U.S. to drop charges against one Blackwater guard

Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:47pm EST
 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Justice Department prosecutors asked a federal judge on Friday to dismiss the charges against one of five Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad.

In a brief court notice, prosecutors said they filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against Nicholas Slatten of Sparta, Tennessee, but they also said they requested the ability to possibly refile the charges later.

Slatten was one of five men charged in December last year with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation count over the shooting that outraged Iraqis and strained relations between the two countries.

A sixth Blackwater guard pleaded guilty late last year to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The shooting occurred as the private security firm's guards escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy of U.S. diplomats through Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The guards, U.S. military veterans, were responding to a car bombing when shooting erupted in a crowded intersection.

Blackwater is now known as Xe Services.

The actual request to drop the charges was filed under seal, and so no reason was given as to why prosecutors moved to dismiss the case.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "While we never comment on sealed motions, it is a long-standing legal principle that charges against a defendant dismissed without prejudice allow the government to recharge the defendant at a later date if the evidence warrants."

(Reporting by James Vicini; editing by Mohammad Zargham)