Judge dismisses charges against Blackwater guards in Iraq deaths
By Del Quentin Wilber
A federal judge dismissed charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in a controversial shooting in a busy Baghdad square two years ago in a ruling that sharply criticized the tactics of Justice Department prosecutors handling the case.
The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of the District's federal court, found that prosecutors and agents had improperly used statements that the guards provided to the State Department in the hours and days after the shooting. The statements had been given with the understanding that they would not be used against the guards in court, the judge found, and federal prosecutors improperly used them to help guide their investigation. Urbina said other Justice Department lawyers had warned the prosecutors to tread carefully around the incriminating statements.
"In their zeal to bring charges," Urbina wrote in a 90-page opinion, "prosecutors and investigators aggressively sought out statements in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and in the subsequent investigation. In so doing, the government's trial team repeatedly disregarded the warnings of experienced, senior prosecutors, assigned to the case specifically to advise the trial team" on such matters.
The five Blackwater guards -- a sixth has pleaded guilty -- were indicted in December 2008 on manslaughter and weapons charges accusing them of killing and injuring unarmed civilians.
We may never know all the facts on this case but I hope this is an attention getting action for the DOJ when they consider charges against others who were acting in a war zone, and not charge them as if they were in a peaceful, civilian area. Read it all.