EXCLUSIVE: Lawyer for Sgt. Shane Ladner Speaks Out About Purple - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

EXCLUSIVE: Lawyer for Sgt. Shane Ladner Speaks Out About Purple Heart Accusations

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By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - The lawyer for a veteran, who's accused of lying about receiving a Purple Heart, is speaking out only to NewsWest 9.

Sgt. Shane Ladner is facing charges out of Georgia after officials there say he lied about getting the award. You'll remember Ladner and his wife were both injured in the November train tragedy.

Attorney John Cook is tying to clear his client's name.

Sgt. Shane Ladner was arrested and charged after law enforcement officials say the Army vet lied about receiving a Purple Heart award.

But Cook said that's simply not true and he has the papers to prove it.

"We were lucky enough to find the original, the one that Shane signed when he walked out of Ft. Benning in Georgia," he said.

Cook is talking about a military document called a DD 214 that's given to veterans when they're released from active duty.

According to the document, Ladner has received several awards including the Purple Heart.

Cook said they sent the papers to be examined by a former document expert of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In a letter, the expert said the DD 214 is the real deal.

"It's an original un-altered, no erasers, the word 'Purple Heart' specifically was printed on that document by the same laser printer that printed all the information," Cook said.

NewsWest 9 also reviewed other copies of Ladner's military and health records. Those documents list and make references to a Purple Heart award.

Cook believes confusion began when another organization sent a Freedom of Information Act request on Sgt. Ladner to the National Archives.

"They were sent a three-page document back and that document did not list a Purple Heart," he said.

Cook said after leaving the service, Ladner never used his Veterans Affairs medical benefits until the November train crash. He said he's puzzled as to why his client is being targeted.

"I don't understand how anybody could think that somebody would forge their discharge certificate to get free license plates when they're not going to get free VA money," Cook said.

Cook has even spoken to other vets who've served with Ladner. He said the whole situation is stressful for Ladner and his wife, Meg.

Both were injured in the train crash but they're hoping to put this behind them so they can continue healing.

"This is a couple that's devoted to each other, they love each other. They both need to focus on getting better, not being distracted by this stuff," Cook said.

Cook said Ladner and his wife asked him to do the interview because of all of the love, support and hospitality they've received from the Permian Basin.

The Cherokee County District Attorney's Office tells NewsWest 9 they haven't seen the documents but they are meeting with Sgt. Ladner and his attorney next week.

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