John Stebbins — War Hero to Convict

The film Black Hawk Down — based on Mark Bowden’s excellent book about the dealdy standoff between American troops and thousands of Somali civilians in fighters in Mogadishu — opens soon. One of the odd differences between the book and the movie is that for the movie the soldiers were given fictional names.

USA Today, to my knowledge, is the first to suggest that the reason for doing so may have been due to issues beyond creative and legal ones. It turns out that one of the outstanding heroes of the Somalia engagement, Spec. John Stebbins, was court-martialed by the Army and plead guilty to raping and molesting his teenage 6-year-old daughter. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but is appealing the case (USA Today does not say what part of his case he is appealing).

Stebbins received the Silver Star for his incredible act of heroism that day — he was shot several times and had to be literally dragged to safety due to his injuries.

Personally, that sort of story would be more interesting as a movie than simply doing a film of Bowden’s excellent book. Never having been through a war (or any sort of deadly violent personal conflict) its hard to imagine what someone like Spec. Shawn Nelson has had to deal with. He was an M-60 gunner and Bowden makes it very clear in his book that although Nelson initially tried to shoot selectively at combatants and avoid hitting civilians, as huge throngs of people surged toward him he was forced to fire indiscriminately into the crowd.

Now an exploration of that would make an interesting movie.

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16 Responses

  1. Barbara Lane January 16, 2011 / 11:23 pm

    The daughter he molested was 6 years old NOT a teenager. Get your facts sraight.

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  2. Brian Carnell January 22, 2011 / 9:03 pm

    @Barbara Lane: Ms. Lane appears to be correct (backed up by the online decision in U.S. v. Stebbins which rejected Stebbins’ appeal and has more details about the crime which are beyond sickening).

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  3. Joe July 5, 2011 / 3:02 am

    It is sad really. How human beings can be so heroic one moment and so brutal and sick the next moment. It’s hard to reconcile the two John Stebbins. A hero a child rapist. I am no fool and I know folks, even those who seem to be heroic and good, can turn bad but how bad is what makes this horrible. We understand our soldiers suffer greately in war but most never turn so horrible. Perhaps they are hard to live with or even become physically abusive for which therapy is necessary. But to stoop so low is such a shame. I so sad for the child this monster hurt. Was the little girl his? I know it really does not matter but how much more traumatic to be hurt by your own father. Just a sad story. Good Day,Joe.

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  4. Andrew H. Kraft July 12, 2011 / 1:20 am

    John Stebbins was a year behind me in school at Ithaca High and was the boyfriend of my then girlfriend’s roommate. He was an introvert and somewhat “peculiar” but never came across as the sexual deviant he turned out to be. Either he was hiding that darkside well or he was a PTSD casualty who came back from war with a newly acquired thirst for child sex. Either way, death is the only permanent treatment for pedophilia, not incarceration.

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  5. Megan Stebbins October 23, 2011 / 5:56 am

    I was actually three years old when he started to sexually molest and sodomize me. It stopped when I was six and told my mom after we moved from Georgia to New York while my parents were getting a divorce. He is a sick man and although he was an American hero, he deserves no credit for that after taking something from me that I will never get back.

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  6. Jay October 29, 2011 / 2:23 am

    Yes, He was a soldier who came back from war as a hero, but to turn that dark there is something very wrong. Personally I feel that a man harms a child should lose all rights of freedom. 23.5 hours a day in solitary. My prays go to the daughter and the mother for the long road ahead because as someone who has helped abuse victims there will be things down the road that you can not see.

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  7. Chris Hall March 1, 2012 / 12:32 pm

    I knew his ex-wife and kids back before that I was just trying to locate her and come across this. Both of those children were so adorable and the mom was a great person. Now I am glad that I never met him. What kind of man could do that. I wish I could take all of the pain and memories away from Megan. I would really love to hear from her mom and about the children.

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  8. mike of the fighting 69th nyang March 13, 2012 / 12:46 am

    what ny army national guard unit did this animal serve serve with?

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  9. John Sullivan August 27, 2012 / 5:57 pm

    What did Stebbins do? I will not print it in detail. I will write the he repeatedly and severely molested his daughter at age 6 according to the last judicial ruling. He did so from when she was 3 until she was six according to a post on this page. After he and his wife separated when his daughter was 7, the daughter told her mother that she “hated” her father because “he had sex with me.” At his court martial Stebbins plead guilty to molesting his daughter. I know the details of his sentence, but not his plea.
    Stebbins was reduced in rank to E1, given a dishonorable discharge, received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, fined $75,000, and received a conditional sentence of an additional 5 years imprisonment if he did not pay the fine.
    His sentence was reduced to 30 years imprisonment. At present, he has served over a third of this sentence. I personally regret this. For what he did he should never walk among us again.
    His daughter can and no doubt will recover from this unspeakable trauma, and go on to live a happy and fulfilled life. At the same time, she was robbed of her innocence and her youth, and robbed by her own father. I would think that this would be a trauma that impacts her life forever. I hope she, if she needs to do so, participates in group therapy with other victims of sexual molestation, and unburdened her feelings to a licensed professional therapist.
    God bless you, MS. You are in our hearts and prayers.

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  10. A tired soul. September 17, 2012 / 8:07 am

    How is it so hard to fathom what happened?

