President Donald Trump issued a series of pardons Tuesday, including four former Blackwater Worldwide military contractors who were convicted in a 2007 massacre that left 14 unarmed Iraqis dead, numerous sources reported.
Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard will have their prison sentences commuted after being convicted on charges related to the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad, which ignited international outcry over the use of private security contractors in war zones, the White House announced. (RELATED: Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos, Former Aide Ensnared In Russia Probe)
BREAKING: Trump pardons 15/commutes 5, including: @GeorgePapa19; Blackwater contractor Nicholas Slatten who was serving life in prison for killing Iraqi civilian in Nisour Square massacre. DOJ had gone to great lengths to prosecute Slatten. w/@maggieNYT https://t.co/vgR22IRfO4
— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) December 23, 2020
“Mr. Slatten, Mr. Slough, Mr. Liberty, and Mr. Heard have a long history of service to the Nation,” the White House said in a statement. “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.”
Trump’s other pardons include George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide at the center of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election, and former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was convicted on a conspiracy charge for stealing campaign funds for personal use. (RELATED: A Closer Look At The Case Of A Convicted War Criminal Trump Might Pardon)
In May 2019, Trump was reportedly considering pardoning Slatten, who months prior had been convicted of first degree murder for his involvement in the shooting. Slatten and his co-defendants, who were part of a tactical support team called “Raven 23,” had opened fire in and around Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, killing 10 men, two women, and two boys, and injuring 17 others. The murder charge was for the killing of Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, a 19-year-old aspiring doctor who was among the civilians gunned down.
When the Blackwater contractors pardoned today by Trump were convicted for a mass shooting in Iraq, the US attorney who prosecuted them said they had “unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children.” https://t.co/ToppAc77p3
— JamesVGrimaldi (@JamesVGrimaldi) December 23, 2020
Slatten was the first to fire, without provocation, according to the Justice Department. Slatten’s co-defendants were found guilty in 2014 of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, along with other charges. Slatten was sentenced to life in prison, while the other 3 men got 30 years each.
Supporters of the four men lobbied for their pardons, claiming that they had been excessively punished and that the investigation and prosecution were tainted. The White House pointed to alleged ties between the case’s lead Iraqi investigator who prosecutors relied heavily on and insurgent groups.
The pardon was supported by seven Republican congressmen, the White House statement said.