Associated Press & The Leaf Chronicle / Associated Press – 2008-12-06 22:14:43
Five Blackwater Guards Charged in Iraqi Shooting
(December 6, 2008) — Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards have been indicted and a sixth was negotiating a plea with prosecutors for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents, people close to the case said Friday.
Prosecutors obtained the indictment late Thursday and had it put under seal until it is made public, perhaps as early as Monday. All who discussed the case did so on condition of anonymity because the matters remain sealed.
Six guards have been under investigation since a convoy of heavily armed Blackwater contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses say the shooting was unprovoked but Blackwater, hired by the State Department to guard U. S. diplomats, says its guards were ambushed by insurgents while responding to a car bombing.
Young children were among the victims and the shooting strained relations between the United States and Iraq. Following the shooting, Blackwater became the subject of congressional hearings in Washington and insurgent propaganda videos in Iraq.
The exact charges in the indictment were unclear, but the Justice Department has been considering manslaughter and assault charges against the guards for weeks. Prosecutors have also been considering bringing charges under a law, passed as part of a 1988 drug bill, that carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence for using a machine gun in a crime of violence.
One of the six guards has been negotiating to reduce the charges against him in return for cooperation. If completed, such a deal could provide prosecutors with a key witness against the other five guards. Others in the convoy have already testified before a federal grand jury about the shooting.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined comment.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined to comment.
Regardless of the charges they bring, prosecutors will have a tough fight. The law is unclear on whether contractors can be charged in the United States, or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas. The indictment sends the message that the Justice Department believes contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones.
101st Soldiers to be Arraigned in Iraqi’s Death
FORT CAMPBELL (December 6, 2008) — Two Fort Campbell soldiers will be arraigned next week on charges of premeditated murder in the shooting death of an Iraqi detainee.
Officials said Friday that Staff Sgt. Hal M. Warner, of Braggs, Okla., and 1st Lt. Michael C. Behenna, of Edmond, Okla., will appear Monday before a military judge at the post near Clarksville, Tenn.
The two 101st Airborne soldiers are charged with premeditated murder, assault and making a false statement in the May death of Ali Mansour Mohammed. Warner faces additional charges of accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice.
During a September hearing in Iraq, military prosecutors accused Behenna of stripping the detainee naked, shooting him in the head and chest and watching as Warner set fire to the body with a grenade.
James Phillips, a defense attorney for Warner, said the two soldiers will be tried separately. Both men could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
101st Soldier Hets 40 Years in Beating Death of Infant
The Leaf Chronicle / Associated Press
SEARCY, Ark. (December 6, 2008) — An Arkansas soldier has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his infant stepson.
Patrick West pleaded guilty Wednesday in the death of 5-month-old Aiden Turnage. Authorities say Aiden suffered several skull fractures after he was slammed into a railing.
West, an Army specialist on leave from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, was arrested April 14, after he called 911 to report Aiden was not breathing.
The baby died six days later at a Little Rock hospital.
Authorities say the baby’s mother, Jessica Stacy, was not at home when Aiden was injured.
West has served in Iraq. His younger brother, Spc. Bobby West, was killed May 30, 2006, in a roadside bomb explosion while serving in Baghdad. Patrick West served time in Iraq in 2005, but was sent home after his brother was killed.
The baby had several skull fractures and he was on life support for six days.
Authorities said West told four different stories during the investigation, before finally confessing to the attack and saying he had intentionally hurt the child when extremely frustrated.
West first told White County sheriff’s detectives he didn’t know why the child had stopped breathing. Later West said the baby rolled off the roof of his car and was injured, then West’s third version was that he had accidentally hit the child’s head on a door jamb after he became frustrated when the door wouldn’t open, according to police.
Detectives said West finally demonstrated for investigators how he held baby Aiden by the hips and slammed him into the railing.
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