Four former Blackwater guards in Iraq are sentenced to terms ranging from 30 years to life in shooting of 31 civilians
The four former Blackwater guards sentenced today are (l-to-r): Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, and Paul Slough. Slatten, the only defendant convicted of murder, was sentenced to life; the others, convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, were sentenced to 30 years plus a day.
"You can't just shoot first and seek justification later."
-- federal prosecutor T. Patrick Martin
Oh, you can't? You know, just shoot first and seek justification later? Any chance this new rule may be applied elsewhere in our criminal-justice system?
I suppose it's wrong to be cynical and snarky on a day that witnesses one small blow for accountability. This afternoon, a mere seven-plus years after the fact, a Reagan-appointed federal judge has given a life sentence to a Blackwater Worldwide contract guard in Iraq who was found guilty of murder, and sentenced three other Blackwater employees convicted of assorted counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter to terms of 30 years plus a day.
Four Blackwater guards sentenced in Iraq shootings of 31 unarmed civilians#
By Spencer S. Hsu and Victoria St. Martin
April 13 at 4:05 PM
A federal judge in Washington handed down prison terms of 30 years to life behind bars to four Blackwater Worldwide guards convicted in a deadly 2007 shooting that killed 14 unarmed Iraqis and injured others in a Baghdad traffic circle.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sentenced Nicholas A. Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., to life in prison. Slatten is the only of the four guards convicted of murder in the incident, in which American security contractors fired assault rifles and grenades into halted noonday traffic, a low point of the U.S. war in Iraq that sent relations between the two countries into a crisis.
Three other guards, Paul A. Slough of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard of Knoxville, Tenn., were convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the Sept. 16, 2007, incident at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. All three were sentenced Monday to 30 years plus one day in prison.
“It’s clear that these fine young men panicked,” said Lamberth, an Army veteran and Reagan appointee who served as chief district judge from 2008 to 2013.
While defendants have filed appeals, Monday’s sentencing brought an emphatic end to the U.S. government’s years-long effort to demonstrate accountability for American security contractors’ conduct on the battlefield.
In sentencing documents, federal prosecutors called on a judge in Washington to impose lengthy prison terms. The four defendants sought leniency, saying they have been unfairly singled out for harsh treatment for a wartime tragedy.
Jurors found that the defendants, at the time among 19 Blackwater guards providing security for State Department officials in Iraq, shot recklessly and out of control after one of them falsely claimed that their convoy, called Raven 23, was threatened by a car bomber.
The guards claimed that they acted in self-defense after coming under AK-47 gunfire as they cleared a path back to the nearby Green Zone for another Blackwater team that was evacuating a U.S. official from a nearby car bombing.
Prosecutors said in court Monday that the men were guilty of an atrocity against innocent Iraqis, and cited the appalled testimony of fellow Blackwater guards who told jurors that the defendants fired destructive weapons without provocation.
The other contractors “chose to abide by their training, and not to shoot first and make excuses later,” Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin said. “This was one instance they could not back the actions of their teammates.”
Patrick said a lengthy sentence would deter future unwarranted bloodshed by American contractors, passing along the lesson: “You are entrusted to do a job with deadly weapons, but you must use them only when necessary, and their use must be justified. You can’t just shoot first and seek justification later.” .; . .