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Today's Top News
Blackwater Off the Hook Again in Plea Deal With Bush-Appointed Judge
America has the "best justice system in the world," says Blackwater exec
A criminal case against executives of the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater ended in a meager misdemeanor plea in court Thursday, amounting to little more than a slap on the wrist for the private military company, critics say.
The charges against the commandos involved weapons trafficking and a wide selection of other weapons violations amounting to fifteen counts of serious felonies.
Instead, as EmptyWheel reported Thursday, "the DOJ collaborated with the defense and walked into court without notice Thursday, filed a new information containing a single misdemeanor charge and proceeded to sentence them on the spot to a hand slap." The plea deal amounts to one count each of failure to keep records on firearms.
Judge Louise W. Flanagan of Federal District Court in North Carolina, a conservative Bush appointee, dismissed all charges against two of the officials, Andrew Howell, Blackwater’s former general counsel, and Ana Bundy, a former vice president, while prosecutors agreed to drop charges against a third, Ronald Slezak, a former weapons manager.
Two officials, Gary Jackson, a former president of Blackwater, and William Matthews, a former executive vice president, agreed to the plea deal, which amounts to four months of house arrest, three years on probation and a fine of $5,000.
All other charges against the men, including conspiracy to violate firearms laws and possession of unregistered firearms, were dismissed.
After the deal was made Jackson stated that he believes the U.S. has the "best justice system in the world."
EmptyWheel writes today:
...it happened basically as a covert op on the public and interested legal community...All designed so the public would not know and could not have any input. Diametrically contrary to the fundamental precepts of the American justice system. [...]
How and why did all this occur? Undoubtedly because of the highly classified and incestuous relationship between Blackwater and the US Government, and the resulting ability of Blackwater to literally blackmail and extort concessions through graymail threats (See here for a short history of graymail).
So, through secrecy, classification, graymail and direct collusion with the DOJ, Blackwater, and its executive henchmen, win and the American public lose yet again. I have been practicing criminal law for 25 years and I am absolutely offended by what occurred in Judge Louise Flanagan’s courtroom today. Both she and the Obama Department of Justice should be made to answer for it.
In response the the hearing, Nation correspondent Jeremy Scahill released a series of tweets including:
Aaron Swartz faced 50+ years in prison, but Blackwater execs get 4 months house arrest.— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) February 21, 2013
No Blackwater executives ever faced any charges for the systematic killing of Iraqi civilians. Ever. But lock up the kids caught with drugs— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) February 21, 2013
They said, everything we did, we did with the knowledge and at the direction of the CIA.— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) February 21, 2013
Blackwater: The gangsters of graymailing the US government.— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) February 21, 2013