Purple Heart trial underway

Testimony got underway Monday in the case of a former cop indicted for lying about having a Purple Heart and using it to get tax-free car tags.

The Purple Heart is awarded to U.S. military injured in combat.

Former Holly Springs police officer Shane Ladner insists he earned a Purple Heart after being injured by a grenade during a top secret drug interdiction mission in Central America when he was a military police officer.

Ladner only mentioned the secret mission after a FOX 5 I-Team investigation four years ago raised questions about his original war story, that he had been injured during the war in Panama a year earlier. Turns out Ladner was in high school then.

“This is not a case about someone having to pay taxes on their truck,” assistant

Cherokee County district attorney Zachary Smith told jurors during opening statements. “This is a case about the defendant’s false statements. This is a case about his lies.”

Assistant district attorney Zachary Smith led the jury through the evidence he plans to present against Shane Ladner.

He said there are no medical records to back up Ladner’s war injury complaint. In fact, at the time of his supposed war wounds, prosecutors say his medical issues were far less dramatic.

“I expect the medical evidence in this case will show that on January 20, 1991, PFC E3 Shane S. Ladner went to Soto Cano Army Hospital with a complaint of an 18-year-old complaining about a plexiglass window failing on his right hand. He was x-rayed, there was a finger splint and he was given Motrin,” read ADA Smith from the medical records.

Defense attorney William Head stressed to the jury he will prove a document Ladner possesses showing a Purple Heart citation — a document known as a DD Form 214 — is a genuine military record, even though the military says there’s no evidence such a record exists in Ladner’s official file.

Head says the criminal case stems from a dispute among Ladner’s wife’s family over who would get to manage any settlement money from the train accident that happened in November, 2012. Ladner was one of two dozen servicemen who was awarded a free hunting trip reserved for injured veterans. A train accident killed four of them, and amputated Meg Ladner’s left leg.

“This is a case of many twists and turns,” Head warned the jury. “But when the case is all said and done, this case turned out to be something started by the family.”

RELATED: Jury selection begins in Purple Heart trial

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