A former Blackwater private security guard was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shooting deaths of 14 people in Baghdad in 2007, the Associated Press reported.
Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting incident at Nisoor Square, a traffic circle in Baghdad. Fourteen people were killed and 17 were injured, prosecutors said in court filings. The extended families of the victims – which included men, women, and children – "suffered immeasurably that day and in the weeks and years to follow," prosecutors said in a sentencing memo.
Three other ex-Blackwater guards — Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, and Paul Slough — were each sentenced to 30 years in prison after they were convicted of firearms offenses related to the shooting, the AP reported.
The Justice Department dropped charges against a fifth former Blackwater employee, Donald Ball.
As the AP reported:
Prosecutors have described the shooting as an unprovoked ambush of civilians, though defense lawyers countered that the men were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, and shot back in self-defense.
Mohammad Kinani Al-Razzaq, who lost his son, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, addressed the court Monday. A photo of his son was displayed on the courtroom monitors, AP said. Al-Razzaq said American soldiers died "because of what Blackwater did."
The incident caused international outrage and led to criticism of how private security outfits working for the government operate in conflict zones.
"What's the difference between these criminals and terrorists?" Razzaq said, according to AP.
The government argued that the men should receive strict sentences because the "defendants have shown no remorse for their actions. Indeed, the defendants have not accepted responsibility for their criminal actions whatsoever and, to this day, have denied any wrongdoing."
Their lawyers said tough sentences wouldn't take into account the fact that the defendants had to work in a very stressful environment.