A federal judge in Washington, D.C., sentenced four former Blackwater USA security contractors to long prison terms for killing Iraqi civilians in a notorious 2007 incident, McClatchy Newspapers report. Three of the former Blackwater (now known as Academi) men got prison sentences of 30 years plus a day for their convictions on multiple voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges. A fourth contractor, ex-sniper Nicholas Slatten of Sparta, Tn., was given a mandatory sentence of life for his conviction on one count of first-degree murder. “The defendants appear to be overall good young men who served their country,” said U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, adding that “there is a serious sentence that needs to be imposed for these killings and woundings.”
The other defendants, Dustin Heard of Maryville, Tn.; Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; and Paul A. Slough of Keller, Tx., were sentenced after a day of sometimes emotional testimony that highlighted the enduring scars left by the events of Sept. 16, 2007. That day, a jury concluded last Octoberr, the four security contractors killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 17 in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. “It's clear that these fine young men just panicked,” said Lamberth, adding that as a result of the trial, “the truth about Nisoor Square was out there for the world to see.” The four defendants, all U.S. military veterans, were part of a Blackwater tactical support team called “Raven 23.” Their job on Sept. 16, 2007, was to back up other Blackwater personal security details.