For­mer Black­wa­ter con­trac­tor sen­tenced for Iraq shoot­ings

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

WASHINGTON — A for­mer Black­wa­ter se­cu­rity con­trac­tor was sen­tenced Wed­nes­day to life in prison for his role in the 2007 shoot­ing of un­armed civil­ians in Iraq that left 14 peo­ple dead.

Fed­eral Judge Royce Lam­berth is­sued the sen­tence af­ter a suc­ces­sion of friends and rel­a­tives re­quested le­niency for Ni­cholas Slat­ten, who was found guilty of first-de­gree mur­der by a jury in De­cem­ber. It was Slat­ten’s third trial in the case af­ter an ear­lier con­vic­tion was over­turned and a sec­ond jury dead­locked, re­sult­ing in a mis­trial.

Pros­e­cu­tors charged that Slat­ten, 35, was the first to fire shots in the Septem­ber 2007 mas­sacre of Iraqi civil­ians at a crowded traf­fic cir­cle in Bagh­dad. In all, 10 men, two women and two boys, ages 9 and 11, were killed.

The de­fense had ar­gued that Slat­ten and other Black­wa­ter con­trac­tors opened fire only af­ter they saw what they mis­tak­enly thought was a po­ten­tial sui­cide car bomber mov­ing quickly to­ward their con­voy.

In 2014, a jury con­victed Slat­ten and three other con­trac­tors — Paul Alvin Slough, Evan Shawn Lib­erty and Dustin Lau­rent Heard— who were part of a four-ve­hi­cle con­voy that was pro­tect­ing State De­part­ment per­son­nel in the area. An ap­peals court over­turned that con­vic­tion, say­ing Slat­ten should have been tried sep­a­rately from the three other men.

Slat­ten, a dec­o­rated Army vet­eran who served two tours in Iraq, and his de­fense said he would ap­peal what they called a wrong­ful con­vic­tion fu­eled by pol­i­tics and er­rors by pros­e­cu­tors and the U.S. jus­tice sys­tem.

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