On 16 September , a group of Blackwater personnel providing security for a US State Department convoy in Baghdad were involved in a shooting incident in which shots were fired at civilians. As many as 17 Iraqis were killed, and over 10 injured. On 11 October , a survivor and the estates of three victims of the attack filed a lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act in US federal court against Blackwater, its parent company The Prince Group, and Blackwater founder and chairman Erik Prince. The plaintiffs claim that Blackwater is liable for extrajudicial killings and war crimes because its employees opened fire on unarmed civilians. On 6 January , parties to five of the consolidated lawsuits announced that they had reached a settlement with the defendants, while the suit filed on behalf of the three victims of the incident continued. In December , Blackwater argued that the US government, and not the company itself, should be held accountable for the shooting incident because it was providing security to State Department personnel.
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The shooting killed or injured at least 31 civilians when contractors unleashed a torrent of machine-gun fire and launched grenades into a crowded downtown Baghdad traffic circle from their heavily armored trucks.
Three of the contractors — Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty and Paul A. Slough — were convicted in of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime.
They were sentenced to 30 years in prison, a mandatory sentence on the machine-gun charge. A fourth, Nicholas A. Slatten, a sniper who the government said fired the first shots, was convicted of murder and received a life sentence. Defense lawyers argued that the convoy was under fire from insurgents, a claim that prosecutors denied and Iraqi witnesses rejected. Until then, no security contractor was more powerful than Blackwater in the post-Sept. Its employees protected American diplomats overseas and worked alongside C.
Its founder, Erik Prince, has advised the Trump administration , encouraging it to use more private contractors in Afghanistan. The machine-gun charge in the Iraq case was always contentious, even inside the Justice Department.
Agents had pushed hard to include the charges. The Justice Department ultimately acquiesced, although some prosecutors believed it was unfair to add an extra penalty for using a weapon that the United States government required them to carry. The appeals court agreed. The court ordered that three of the contractors be resentenced, a ruling that could significantly reduce their prison terms.
Prosecutors had successfully argued that he touched off the killings with a precision shot through the head of a driver of a stopped white Kia as the Blackwater convoy moved through the traffic circle. The Justice Department said Mr. But the appeals court ruled that he never should have been prosecuted in the same trial as his colleagues, one of whom said he — and not Mr. Slatten — fired the first shots.
By overturning his conviction, the court has forced the Trump administration to decide whether to reprosecute a case that began under President George W. The Nisour Square shooting strained diplomatic relations between Washington and Baghdad.
The Bush administration refused to allow the contractors to be prosecuted in an Iraqi court, and implored angry and skeptical Iraqis to trust the American criminal justice system. William Miller, a spokesman for the United States attorney in Washington, said prosecutors were reviewing the opinion and had no additional comment on Friday.
Charges against one contractor were dropped in because of a lack of evidence. Slatten, who had been charged with manslaughter. That error forced prosecutors to charge Mr. Slatten with murder, which has no statute of limitations. Retrying Mr. Slatten will not be easy. Prosecutors tracked down dozens of Iraqi witnesses and flew them to Washington for the first trial and would probably have to do so again. And the evidence against the group was stronger than the evidence against Mr.
Slatten alone. If the Trump administration does not try him again, he will walk free. At their sentencing, the contractors predicted they would ultimately be exonerated.
Slatten told the judge. The four former Blackwater contractors had asked the court to overturn the convictions entirely, arguing that the Justice Department had no jurisdiction to bring charges for possible crimes committed in Iraq. Federal law gives the Justice Department the ability to bring charges against contractors traveling with or supporting the mission of the Defense Department.
Lawyers for the defendants argued that, as State Department contractors, the Blackwater guards were not covered by that law.
The court disagreed. Prince ultimately sold the company. It has had several name changes and reorganizations since then and exists now as Academi , a subsidiary of the Constellis Group. Home Page World U.
In Blackwater Case, Court Rejects a Murder Conviction and Voids 3 Sentences
Prince, who was not charged, remains at the helm of the company, now known as Xe Services, while many other executives have left as the company has sought to reshape its public image in the face of mounting legal and political scrutiny. They could include charges for bribery and export violations, according to officials familiar with the case, perhaps under a strategy of turning former and current executives of the company against one another. A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N. Blackwater sought to have the sheriff pose as the owner of the weapons because federal firearms law made it illegal for Blackwater to have so many of them, according to the indictment.
U.S. Indicts 5 Blackwater Ex-Officials
Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. Story highlights Private security contractors reindicted by grand jury on manslaughter charges Case relates to shooting in that left 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead Defendants had denied all charges previously, saying they acted in self defense Incident prompted international outrage as U. Four former Blackwater private security contractors faced new federal charges on Thursday, the latest chapter in a controversial political and diplomatic case over a deadly Iraqi War incident. The men were re-indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on various manslaughter charges related to a shooting that left 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead and at least 18 others wounded at Nisur Square in Baghdad. The indictment alleges the men "unlawfully and intentionally, upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion, did commit voluntary manslaughter.
Ex-Blackwater guard indicted on murder charge for Iraq shooting
The shooting killed or injured at least 31 civilians when contractors unleashed a torrent of machine-gun fire and launched grenades into a crowded downtown Baghdad traffic circle from their heavily armored trucks. Three of the contractors — Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty and Paul A. Slough — were convicted in of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime.