January 23rd, 2010
10:49 AM ET
10 years ago

Biden: US to appeal dismissal of Blackwater charges

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) - The United States plans to appeal a federal judge's dismissal of charges against five Blackwater security guards accused of killing 17 people in Baghdad in 2007, Vice President Joe Biden announced Saturday.

Speaking at a joint appearance with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Biden said he was "disappointed" with the ruling, and that the Justice Department would file the appeal next week.

The September 2007 shootout in Baghdad's Nusoor Square left 17 Iraqis dead and two dozen wounded. The killings led Iraq's government to slap limits on security contractors hired by Blackwater, now known as Xe, and other firms.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina found that the government's case was built largely on "statements compelled under a threat of job loss in a subsequent criminal prosecution," a violation of the Fifth Amendment rights of the five men charged.

"In their zeal to bring charges against the defendant in this case, the prosecutors and investigators aggressively sought out statements the defendants had been compelled to make to government investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and in the subsequent investigation," Urbina wrote in a 90-page decision.

Federal prosecutors "repeatedly disregarded the warnings of experienced, senior prosecutors assigned to the case" in doing so, he found.

Urbina also sharply criticized prosecutors and federal agents who developed the case, calling their explanations for using the guards' statements "all too often contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility."

"In short, the government has utterly failed to prove that it made no impermissible use of the defendants' statements or that such use was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," he wrote.

The men were guarding a State Department convoy moving through western Baghdad when the shooting began. The company said its contractors came under attack, but Iraqi authorities called the gunfire unprovoked and indiscriminate.

Each of the now-former guards - Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard,
Donald Ball and Nicholas Slatten - faced 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts
of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

Prosecutors requested that charges against Slatten be dropped in November, but Thursday's ruling dismisses the counts against all five.

"We're obviously pleased at the decision dismissing the entire indictment and are very happy that these courageous young men can begin the new year without this unfair cloud hanging over them," said Slough's lawyer, Mark
Hulkower, at the time of the dismissal.

A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty in 2008 to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.

Filed under: Iraq
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Bugl3t

    Blackwater, now known as Xe, but (as they say) a rose is a rose is a rose and if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck.

    Criminals by any other name would STILL be CRIMINALS. This is what we get when we failed to indict Darth Cheney for his war crimes.

    January 23, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. Justin

    Ridiculous kangaroo court from start to finish. Good work Justice Urbina, I'm glad somebody in this whole mess had a brain.

    January 23, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If you wonder why other countries don't like us, this is a good example; we prosecute and kill the so called enemies and crimes committed by us aren't crimes. We will always be under threat as long as we continue to dismiss and ignore the killings of innocent people.

    January 23, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. jrzshor

    yes! a resounding yes! the death penalty! america should go after those terrorists scum!

    hang on, if america pretended to make real terrorists "american and/or blackwater" then this war would be over pretty quickly given the resolve biden speaks to.

    January 23, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Dan

    Is this administration for us or against us? They want the rule of law, and then they do not believe Federal judge ruling? Throw a bone to you dog-like leftist wing (who do not mind destroying peoples' life for the cause of shoing the US is a mean country) and then keep on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The public is not stupid, after one year we have learned the pattern.. and guess what, we DO NOT LIKE IT! Go Scott Brown!!!!

    January 23, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Out of Bounds

    Biden is out of Bounds, his role as VP does not extend to the courts. If the Federal Prosecuters wish to appeal the court's decision and the Attroney General supports that decision, then it should be appealed to a higher court.

    But for Biden to lead this charge demonstrates that this White House is willing to coerce members of our judicial system to the same extend that we witnessed with Bush and Cheney.

    Bottom Line, Obama has not brought Change, just Hype where we needed Hope.

    January 23, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. katiec

    Private companies like Blackwater should have no power when making decisions on life and death. Still cannot understand why these private contractors are needed and allowed.
    Wonder how many millions of our taxpayer dollars go to these
    hand picked by Cheney companies.

