CANTON, Ga. -- A jury in Cherokee county has found a U.S. Army sergeant accused of falsifying information to receive a Purple Heart guilty on six of seven counts.
Shane Ladner, a former Holly Springs police officer, had been accused of seven counts of making false statements in order to get a Purple Heart license tag. The jury handed down their decision Tuesday around 4 p.m. and it was as follows:
- Count 1: Guilty
- Count 2: Guilty
- Count 3: Not Guilty
- Count 4: Guilty
- Count 5: Guilty
- Count 6: Guilty
- Count 7: Guilty
In recorded interviews and depositions, Ladner had claimed that he’d been injured in an explosion during a top secret military mission in central America in 1991. During closing argument, prosecutors said the evidence is conclusive Ladner was making it all up.
Prosecutor Rachelle Carnesale showed jurors a thick file of military documents that detail the Army career of Shane Ladner. Nowhere in there, she said, does it mention an explosion or an injury or a Purple Heart.
"This defendant not only wouldn’t have had the opportunity to earn a Purple Heart award, but also wasn’t where he said he was when he said he was there," Carnesale said.
Prosecutors wanted the Cherokee County jury to convict Ladner on seven counts of making false statements, saying it's a case about duty and honor and truth.
But Ladner’s attorney, William Head, urged jurors to rely on the one document Ladner says proves he won a Purple Heart, his Army discharge paper. Head urged the jury to be skeptical of the law itself.
“A statute that is over-broad and basically puts us all at risk of the government being in our business,” Head said.
Prosecutors contend that the document Ladner has in his possession is falsified.
Ladner was among the veterans injured when the float they were riding on in a parade in Midland, Texas in Nov. 2012 was struck by a train. His wife was seriously injured and lost a leg in the same accident.
The jury received the case on Monday afternoon and returned the verdict about 24 hours later.
Ladner was booked into Cherokee County Jail and released on $40,000 bond. He must wear an ankle monitor until his sentencing. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, but it's not expected that he'll serve the maximum time.
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