Blackwater Guard Convicted in Murder of Iraqi Civilian

WASHINGTON (CN) – Tried three times in connection to a 2007 Iraq shooting where 14 civilians were killed, former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten was convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday of first-degree murder.

The carnage unfolded in Baghdad’s Nisour Square as the Blackwater tactical team Raven 23 tried to secure an evacuation route for a diplomat following a car bombing. Though seven of 19 guards were found to have fired automatic weapons and grenades at the crowd of 31 civilians, prosecutors said it was Slatten who took the first shot.

Slatten was originally tried and convicted in 2014 alongside fellow Blackwater guards Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty. The D.C. Circuit ordered a retrial for Slatten last year, however, and the Tennessee native’s second trial ended in a hung jury this fall.

The Justice Department touted Slatten’s conviction this afternoon, saying the jury reached its verdict after five days of deliberations in a trial that began on Nov. 5, 2018.

Prosecutors presented 34 witnesses against Slatten, including four who traveled to the United States from Iraq specifically to testify.

The evidence showed that 10 men, two women and two boys, ages 9 and 11, were killed when Slatten and his fellow guards opened fire in the busy Baghdad traffic circle on Sept. 16, 2007.

Among the victims was Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, an aspiring doctor who was driving his mother to an appointment.

Another 18 victims were injured.

Slatten, 35, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison — the same punishment he was given by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth after his first trial. Lamberth will preside over sentencing this time around as well. 

Though his co-defendants were each sentenced to 30 years and one day in prison, Slough, Liberty and Heard remain in custody while resentencing proceedings are underway before Judge Lamberth. 

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