US Judge throws out Blackwater manslaughter charges

#1
Judge throws out Blackwater manslaughter charges
6:03pm EST

By Dan Margolies and Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge threw out all charges on Thursday against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007, saying the U.S. government had recklessly violated the defendants' constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said prosecutors had wrongly used statements the guards made to State Department investigators under a threat of job loss.

The five guards were charged a year ago with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation count over a Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqis and strained ties between the two countries.

The shooting occurred as the private security firm's guards escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy of U.S. diplomats through the Iraqi capital on September 16, 2007. The guards, U.S. military veterans, were responding to a car bombing when gunfire erupted at a crowded intersection.

The defendants -- Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard, Donald Ball and Nicholas Slatten -- were employed by Blackwater Worldwide, known since February as Xe Services.

The company, based in North Carolina, lost a State Department contract involving security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after the shooting.

The government had argued that whatever knowledge prosecutors and investigators may have had of the defendants' compelled statements, they had made no use of them.

But Urbina found the compelled statements pervaded nearly every aspect of the government's investigation and prosecution, and the government's use of those statements "appears to have played a critical role" in each indictment.

"Accordingly," he wrote, "the court declines to excuse the government's reckless violation of the defendants' constitutional rights as harmless error."

Urbina said prosecutors and investigators, in their zeal to bring charges, had repeatedly disregarded warnings of experienced, senior prosecutors that their course of action threatened the prosecution's viability.

Mark Hulkower, a lawyer for the defense team, welcomed the decision and said the team was "thrilled that these courageous young men can begin the new year without this unfair cloud hanging over them."

Representatives of Xe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department did not immediately say whether it would appeal the ruling.

Urbina prefaced his opinion with a quotation from a landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Tehan v. U.S.:

"The basic purposes that lie behind the privilege against self-incrimination do not relate to protecting the innocent from conviction, but rather to preserving the integrity of a judicial system in which even the guilty are not to be convicted unless the prosecution shoulder the entire load."

A sixth Blackwater guard pleaded guilty late last year to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

(Reporting by Dan Margolies and Jim Wolf; editing by Steve Gutterman)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BU3PJ20091231
 
#3
Werewolf said:
Happy New Year, Jarhead!

Semper Fi! :D
Same you you-let's hope 2010 will be better on both sides of the Atlantic and especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
#6
countymounty said:
Have a good one! Job done. Just wish Cyclopes & co had the brass ones to do the same!!
CM:

I am surprised that you are still coherent at this hour on New Years Eve!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
 
#8
countymounty said:
jumpinjarhead said:
countymounty said:
Have a good one! Job done. Just wish Cyclopes & co had the brass ones to do the same!!
CM:

I am surprised that you are still coherent at this hour on New Years Eve!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I didnot state I was coherent! New Year lasts until 2359hrs 010110!
Noted. Carry on..... :lol:
 
#9
No suprise there then. If the US is unwilling to charge pilots for so called "friendly fire" incidents against British troops, why would they charge a some of their contractors for murdering a bunch of arabs.
 
#11
Happy New Year Jarhead,

I suspect their maybe some retaliation towards the present CPO working in the area due to this outcome?
 
#12
beemer007 said:
Happy New Year Jarhead,

I suspect their maybe some retaliation towards the present CPO working in the area due to this outcome?
I agree.
 
#13
Cabana said:
No suprise there then. If the US is unwilling to charge pilots for so called "friendly fire" incidents against British troops, why would they charge a some of their contractors for murdering a bunch of arabs.
Perhaps Cabana. Or it might be a bit more like this:


Iraq murder trial charges dropped
Military courtroom in Colchester
The military panel was directed to clear the defendants of the charges
The charges against seven UK soldiers accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian have been dismissed by a judge at a court martial in Colchester, Essex.

He ruled there was insufficient evidence against the seven, accused of murdering Nadhem Abdullah.


The 18-year-old was alleged to have died following an attack on Iraqi civilians in al-Ferkah, southern Iraq, in May 2003.

The Parachute Regiment soldiers always denied murder and violent disorder.

