Scott Friedman, NBC 5 Investigates
NBC 5 Investigates has obtained detailed records showing the Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, made 21 requests to the Bell County Jail, including a bible and information about cheese, while awaiting trial for murdering 13 people and wounding another 32.
NBC 5 Investigates has obtained detailed records showing convicted Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, made 21 requests to the Bell County Jail while awaiting trial for murdering 13 people and wounding another 32.
For months, NBC 5 Investigates has been investigating the special treatment Hasan received leading up to the trial and the millions of dollars the government spent on the case.
NBC 5 Investigates was the first news crew allowed inside the Bell County Jail to see the room known as MW1, the medical ward room that housed Hasan for three years. The room is much larger than a typical cell and would normally house up to three inmates.
But, under the terms of an Army contract, Hasan had the room to himself as well as a private guard who watched him through a window at least 12 hours a day while taking notes about what Hasan read and watched on television.
“I mean, it's just a bunch of overkill. Overreach. Unnecessary funds that were spent,” said Hasan's civil attorney, John Galligan.
Galligan believes many of the things the government did in the name of security were an excessive use of taxpayer money, including the nearly $200,000 spent on daily helicopter rides to ferry Hasan from the jail to Fort Hood.
The Army also spent tens of thousands of dollars setting up a private Fort Hood office for Hasan, who insisted on representing himself at trial, where he could prepare his own defense.
Records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show nearly $5 million dollars in expenses, millions in travel for government lawyers, fees paid to expert witnesses, vehicles and cell phones purchased and major security renovations at the base.
“It looked like Gitmo - it was a rat maze. I mean it was all overkill,” said Galligan
In Oct., NBC 5 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information Act request and asked the Army for more detailed receipts showing how money was spent. Fort Hood officials tell NBC 5 Investigates they are still in the process of gathering records to respond. The Army has maintained the costs were necessary to protect Hasan, make the courtroom secure, and to prepare for a complicated case.
“You know the Army always justifies this under the rubric of security,” said Galligan
Galligan argues the Army was less willing to spend money on his client's basic needs. Jail records show Hasan filed numerous requests for better medical equipment and assistance to help him use the toilet in the jail. Hasan was paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot by officers responding to the attack.
But many of Hasan's other jail requests centered on his Muslim faith.
In a 2010 request, Hasan requested a clock, writing, "as a Muslim to be able to track the time to prayer."
In another request earlier this year, Hasan writes, "I have some questions about the bible. Please send a knowledgeable person to answer my difficult questions as well as a paperback copy for my personal use."
Galligan believes Hasan was a deeply religious man who was simply studying parts of the Bible that relate to Islam.
One of Hasan's military lawyers, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, agreed.
"He was interested in an examination of the Bible itself. Clearly, it's part of Islam to understand the Old Testament stories," Poppe said.
Bell County Jail officials said a Bible was provided but they could offer no additional details about what questions Hasan asked.
In another request from April, 2013, Hasan writes, "Please tell me the name of the company that produces the white cheese on my sandwiches; also the type of cheese i.e. mozzarella."
Lawyers said Hasan was questioning if the food prepared for him was done so using Islamic practices.
“He was always concerned about the food he was receiving as an inmate,” said Galligan.
Shawn Manning was severely wounded by Hasan's bullets and said he's not concerned about Hasan's comfort in jail. He just wishes the Army would put more money and effort into helping the victims recover, some of whom are still struggling financially and emotionally.
And, because the Army does not consider the shooting to be an act of international terrorism, they have denied the victims requests for combat-related pay and medals that come with additional benefits.
“You know, four years later, this is still a day-to-day thing, you know. You would think time would lessen the impact but sometimes I think it gets worse,” said Manning.
Even one of the men who represented Hasan believes his client’s victims deserve more from the Army.
“Do they deserve some compensation and assistance in remedying some of the losses they've had - the medical needs that they have the mental needs and treatment and rehabilitation - most certainly,” said Galligan.
The Army said it’s reviewing whether the victims deserve Purple Heart medals and benefits and some members of Congress are pushing bills that would allow for those benefits.