Blackwater Guards Surrender in Utah

Update: DOJ announcement here. A sixth defendant, Jeremy Ridgeway pleaded guilty to these charges (pdf) brought by Information rather than Indictment. The factual basis for his plea is here (pdf).

Five Blackwater guards charged in federal court in Washington with manslaughter and use of a machine gun a crime of violence -- the killing of Iraqis -- surrendered today in Utah.

Seventeen Iraqis were killed in the September 2007 shooting. Witnesses said the heavily armed U.S. contractors opened fire unprovoked, killing innocent motorists and children at a crowded intersection. Blackwater, the largest security contractor in Iraq, says its guards were ambushed by insurgents while responding to a car bombing.

Why Utah? For one thing, Paul Cassell, who lives in Utah is on the defense team. [More...]

"We think it's pure and simple a case of self-defense," Paul Cassell, a Utah attorney on the defense team, said Monday as the guards were being booked. "Tragically people did die."

Cassell wants the trial moved there. Cassell? What a poor choice. I guess they wanted a right-winger. They got one. As I wrote here when he resigned from the federal bench:

His agenda has always been promoting victims' rights over those of defendants, eviscerating Miranda rights and pushing the death penalty, making light of false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Cassell sees the Blackwater guards as victims. It figures. I can't wait to see him change his tune yet again and argue for a non-guideline sentence if they get convicted.

[Updated AP article here.]

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  • Display: Sort:
    All that Cassel being on the defense team (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:29:11 AM EST
    means, as far as I'm concerned, is that the fix is in on this one.  No one in DoJ would have negotiated such a surrender - or allowed such chicanery to go forward - if the fix was not in from the highest levels.

    Remember the Salt Lake City Olympics "bribery" cases, that mysteriously went away once it became clear the Games would proceed on time?  Same deal - fix was in.  Not that Cassel was on the defense team (IIRC, he was already on the bench), but be sure the feds will be the bad guys on this case.

    I'm the Marshal's service:  those defendants are flown from SLC to DC to be arraigned there, and then tossed in Lorton.

    I was just about to say... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:47:05 AM EST
    what a pleasant shocker it is that the feds indicted some Blackwater mercs...I hadn't considered the fix may be in.  

    That makes a lot more sense.


    Remember, too, the timing (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:52:52 AM EST
    If the feds bring this case now, the Republicans can control how it gets started.  And the start of any case (like anything else) is often determinative of how it will end.

    It's not like there's a statute of limitations problem or anything....


    One more thing - (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 01:20:50 PM EST
    if it was a favorable venue Cassel and the others were thinking about, by surrendering in Utah as opposed to DC, then it would make more sense to have the case venued in Tennessee, because two of the defendants are from Tennessee, as opposed to just one from Utah.

    Nope - venue in Utah spells "Fix is in" to this observer.

    Isn't it always? (none / 0) (#18)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 01:26:51 PM EST
    Well, that attempt at venue shopping (none / 0) (#19)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 04:39:30 PM EST
    Question... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:49:44 AM EST
    why aren't the mercs being extradited to Iraq to face charges?

    Seems to me the alleged crimes would fall under Iraqi jurisdiction...I mean Iraq is a sovereign nation and not a US colony right?  And it's not like we are talking about US soldiers, these are mercs..soldiers of fortune.

    It will be interesting to see the evidence. (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:52:32 AM EST
    I find it hard to believe, absent anything more info than what the news has said, that the defendants just opened fire, willy-nilly, with no perception, at least, that they were under attack.

    Here's their "evidence" (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:54:38 AM EST
    From the guilty plea proffer of the sixth defendant. (pdf)

    Thanks, I just read it. (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:06:38 PM EST
    And I now understand more of what happened and it certainly looks like they did open fire w/o sufficient provocation.

    It will be interesting to see how much different the description of the events that took place will be from the defendants in this new trial.


    Ok, Ridgeway rolled and will (none / 0) (#9)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:06:57 PM EST
    testify against his buddies.  They'll need him to set the stage and tell how the events "went".  He's the star witness.

    He's the oldest one in the bunch (All the others are in their 20s) and I'd bet money Ridgeway has family who would like to see him outside prison before he's old enough to collect Social Security.

    Now, the question is:  did the feds offer any of the other defendants a deal they might have declined?


    Not for nothing sarc... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:59:18 AM EST
    most criminal violent acts are hard for peace loving people to believe...but it happens.  

    As to what really happened here, who the hell knows.  I'm just kinda glad that Blackwater mercs might be being held to the same standards under the law as any knucklehead running around with automatic weapons.

    Unless this is just a sham trial to pacify the Iraqi people without subjecting American born mercs to Iraqi justice.


    I think you're right, (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:16:45 PM EST
    re: violent acts.

    In fact, now that you make me think of it, I would imagine almost every violent act is probably believed to be the right course of action by the person when they're doing it.

    Sadly, it's one thing to say something mean in the heat of passion and regret it later, but it's completely another thing to blow a couple holes in someone's chest with a M40 and regret it later...


    Not untypical (none / 0) (#11)
    by jondee on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:24:18 PM EST
    war zone, or percieved war zone, behavior.

    Along with all the other niceties that have always been part and parcel of war, ie, rape, torture, murder, child abuse etc

    Which is why those who vote for unnecessary wars should also be in the dock. Bad intelligence or no bad intelligence.


    Obama'd have to look for a new SoS (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:47:47 PM EST
    if that were the case...

    Thats what Im thinkin' (none / 0) (#15)
    by jondee on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:50:17 PM EST
    speaking as the minority opinion.

    this incident (as if any were needed) (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:31:27 PM EST
    highlights the danger of having mercenaries doing the work that should be done by US military personell. the poor planning that went into our invasion of iraq, especially the insufficient number of troops to take over the peace, all comes down to this.

    i'm still kind of at a loss as to why these people aren't being tried under iraqi law?

    They Are IMMUNE (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by squeaky on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:58:38 PM EST
    The US wrote the Iraq law. Since the SOFA passed a few weeks ago, that has changed. The new law will go into effect if the national referendum on SOFA ratifies it end of july 2009.

    US contractors - the armed mercenaries in their SUVs whom Iraqis hate even more than the American military - will lose their immunity and be subject to Iraqi law, a development that is already prompting many security firms to start pulling out. US troops who rape Iraqi women or commit any other crime while off duty and off base will have to stand trial in Iraqi courts.



    "work" (none / 0) (#13)
    by jondee on Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 12:34:56 PM EST
    is a nice way of putting it.

    We've got a few bridges and housing projects in Western NY they can work on.

    And the Bills need a new coach (sorry Dick).