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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Convicted Blackwater Guards Lose Retrial Bid

WASHINGTON (CN) - Former Blackwater guards who provoked a firefight that left 14 Iraqis dead failed to block lengthy prison terms on the eve of Veterans Day.

The shooting occurred after bomb exploded near Izdihar Compound in Baghdad on Sept. 16, 2007.

With a U.S. diplomat in the area, a unit of Blackwater called Raven 23 tried to secure nearby Nisour Square as a safe evacuation route. Some of its members wound up shooting to death 14 Iraqis and injuring 20 more.

Federal prosecutors indicted five of the guards, and the four who didn't plead guilty faced a trial in Washington last year.

After a jury found that the shooting was unprovoked, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth handed down lengthy sentences for the quartet.

Nicholas Slatten, the sniper who fired the first shot, got a life sentence for murder. Two turret gunners and a driver - Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty - were all convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. They each got sentences of 30 years and a day.

Claiming that a witness who testified against him perjured himself, the defendants moved for a new trial.

Judge Lamberth shot them down on Nov. 10.

At trial, the jury heard testimony from a traffic policeman named Sarhan Deab Abdull Monem who was in Nisour Square when the shooting broke out.

Though a new statement by Monem does significantly contradict his trial testimony, Lamberth found that it merely presents questions of fact that both sides were able to test through cross-examination during the 2 ½-month trial.

"Consequently, what defendants portray as a shocking revelation is more sensibly read as ariteration of what Monem has attested to many times before: He hid in his police kiosk while defendants (and others)" fired their weapons at a Kia.

The government need not retry the guards because Monem's testimony was not essential to their conviction, the ruling states.

Lamberth found that admitting the new statement "would offer little chance of an acquittal at a new trial, let alone make acquittal pobable."

Jeremy Ridgeway, the Blackwater guard who pleaded guilty to the initial charges back in 2008, received a prison sentence this past July to a year and a day.

Blackwater Worldwide changed its name twice after the corporation became intimately associated with public awareness of wartime crimes, and gross mismanagement of Pentagon resources.

It was renamed Xe Services in 2009, and is now known as Academi Services.

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