Former Blackwater contractor sentenced for Iraq shootings
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.