Blackwater Murder Case Overturned By U.S. Appeals Court

By Aaron Kesel

A U.S. appeals court on Friday dismissed the first-degree murder charge against a former Blackwater employee, Nicholas A. Slatten, and ordered re-sentencings for three others convicted in the case.

Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians during a 2007 assault on a Baghdad public square. Four of the guards were later convicted in U.S. court of either murder or manslaughter charges as a result of the incident after a 12-person jury found the men guilty of opening fire on the Iraqis denying them a retrial.

[RELATED: Blackwater Contractors Charged With Killing 14 Iraqis Denied Retrial]

Those men Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard may now face a retrial due to their sentencing being “cruel and unusual punishment” violating the Constitution.

The court found the 30-year terms of the three others who had been convicted of manslaughter — Paul A. Slough, 37, of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty, 35, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard, 36, of Maryville, Tenn. — violated the constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

U.S. circuit judges, Karen LeCraft Henderson and Janice Rogers Brown, wrote that “we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty’s actions. Their poor judgments resulted in the deaths of many innocent people,” the judges wrote.

Erik Prince, the founder of former mercenary firm Blackwater now Academi was under investigation in the U.S. for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and money laundering last year.

[RELATED: Blackwater Founder Investigated For Ties To Chinese Intelligence And Money Laundering]

The Department Of Justice accused Prince of “allegations that he received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China,” The Intercept reported.

Victoria Toensing, Prince’s lawyer said he has not been informed of any federal investigation and had not offered any defense services in Libya. Toensing further added, the money-laundering allegations are “total bullshit.”

Prince’s current company, Frontier Services Group, is based in Hong Kong; the current firm does not provide any military services.

Despite not being a military service, the company “conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones.” Prince has often described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa.

Beneath all this “charity work” The Intercept alleges that Prince was living a double life trying to reestablish his empire.

Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals.

Last year, FSG’s board grew so concerned about Prince’s efforts to sell paramilitary programs and services t0 foreign governments that they passed several resolutions that stripped Prince of most of his responsibilities as chairman of the company.

The Intercept interviewed several of Prince’s past and present business partners, as well as former U.S. intelligence officials and individuals familiar with the matter who all seem to say the same thing that Prince was involved in lucrative deals.

A former intel official told The Intercept that Prince had opened up an account allegedly with the Bank of China as recently as January “for the purpose of what is considered now in the investigation money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.”

“Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, the intel official said.

Prince himself has never been charged despite being accused of smuggling weapons and murdering his associates according to a former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who both filed sworn affidavits in 2009.

In those statements, they alleged that Prince and Blackwater had whistleblowers killed who were going to come forward with information on Prince’s past dealings to authorities, The Nation reported.

“It appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct,” John Doe 2 said.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post and is Director of Content for Coinivore. Follow him at Twitter and Steemit. This article is Creative Commons and can be republished in full with attribution.

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