    Their are many people are are social deviants who in the moment of battle would fight and help their commrades. Many would run into a burning house to save someone.

    So what?

    Just because someone was in the military, even who performed a heroic act in battle, does not mean they are an overall good person. Yes, our military should be honored for their service and it should entitle them to recognition and social service benefits (more than they receive now).

    However, they are still acountable for their actions both later in their service career and civilian life. A heroic record does not entitle anyone to immunity from civil or criminal law.

    John Stebbins was originally a Lt. who resigned his commision and re-upped as enlisted because he could not hack civilian life.

    And just so everyone knows, as often happens with military criminal cases, once the attention waned, Stebbins was transferred to the low security federal prison in Elkton Ohio and resentenced to be let go May 20, 2019. That is seven years. A long time to be in prison but an eye-blink in normal life. Mark my words. Someone this deviant should never be let out. He will re-offend. This is something that can not be fixed.

    He will re-offend.

    Megan, if you are reading this please seek help. Both medical and spiritual. Create a life for yourself with people around you. Do not isolate yourself.

    God bless you.

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  11. Dana September 21, 2012 / 11:49 pm

    I am SO proud to call Megan my best friend. She is so strong, and has put this terrible past behind her for the most part. She is a beautiful, successfull young woman now and I couldn’t feel more blessed to call her my friend.

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  12. Dana September 21, 2012 / 11:49 pm

    I am SO proud to call Megan my best friend. She is so strong, and has put this terrible past behind her for the most part. She is a beautiful, successfull y
    oung woman now and I couldn’t feel more blessed to call her my friend.

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  13. Sothis58 September 25, 2012 / 4:09 pm

    The US military is full of pedophiles and other deviants, it’s basicaly a prison with uniforms. I have known lots of good people that were in the military. Don’t take me wrong, there are always good people, even in prison there are people who just did the wrong thing and made a mistake and are doing time for it. And there are lots of people who go in the military to get college paid for, or are really patriots and all that, I’m not talking about those guys. All of them (my various friends who have done military time in all four branches)for the most part told me about the majority of their fellow troops was that they were drug addled idiots and ex cons, some of whom are sexual deviants, or they saw some of the fucked up shit that the military was involved in with contractors (one friend told me about the shit he saw in Kosovo with all the under age child trafficking and shit, and this was after the crack up on the Dyncorp prostitution ring, that was all really played down anyway to give the bad press some kind of ending.). Now keep in mind I’m a pretty secular hip guy, I’m not talking about tieing your wife up or swinger party types, or kinky sex in a animal costume bullshit, I’m talking about repeat offender child molesting and fucking rape like it’s a god damn hobby-shit bags. The only way the Military Industrial complex is able to keep it’s power base it would seem is to A) have perpetual wars, and B) make sure their ranks are swelled with the most psychotic,brain washed fuck tard manics we can get out of jail sentences or straight out of the White Aryan Resistance (guys looking for traing for the race war, you know those fucking morons), or the street gangs, or MS13 or what ever to make sure every one is scared shitless of what will happen if the politicos get out of line. What would happen would be 150,000 active duty maniacs that they would sick on the civilian populace under martial law. it’s really ridiculous if you think about it

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  14. Reason May 30, 2013 / 1:20 am

    What Stebbins did is horrible, but none of you were actually involved in a situation where masses of men, women and children are charging at you, and you either shoot them or die. yes, he deserves the prison time, but the man honestly should be recieving therapy. very few of you would have the stomach to go from a simple desk job to one of the largest military incidents to occur. that kind of intense action, where people are dying all around you, your best friend taking a bullet to the head, that changes you.

    those who are saying the military is full of pedophiles can fuck off. these men are out there taking bullets for you, protecting others from rape, famine, and other inhumanities. Sure, you may not agree with what they are fighting for, but thats the politicians decisions, not theirs.

    Never accuse people of something unless youve been out there yourself. theyve suffered at least twice over what you have.

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  15. Erik September 8, 2013 / 5:17 am

    1. Sothis58… you’re an idiot.
    a. combat does bad things to people’s heads
    b. it does not turn people into child molesters. Maybe “trafficers” for pursuing women they shouldn’t. But to see a child with desire is a completely different category. That is sociopathic, is incurable and is NOT a major condition amongst the more than 1M troops in our military. You’re a nutbag.

    2. “1 major ‘Oops’ makes null and void any and all ‘Atta-boys!!’” To deal with these situations I imagine there must be some “compartmentalizing” being done. That does not include again, becoming a sociopath and all of a sudden desiring 5 year olds.

    If you think it’s ok to rape your child – or even your wife – but then go on to serve your nation unconditionally, and find yourself in harrowing circumstances that will change you forever, then be let off scot-free because you served then you miss the ENTIRE POINT of “SERVICE.” “Serving your country” means that with equal or lesser compensation than your average citizen, enough to support yourself and your family with very little discretionary income remaining, you fulfill that commitment, WHILE upholding yourself to a higher than average standard amongst your citizens. Committing a felony makes that “higher recognition” NULL & VOID. Even many misdemeanors (besides an occasional traffic ticket, right?).

    I’m proud of what he accomplished in The Mog, and now he’s where he should be.

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