Charges Unveiled in Blackwater Shooting
A 35-count indictment against five Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 unnarmed civilians at a busy Baghdad intersection in 2007 was unsealed today, charging all of the men with voluntary manslaughter; attempt to commit manslaughter; and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
The charges, which were announced announced at an afternoon news conference in Washington, could net the guards mandatory 30-year prison sentences. A sixth guard who has not been named has already struck a plea agreement, the Associated Press reports.
The Sept. 16, 2007, shooting in Baghdad left 17 people dead and 20 others injured after an armed standoff between Blackwater and Iraqi security forces.
The shooting occurred shortly after noon in Nisoor Square as three Blackwater teams escorted a military unit back to Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone. A car bomb detonated, followed by the armed standoff. Witnesses said that the Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation.
The indicted guards are Donald Ball, a former Marine from West Valley City, Utah; Dustin Heard, a former Marine from Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty, a former Marine from Rochester, N.H.; Nick Slatten, a former Army sergeant from Sparta, Tenn.; and Paul Slough, an Army veteran from Keller, Texas.
Attorneys for the guards are already trying to get the case moved to Utah, where a jury pool could be decidedly more conservative than Washington. But in a potential sign of things to come, as the men arrived at the Salt Lake City courthouse this morning, an unidentified man yelled "babykillers," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
A spokesman for the Iraqi government told the BBC that officials there welcomed any attempt to hold what he called "criminals accountable for their crimes."
By Derek Kravitz |
December 8, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
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