    January 23, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. nick

    Biden's intellect is matched by several of the posters here. These men were tried and the charges were thrown out.....in this country that used to mean you are not guilty. Perhaps this administration plans to treat them the same way as KSM............if he is found innocent we're not going to let him go anyway!

    January 23, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. MatthewDetroit

    Biden is a jerk and UN American.
    He and his boy president leader hate America. They are anti American in every move.

    They treat terrorist muslims like US citizens.
    They treat our military like buffoons.
    They treat private US Security as enemies.
    They treat the CIA terribly and question every move.
    They did not even mention when the CIA agents were killed.
    They are prosecuting Navy Seals.
    Yet again they are seen as heroes of the arab world.

    You people need to wake up, these people like Biden, DO NOT stand for the USA or its beliefs. He is a week willed wimpy politician.


    January 23, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. Scott, Tucson

    Nope, I'm sorry but give these guys a medal, they could have easily ended up like their coworkers whom were ambushed by a crowd of innocent Iraqis, butchered and hung from a bridge for the world to see.

    January 23, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. Last Honest Man

    It is impossible, not to laugh, when Biden is involved in anything.

    January 23, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. Aunt Bea and Opie

    This private army should be disbanded before the corporate fascists use them against the American people.

    January 23, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  13. Gordon Shumway

    Those murderers need to be brought to justic for U.S. to have any credibility at all.

    January 23, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. America Shrugged

    The federal judge in this case dismissed charges due to a technicality. Blackwater contractors are being paid by American taxpayer dollars and should be held accountable for what ever crimes they are accused of. Blackwater was a nothing corporation until Bush took office in 2000 and now is a billion dollar company thanks to gubmint welfare. These private armies are only loyal to the highest bidder. It's only a matter of time before they are unleashed on the American people..Does New Orleans ring a bell?

    January 23, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. fools and their freedoms are soon parted

    Funny, how the 5th ammendment works for cop killers and no one says a thing... if they are a liberal that is...I forgot how fond you all are of cop killers, terrorists and spies.....

    January 23, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. B

    This is a good example of what we have to look forward to.

    Judges owned by politics and corporate interests.

    January 23, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. stormerF

    Where is the Iraqis outrage at all the sucide bombers? 17 people are killed in a shoot out,why were they not ducking for cover and getting the hell out of the way. How about the Sucide bombers Family when he kills a 100 people,why does the Iraqis not go after his family? Case was dismissed,Joe it was tried in criminal court,like you want the terrorists tried,and now you do not like the results? Too bad suck it up fool.

    January 23, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. John McCain

    Give them a fair trial – then hang 'em!

    January 23, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. Death Panel Sarah

    Hey 'out of bounds'.....
    He is not going to try the defendants...
    He merely said the U.S. is going to APPEAL the decision.

    Stop reading what ISN'T there!!!

    January 23, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. Death Panel Sarah

    Hey Dan.....

    'For us or against us?????


    ...You sound like Bush(spell like him, too)!!!

    January 23, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Victim of Republican Taliban

    Good job Biden. What a complete waste of our tax $ still funding Dick Cheney profiteering war of personal choice, while we let the REAL enemy escape the past 8 years in Afganistan. Republican-style outsourcing is a scam...we pay Blackwater absurd amounts of $, way more than what our troops make.

    January 23, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    Hey Blackwater/Xw, whatever the heck your name is:

    You play, you pay! You want to make huge sums of money off the American taxpayer, doing god-knows-what? You are accountable to our laws, buddy!

    You are criminals – and YOU ARE GOING DOWN!

    January 23, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. southern cousin

    Love Bugl3t@. Court decsions still don't deter the Bush Derangement Syndrome. The truth cannot conquer the liberal ignorance.

    January 23, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. Ronald E Miller

    when is it justice when we try our soliders who is fighting for our freedom,and let real criminals go.

    January 23, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Do the Iraqis remember that Joe was the guy who, during the campaign, wanted to carve their country into 3 separate countries despite what they wanted? It must have been an interesting private meeting with the Iraqi leadership. I guess filing an appeal is Joe's way of saying he's sorry.

    January 23, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |