SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – A soldier who refused to go to Iraq will be court-martialed for accepting unearned combat pay, despite an Army investigator’s conclusion that an accounting error was to blame.

Larceny charges were added against Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, who was already awaiting trial on charges that included desertion. The larceny charges raise the possible penalty from seven years to 17. A trial date has not been set.

“It’s an outrage,” Benderman’s attorney William Cassara said Tuesday. “They said up to 100 soldiers at Fort Stewart received that money improperly, and he’s the only one facing any disciplinary action.”

Benderman, an Army mechanic, refused to go to Iraq with his 3rd Infantry Division unit for a second tour of duty Jan. 8, days after he told commanders he was seeking a discharge as a conscientious objector.

While Benderman remained at Fort Stewart, prosecutors say, he accepted $2,922 in bonuses and tax breaks for soldiers serving in combat zones. The combat pay stopped after his unit commanders noticed in April.

An officer assigned to investigate Benderman’s case recommended dismissing the larceny charges. Soldiers not in combat zones commonly receive extra pay because of accounting glitches, a Fort Stewart finance officer said at a hearing.

Benderman’s attorneys have said he should not be charged with a crime more serious than being absent without leave, a lesser charge than desertion, because he reported for duty the Monday after his unit was sent to Iraq.


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