A former Holly Springs police officer was found guilty Tuesday of falsely claiming he was a Purple Heart recipient four years after an investigation showed he lied about his military affiliation.
Shane Ladner of Canton was accused of claiming he earned the medal awarded for combat wounds and using the alleged honor to receive free license plates.
After five days of testimony and 13 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted him of six counts of making a false statement to the Cherokee County sheriff’s office and the county’s tax commissioner to get the license plates.
He was found not guilty of one charge of making a false statement.
Ladner was immediately booked into the Cherokee County jail.
A sentencing date has not been set. Ladner could face up to five years in prison for each count.
Ladner made national headlines in November 2012 when he and his wife were injured in Midland, Texas, when a train hit a flatbed trailer carrying several veterans in town for a parade and hunting trip. Meg Ladner lost a leg in the crash, and the Canton and Holly Springs communities rallied to help the family in the weeks following her injury.
A teary-eyed Meg Ladner testified that her husband was an “honorable man” and that he’d been treated poorly since the crash.
“I know that God didn’t let me live through losing my leg and being in the hospital for three months to be put through this hell on Earth,” Meg Ladner testified.
RELATED: Purple Heart suspect defends honor
The Cherokee sheriff’s office conducted a six-week investigation in 2013 that showed there was no evidence Ladner had been awarded a Purple Heart, Lt. Jay Baker said at the time.
Ladner allegedly received Purple Heart license plates, free of charge, from 2009 until 2012, according to the sheriff’s office.
Ladner had said he was wounded in Panama in 1989 during the operation to capture President Manuel Noriega.
But at the time of Ladner’s arrest, his attorneys told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he earned the medal and instead of being injured in 1989, he was actually wounded by shrapnel during a classified drug action in Honduras in 1991.
Ladner said the medal was lost when he sent it home from Central America. His lawyers also said at the time they could not find the citation that confirmed he received one.
Ladner's attorney said during the trial that the veterans administration verified the Purple Heart.
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