regimen of the legion was the only way to escape his crippling depression, the Times wrote.

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“I needed to be wet and cold and hungry,” he told the paper, before he was sentenced Monday. “I needed the grueling life I could only find in a place like the legion.”

Franks went missing from his unit at Fort Drum in New York state in 2009 and flew to Paris, signing up with the French Foreign Legion on a five-year contract under an assumed name, Christopher Flaherty.

He was deployed to the Central African Republic and Djibouti, and served as the personal security guard for five months for General Laurent Kolodziej, who oversaw the French military’s operations in Mali against Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

“He is a man I will never forget and by whom I will always stand,” Kolodziej said in testimony by video-link at the court-martial proceedings.

“He is more than a born soldier, he is a born gentleman. I would like to have 10 men like that in my team, and I would be the happiest of generals.”

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When he finished his five-year stint in the legion in March 2014, he turned himself in to the US Army in Germany, the Times reported.

Franks had been a graduate of the prestigious US military academy at West Point, where he finished in the top 12 percent of his class.

But he had bouts of depression that grew worse after graduated from the academy. He was sent to Fort Drum and assigned charge of a medical platoon.

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Military prosecutors accused him of shirking his duty and causing problems for his fellow troops, saying he deserted intentionally before his unit was due to deploy to Afghanistan.

Franks testified that he could not wait as his unit was not due to deploy for nearly a year.

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“I feel really bad for the pain I put on my family, the disruption to my unit,” he said. “But I don’t regret what I did — any of it, good or bad — because it saved my life.”


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2020 Election

Trump-Biden race could hinge on how this one Florida county swings

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Betty Jones voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, but the lifelong Republican has her doubts she will do it again this year.

The federal response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed about 200,000 Americans and forced older adults to restrict their activities has her contemplating a leadership change.

It “makes me unsure,” said Jones, 78, of Largo, in Pinellas County, Florida. Before COVID-19, she said, she would have definitely voted for Trump.

Polls show that many people will have the pandemic and its public health and economic consequences on their minds when they cast their votes — whether by mail or in person — this fall. Early in-person voting starts Oct. 19 in most Florida counties, including Pinellas.

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Muckraker’s fight to unseal FBI files on Jeffrey Epstein kept alive by judge

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WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday kept alive a citizen muckraker’s quest to pry loose for the public’s benefit tens of thousands of FBI documents about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, including his time as a government informant.Self-styled public information crusader Angela Clemente sued in May, seeking to force the FBI to release the documents on the grounds that Epstein is now dead, albeit under mysterious circumstances, and that there is an overarching public interest in releasing documents. The Justice Department, representing the FBI, is fighting the effort.In a status hearing... (more…)

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Mark David Chapman says he was seeking ‘glory’ when he murdered John Lennon

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ALBANY, N.Y. — John Lennon’s killer said he was seeking “glory” when he shot the Beatles star in cold blood 40 years ago but now thinks he deserved the death penalty for his “despicable act,” according to a transcript of his most recent parole hearing obtained by the Daily News.Mark David Chapman, who shot Lennon four times outside of his Upper West Side apartment building on Dec. 8, 1980, was denied parole for the 11th time last month.During his appearance before the State Parole Board, Chapman expressed remorse for his actions that night, saying he killed the famed songwriter because he was ... (more…)

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