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 Galligan , 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 court-martial.
It must suck when even Bank of America thinks you're too evil to be doing business with.