Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jury convicts security guards in Blackwater case

Photo courtesy of Logos Discovery Engine


Published 10/22/2014

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail

- A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts for all four former Blackwater security guards charged in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad. 

The jury in Washington found Nicholas Slatten (Left) guilty of first-degree murder.

The three other three guards - Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard - were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

The four men were charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings.

The jury had reached verdicts on only part of the charges, but Judge Royce Lamberth allowed them to announce the verdicts on Wednesday that they had reached.

Photo courtesy of Stars and Stripes

The jury is expected to continue deliberating on the other counts.

The Sept. 16, 2007 shootings triggered an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare. Blackwater had been hired by the State Department to protect American diplomats in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were commonplace.

The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried. The trial focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards.

There was sharp disagreement over the facts in the case. The defendants’ lawyers said there was strong evidence that the guards were targeted with incoming gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, prompting the guards to return fire in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and that the shootings were unprovoked.

The prosecution focused on the defendants’ intent, declaring that some of the Blackwater guards harbored a low regard and deep hostility toward the Iraqi civilian population. The guards, the prosecution said, held “a grave indifference” to the death and injury their’ actions would likely cause Iraqis. Several former Blackwater guards testified that they too had been distrustful of Iraqis generally, based on experience the guards said they’d had in being led into ambushes.
Prosecutors said that from a vantage point inside his convoy’s command vehicle, Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal, killing the driver of a stopped white Kia sedan, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y.

At the trial, two Iraqi traffic officers and one of the shooting victims testified the car was stopped at the time the shots were fired. The assertion that the car was stopped supported the prosecution argument that the shots were unwarranted.

Defense lawyers pressed their argument that other Blackwater guards, not Slatten, fired the first shots at the Kia sedan and that they did so only after the vehicle moved slowly toward the convoy, posing what appeared to be a threat to the Blackwater guards’ safety.

Once the shooting started, hundreds of Iraqi citizens ran for their lives.

© Khalid Mohammed/AP Photo An Iraqi traffic policeman inspects a car destroyed Sept. 16, 2007, by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq in this Sept. 20, 2007 file photo. Security contractor Blackwater Worldwide…
 It was “gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right,” prosecutor Anthony Asuncion told the jury in closing arguments.

One of the government witnesses in the case, Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to killing the driver’s mother, who died in the passenger seat of the white Kia next to her son.

The maximum sentence for conviction of first-degree murder is life imprisonment. The gun charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms of 30 years. The maximum prison term for involuntary manslaughter is eight years; and for attempted manslaughter it is seven years.


'It is my hope that the people of Iraq who were injured or killed by the Buffoons we sent to their land, will see that this country does indeed prosecute those who do Bad deeds, although we do not prosecute those who hired and allowed them to in the first place!!!'