Tuesday, June 5, 2012



US top court rejects Blackwater Iraq shooting appeal


9:30 AM CDT, June 4, 2012

* Deadly Baghdad shooting in 2007 strained U.S.-Iraqi ties

* At issue self-incrimination rights over statements to


* High-profile U.S. Justice Department prosecution

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on

Monday rejected an appeal by four Blackwater Worldwide security

guards who argued prosecutors made improper use of their

statements to investigators in charging them with killing 14

Iraqi civilians in 2007.

The justices refused to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals

court in Washington, D.C., that reinstated the criminal charges

against the guards for their roles in the Baghdad shooting that

outraged Iraqis and strained ties between the two nations.

The shooting occurred as the guards, U.S. State Department

security contractors, escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy

of U.S. diplomats through the Iraqi capital on Sept. 16, 2007.

The guards, U.S. military veterans, responded to a car

bombing when gunfire erupted at a busy intersection. The guards

told State Department investigators they opened fire in

self-defense, but prosecutors said the shooting was an

unprovoked attack on civilians.

A federal judge ruled the defendants' constitutional right

against self-incrimination had been violated and the case was

tainted because prosecutors improperly used statements made by

the guards to the investigators right after the shooting.

But the appeals court disagreed that the indictment of the

guards had been improperly obtained through the use of their

compelled statements, a victory for the U.S. Justice Department

in a high-profile prosecution.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, the attorney for the

guards, Bruce Bishop, argued the government had compelled them

to make potentially incriminating statements. Later use of those

statements to charge the guards violated their constitutional

right against self-incrimination, he said.

"The issue is of national importance," Bishop said. "The

privilege against self-incrimination is a fundamental and

universal value in Anglo-American justice."

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli from the Justice

Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. He said

the evidence the government used to obtain the indictment was

based on legitimate sources independent of the guards' compelled


The four guards - Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard

and Donald Ball -- were employed by Blackwater, the

controversial private security company which has changed its

name to Xe Services and then to Academi.

In the Iraqi and Afghan wars, Blackwater came to symbolize

the U.S. policy of hiring private contractors to do work

previously handled by the military.

Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a fifth guard,

Nicholas Slatten. A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, already has

pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The State Department had ordered the guards to explain to

investigators what happened under threat of job loss and had

promised them limited immunity. The Justice Department said

prosecutors and FBI investigators did not make improper use of

those statements in building their case.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment.

(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Copyright © 2012, Reuters

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