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Winder soldier granted clemency on assault charge

WINDER - Debra Kessler of Winder said she is grateful to God that her son, Army Spc. Christopher (Phil) Shore, was granted clemency Tuesday after being convicted of aggravated assault in the murder of an Iraqi civilian.

Shore, 26, of Winder, was exonerated of murder in a February court martial in Hawaii, but was found guilty of aggravated assault, a felony charge, by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon. Tuesday's decision reduced Shore's conviction to simple assault, a misdemeanor and lowest level of assault, said Michael Waddington, Shore's attorney. It also restores his rank, which had been lowered to private, and erases the reprimand given him in a previous hearing.

"He had just made sergeant when the court martial began, so they couldn't move forward with the promotion," Waddington said. "He will become a sergeant here very soon."

He won't have to finish serving his 120-day sentence, of which he had served 72 days in Honolulu's Big Island brig, Kessler said. He was released May 1 pending a clemency decision by Maj. Gen. Michael Bendarek, commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, for which Shore serves.

Mixon had been moved to another base, because his time was up on that particular base, Waddington said.

"I prayed and asked God to give that judge mercy for my son," she said. "He could have gotten years, but he only got 120 days, then he only had to serve 72."

Shore and his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales of San Antonio were accused of killing an Iraqi civilian in June during a nighttime raid in a village near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Shore testified that when Corrales ordered him to "finish off" the Iraqi man who was mortally wounded, Shore turned his gun to the side and fired, missing the man.

Shore and his fellow soldiers later went forward with the information about Corrales.

Corrales was tried separately in a court martial last month and exonerated of all charges.

State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) said he was delighted with Shore's outcome.

"The Army's legal system has proven its worth," Douglas said. "Mixon and I were classmates at North Georgia College and State University. He was very rigid and strict even as a cadet and so apparently hasn't changed, so he disappointed me, to say the least. The new general took a much more common sense approach and did the right thing."

Shore wanted to be in the Army all his life and plans to stay in, Kessler said.

"I just hope he can get some good healing for all the things he's been through," she said. "You go serve your country, then get treated like that. He wants to get stationed here in Georgia, and I think that would be good for him."

Shore still has a bright future with the military, Waddington said.

"It's very possible for him to rise up through the ranks," he said. "He is very skilled in his job. Being in the scout platoon opens a lot of doors for him."

Although she never lost faith, she's relieved the year-long ordeal is over.

"It's a good thing to be able to say your prayers were answered," Kessler said.

Shore is a graduate of Winder-Barrow High School, a husband and father of two daughters, ages 6 and 4.