On December 22nd, US President Donald Trump, who is in his final weeks in office, issued a wave of Presidential Pardons.
Among many individuals, he notably pardoned the following 4, as seen on the photographs from left to right:
- Dustin Heard;
- Evan Liberty;
- Nicholas Slatten;
- Paul Slough.
The statement of their pardons describes them as heroic veterans, who served the country for years, and their pardoning is widely supported by the public.
“Mr. Slatten, Mr. Slough, Mr. Liberty, and Mr. Heard have a long history of service to the Nation. Mr. Slatten was inspired to serve his country after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and served two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. Mr. Slough served in the United States Army and deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit. Mr. Liberty served in the United States Marine Corps and protected United States Embassies abroad. Mr. Heard served in the United States Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Okay, but enough teasing, who are these 4 people?
This is the White House version of events, described in the release:
“These veterans were working in Iraq in 2007 as security contractors responsible for securing the safety of United States personnel.
When the convoy attempted to establish a blockade outside the “Green Zone,” the situation turned violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians.
Initial charges against the men were dismissed, but they were eventually tried and convicted on charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.
On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten’s trial. Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself.”
If one hasn’t realized what this refers to: these 4 men are the Blackwater guards (from Erik Prince’s PMC) who killed 17 people in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2007.
They were on trial back in 2014, and it saw approximately 30 witnesses travel from Iraq to testify against them.
Prosecutors accused the men of illegally unleashing “powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children.”
According to prosecutors, the four were among seven Blackwater employees who opened fire in the Nusoor Square traffic circle in Baghdad, killing 17 people.
An FBI investigation found 14 of the deaths unjustified, according to rules of engagement for private security contractors in Iraq, two children were killed in the incident, two boys ages 11 and 9.
Slatten was accused of firing the first shots.
Blackwater said its convoy came under attack, and defense attorneys said in court that witness accounts were fabricated.
But witnesses testified that the contractors opened fire without provocation.
The White House said their pardons were supported by a number of members of Congress along with Pete Hegseth, the conservative Fox News host.
As mentioned above, Blackwater, which is since defunct, was founded by Erik Prince, the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
The White House said that, on appeal, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Slatten’s trial. Further, the release added, prosecutors recently disclosed that the lead Iraqi investigator involved may have been tied to insurgent groups.
In 2018, Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for opening fire first in the Nisour Square massacre. The other guards initially were sentenced to 30 years in prison but the sentences were halved by a judge in September of 2019.
6 years of a sentence was enough, however, and the 4 will now be free man, and be treated as the “veteran American heroes” that they allegedly are.
It is likely that Trump has resigned to the reality that the election is now lost, he will not be president in 2021, and wants to clear as many of his alleged allies as he can.
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