Banks won’t take Hasan’s de­posits, his lawyer says

ex­perts: fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions al­lowed to re­ject pay­checks

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeremy Schwartz

BEL­TON — As he sits in the Bell County Jail, ac­cused of the Nov. 5 Fort Hood shoot­ing that left 13 dead, Maj. Ni­dal Hasan con­tin­ues to re­ceive his monthly U.S. Army pay­check, which based on his rank and ex­pe­ri­ence is prob­a­bly more than $6,000.

That’s stan­dard pro­ce­dure for sol­diers who are con­fined be­fore mil­i­tary trial, ac­cord­ing to Army of­fi­cials.

But Hasan, charged with a shoot­ing spree that shocked the coun­try, is not a stan­dard de­fen­dant. And he’s hav­ing a hard time find­ing a bank to take his money.

Ac­cord­ing to his civil­ian at­tor­ney John Gal-

Con­tin­ued from A1 ligan, Bank of Amer­ica no­ti­fied Hasan last month that it was clos­ing his ac­count and no area bank so far has agreed to open an ac­count for the Army psy­chi­a­trist. Mil­i­tary reg­u­la­tions re­quire sol­diers to be paid through di­rect de­posit, mak­ing a bank ac­count in­dis­pens­able.

“I think it’s just an­other ex­am­ple of the prej­u­dice that he’s been ex­posed to,” Gal­li­gan said. “It’s money that he’s en­ti­tled to, that he has a right to.”

But Hasan shouldn’t miss a pay­check. Army reg­u­la­tions al­low com­man­ders to grant waivers ex­empt­ing sol­diers from the SURE-PAY di­rect de­posit sys­tem. Fort Hood of­fi­cials said that when a sol­dier has a pay prob­lem, com­man­ders and fi­nance of­fi­cials help the sol­dier fix the is­sue, and Gal­li­gan said he is work­ing with Fort Hood of­fi­cials on find­ing a so­lu­tion.

Gal­li­gan said he and his staff have tried to open ac­counts in Hasan’s name at half a dozen banks but were turned down at each one. He was es­pe­cially an­gry that Fort Hood Na­tional Bank also re­fused, he said.

“In its unique po­si­tion as the one ma­jor bank on post, with ac­cess to all of the sol­diers, they turned us down too,” Gal­li­gan said. “Well, give me a break. How many other peo­ple pend­ing a court-mar­tial, still pre­sumed to be in­no­cent, does the bank say, ‘Hey, we’re not go­ing to do busi­ness with you?’”

Gal­li­gan said, “How do you ex­pect me to get a fair trial at Fort Hood if he can’t even get a bank ac­count?”

A Bank of Amer­ica spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment for pri­vacy rea­sons, and of­fi­cials with Fort Hood Na­tional Bank did not re­turn a call for com­ment. But ex­perts say banks have the right to choose their clients as long as they do not dis­crim­i­nate against a class of peo­ple. Nei­ther fed­eral nor state bank reg­u­la­tions ad­dress when a bank may refuse to open or close an ac­count, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials with the Texas Bank­ing Com­mis­sion and the fed­eral Of­fice of the Comptroller of the Cur­rency.

“As far as de­cid­ing who to do busi­ness with or not, they have dis­cre­tion,” said Shan­non Phillips, the deputy gen­eral coun­sel with the In­de­pen­dent Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of Texas.

Gal­li­gan said Hasan has a car pay­ment, le­gal fees and obli­ga­tions to fam­ily mem­bers. Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of De­fense mil­i­tary pay ta­ble, a sol­dier at Hasan’s pay grade earns more than $6,000 a month.

Hasan’s pre­trial Ar­ti­cle 32 hear­ing, which is sim­i­lar to a grand jury hear­ing in the civil­ian ju­di­cial sys­tem, is sched­uled to be­gin in Oc­to­ber. Based on the re­sults of that hear­ing, which could last sev­eral weeks, an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer will rec­om­mend whether the case should pro­ceed to a court­mar­tial.

Ni­dal Hasan Fort Hood of­fi­cer awaits a mil­i­tary hear­ing in shoot­ing.

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