The Blackwater security guard sentenced to life for murdering an Iraqi man insists he is an innocent victim of Justice Department prosecutors.
Nicholas Slatten, 35, was sentenced on Wednesday for his role in the 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians in Iraq. He was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in December.
Slatten, of Sparta, Tennessee, has vowed the decision is ‘a miscarriage of justice that will not stand’ and has asserted his innocence.
Judge Royce Lamberth, in issuing the life sentence, dismissed much of the family’s claims that Slatten was a scapegoat for international political considerations.
‘The jury got it exactly right,’ he said. ‘This was murder.’
But his family have vowed to keep fighting his conviction with rumors now swirling that Donald Trump might be considering a pardon.
Two White House sources told The New York Times paperwork about his and other cases had been requested by officials.
Former Blackwater security contractor Nicholas Slatten, pictured in 2014, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians in Iraq that left 14 dead
Slatten was convicted of killing Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 19, left, an aspiring doctor who was one of more than a dozen civilians killed by Blackwater guards in Baghdad’s Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. Donald Trump, right, might be considering a pardon
Slatten’s father, Darrell, paused in addressing the judge to speak directly to his son, who sat largely impassive in a beige prison jumpsuit.
‘Nick, please accept my apology for what your country has done to you,’ he said. ‘We will fight until hell freezes over to correct this travesty of justice.’
Slatten himself told the judge that he was a victim of an ‘unjust prosecution’ and that government lawyers cared more about producing a conviction than uncovering the truth of what happened in Baghdad 12 years ago.
He is reported to have told the court the government covered up evidence that would prove insurgents started the incident in Nisour Square.
Prosecutors charged that Slatten was the first to fire shots in the September 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad.
In all, 10 men, two women and two boys, ages 9 and 11, were killed.
Spring flowers are planted in Nisoor Square, the site of a deadly shootout by Blackwater private security contractors in 2007
This 2007 file photo shows an Iraqi traffic policeman inspects a car destroyed by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad
The defense had argued that Slatten and other Blackwater contractors opened fire only after they saw what they mistakenly thought was a potential suicide car bomber moving quickly toward their convoy.
But Slatten, who was escorting a diplomatic convoy, was convicted of killing Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 19, an aspiring doctor in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
The guards opened fire in the bustling square with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, allegedly without provocation.
The Iraqi government says the toll was higher.
Federal judge Royce Lamberth issued the sentence after relatives requested leniency for Nicholas Slatten, pictured, who was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in December. Prosecutors charged that Slatten, 35, was the first to fire shots in the September 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad
The shooting, four years after U.S. forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, deepened resentment toward Americans by Iraqis and raised questions about the expanded use of armed contract guards by the US government.
The US Attorney’s Office presented testimony from 34 witnesses during the trial, including four who came to the United States from Iraq to testify.
It was Slatten’s third trial on the charges. His first conviction was thrown out and the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict at his second trial.
Slatten was one of four Blackwater guards who were found guilty in 2014.
He was originally sentenced to life in prison while the three others were given 30-year prison sentences.
An appeals court ordered that the three other Blackwater guards be re-sentenced.