Responsible for murdering 14 Iraqi civilians and wounding 17 others, four former Blackwater mercenaries have recently been granted full pardons from President Donald Trump. In addition to pardoning the disgraced mercenaries, Trump also issued pardons to several corrupt congressmen before leaving office.
On September 16, 2007, Blackwater security contractor Nicholas Slatten opened fire on a crowd of Iraqi civilians at a blockade at Nisour Square in Baghdad. According to witnesses, Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard, and Jeremy Ridgeway attempted to kill everyone in Nisour Square.
Another turret gunner, Matthew Murphy, waved his arms warning nearby Iraqis to get down. The only damage inflicted upon the convoy’s command vehicle came from shrapnel by an American grenade fired at close range by a Blackwater operative.
In December 2008, Ridgeway pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter. As Ridgeway began cooperating with prosecutors, Judge Ricardo Urbina of Federal District Court in Washington threw out the indictments against Slatten, Liberty, Slough, Heard, and Donald Ball. An appeals court reversed his ruling in 2011, allowing prosecutors to obtain indictments against them. The prosecution chose not to indict Ball again.
On October 22, 2014, Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder. Slough was convicted on 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 17 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Liberty was found guilty of eight counts of voluntary manslaughter, 12 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Heard was convicted on six counts of voluntary manslaughter, 11 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense.
On August 4, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed Slatten’s murder conviction and ordered the other defendants to be re-sentenced. In December 2018, Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y and the other innocent people gunned down during the massacre.
In August 2019, Slatten was sentenced to life in federal prison.
On Tuesday, the White House announced that President Trump issued full pardons to Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard. In a press release, the White House claimed, “The pardon of these four veterans is broadly supported by the public, including Pete Hegseth, and elected officials such as Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Ralph Norman, Rep. Bill Flores, Rep. Brian Babin, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Daniel Webster, Rep. Steve King, and Rep. Ted Yoho.”
“Today we were surprised that the American president issued a decision to pardon these criminals, murderers, and thugs,” Hassan Salman, a victim of the massacre, told NPR. “I’m really shocked…The American judiciary is fair and equitable. I had never imagined that Trump or any other politician would affect American justice.”
“My message to US President Trump is to not pardon or release the perpetrators, they are terrorists,” Jasim Mohammed Al-Nasrawi, a police officer who was injured in the attack, told CNN. “I am still not a hundred percent recovered from my head wound, which [was] sustained in the gunfire by Blackwater guards in 2007 and have not been completely compensated for the attack. I will not waive my right to this case, I am not giving up.”
Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, is the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Trump also issued pardons to George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, who made false statements in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
On the same day, Trump pardoned corrupt congressmen Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins, and Steve Stockman. Former California Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison for stealing $250,000 in campaign funds. Former New York Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to 26 months in prison after pleading guilty to insider trading and lying to federal investigators. Former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,014,718.51 in restitution for orchestrating a four-year scheme to defraud charitable donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars and to secretly funnel the proceeds to pay for personal expenses and to illegally finance his political campaigns for public office.