The cleared soldiers are Corporal Scott Evans, 32, and Privates Billy Nerney, 24, Samuel May, 25, Morne Vosloo, 26, Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26.

The trial has cost taxpayers an estimated £10m.

Solicitors for the soldiers have complained there had not been strong enough evidence to take the case to trial.

But a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: "The judge made clear that on the basis of the evidence provided very serious allegations had been made and that it was perfectly proper to take the matter to trial."

Soldiers were not above the law and it was right that the allegations had been "followed up and the evidence tested in full", he added.


It has become clear... that the main Iraqi witnesses had colluded to exaggerate and lie about the incident
Judge Blackett

During the court martial, Martin Heslop QC, prosecuting, told the court Mr Abdullah was an "innocent" teenager who died after an "unjustified", "unprovoked" and "gratuitous" attack on him.

Three weeks after "formal hostilities" had ceased, the paratroopers had been in pursuit of a white pick-up truck when they passed a white Toyota containing Mr Abdullah and Athar Saddam, Mr Heslop said.

They had boxed in the taxi before dragging the deceased and the driver out and attacking them with "feet, fists, helmets and rifles", he alleged.

Judge Blackett directed the panel hearing the court martial to return a not guilty verdict on all seven defendants after criticising the "inadequate" investigation into the case.


RECENT COLLAPSED CASES
April 2005: Trial of Trooper Kevin Williams for murdering Iraqi civilian collapses after prosecutors offer no evidence
March 2005: Jubilee Line fraud case collapses after 21 months and £60m in costs
Feb 2004: Trial of GCHQ whistle-blower collapses after prosecution offers no evidence
November 2002: Charges against Royal butler Paul Burrell dismissed after £1.5m trial

He said that "after discarding the evidence that is too inherently weak or vague for any sensible person to rely on it" the panel "could never reach the high standard of proof required to be sure of the guilt of any defendant".

The judge said the prosecution team had presented their case "properly and objectively".

"However, it has become clear to everyone involved as the trial has progressed that the main Iraqi witnesses had colluded to exaggerate and lie about the incident."

'Wicked lie'

Three women had admitted lying about being assaulted by British soldiers and one witness had told the court that Mr Abdullah's family encouraged others to tell lies, Judge Blackett said.

Witnesses some distance from the scene "could not possibly have seen what they said they saw", he added.


The evidence as it came out in these last two months has been one of acknowledged lies
Solicitor Roger Brice

Civil rights groups condemn case
And Iraqi court witnesses had used the case to seek "compensation to what were patently exaggerated claims", he said.

One witness at the court martial, Samira Rishek, a Marsh-Arab who had claimed to have been brutally beaten by the soldiers while she was pregnant, admitted to the court it was a "wicked lie".

The court heard that Mrs Rishek, along with other witnesses, was paid $100 a day to give evidence at the trial and that she only agreed to give evidence after being told she would be paid.

'No case'

BBC correspondent Paul Adams said there was an "underlying sense" that some of the witnesses were "out to try and get something for themselves".

A number of questions were going to be asked about why the trial had been mounted, he added.

Roger Brice, solicitor for defendant Pte Samuel May told BBC News there had never been a case to answer.

"What the judge has done today is stop the case when the prosecution have concluded... there was never a case for any of the defendants to answer.

"He summed up the fact that the evidence as it came out in these last two months has been one of acknowledged lies."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4403264.stm
Mind you, as you will note from my previous consistent posts on such matters, I am no defender of criminals in combat, whether serving in the forces or as contractors.

The point of my post was that it is legally and practically very difficult to successfully prosecute at home many situations occurring in combat far away. It also shows the folly of trying military type matters in in civilian courts--too bad our current masters don't understand that in the lunacy of moving KSM and others to NYC for trial.
 
#14
Note that the case was thrown out because the defendants had their constitutional rights violated, not because there was no merit in the charges being brought. Interesting that these guys are off the hook because somebody in the DoJ rode roughshod over their constitutional rights - good job they didn't have to get out of Gitmo first to establish those rights.
 
#15
Ah, that'll be the advantage of being American!
 

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