Letter from Christin Slough, wife of Paul Slough

If you’re new here, I’ve written a letter to you. Please read it, and don’t hesitate to share it with others.

 

Hi. I’m Christin. My husband Paul Slough is in prison, and may remain that way for the next 25 years if we don’t do something about it.

 

Truthfully, I wish I was alone in this but I’m not. I am joined in my terrible fight by the rest of our family, and the families of Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Nick Slatten, not to mention the countless friends, both old and new that have joined us. We aren’t fighting because our loved ones messed up and we just want them back, but because they never belonged in prison in the first place.

 

Every single weekend my two year and old I drive hours away from our family and friends to visit my husband for a couple hours in a sterile prison visiting room. While she should be playing outside, doing arts and crafts or attending birthday parties, instead she is eating over processed sugary garbage out of a prison vending machine and constantly being corralled back into her plastic chair. Paul and I try to catch up and plaster smiles on our faces for our beloved daughter, but most days it’s hard to choke back the tears while I gaze upon him and my daughter. My husband, like his friends, is a decorated combat veteran who was willing to sacrifice everything for his country. He did sacrifice his youth, his physical health, and to the degree only a combat veteran can explain, his mental health for our freedom. He did everything right… made the tough calls, conducted himself with honor, and treated everyone fairly.

 

In 2006 after being honorably discharged from the Army, he was invited to go through selection to work on a contract basis for the Department of State. Although the majority of applicants “wash out” before selection is complete, my husband’s experience and training bore out a contract offer to work in Iraq, which after thorough discussion he accepted. He worked in Iraq for many months on an Ambassador Protection Detail, however he felt his skills and personal preferences were better suited to a Tactical Support Team, which he transferred to. This transfer was not made without resistance, however. His supervisor on his APD team basically begged him to stay, and was incredibly disheartened to lose his most reliable second in charge.

 

Not but a couple months later, on September 16, 2007, my husband’s Tactical Support Team was called out of the green (“safe”) zone to assist another team that had been hit by a car bomb, so big you could see it from outer space. They locked down a place called Nisur Square so that it would be a route option for the battered team to get back to the green zone. After locking down all traffic, a white Kia popped out of the already stopped traffic and started traveling towards the convoy, refusing to stop for the hand gestures, yelling, water bottles, and warning shots to the engine block of the car. At the same time, the team began receiving incoming small arms (AK-47) fire, so bad that my husband’s vehicle was pock marked with bullet strikes, his vehicle was disabled and had to be towed from the square. I shudder when I see the pictures. There’s a bullet strike at the very top lip of the turret where my husband’s torso was exposed, just at the slim line where his vest would have met his exposed lower half. It still gives me chills even now as I write this. In my darker moments, I wonder what would have happened if that shot had been true? If it had met its intended target? Would someone from our government have believed them then? Or would they have even cared?

 

As you likely could have guessed, a firefight ensued in Nisur Square. From the time my husband’s team entered the square, until the time the team left, all told they were there about ten minutes. Although it’s clear that people were killed or injured in the square that day, a third responding team showed up within minutes of their exit and saw nothing even resembling the ‘massacre’ the incident was later made out to be. We even have pictures from moments after… you can see that the white Kia is afire from the last ditch effort to get it to stop (within mere feet of the convoy) but nothing else… not a single injured or killed person, no first responders, ambulances, or police cars. Just… nothing.

 

What has transpired since then has been nothing short of grotesque. Unbeknownst to us, at the same time this incident had occurred, our government and the Iraqi government had been negotiating the Status of Forces Agreement, by which our countries would have a formal agreement related to our occupancy. The Iraqi government had been pushing hard to have legal jurisdiction over any alleged crime committed by individuals who were not the military. This would mean that all contractors, from the mail guy to the DOS/DOD security personally would be subject to Sharia Law if accused of a crime while in country… Can you imagine? When this incident took place and the Iraqi Police found out it was a contractor that was involved, they claimed that the team came into the square and simply opened fire on its occupants, completely unprovoked, and attempted to exert jurisdiction to try the case in their courts. Understanding the legal precedence that would set, and the outrage from the American people should our government allow that to happen, our government insisted they would try the case in the U.S.

 

But there was a problem… There was nothing to take to court. The Department of State evaluated the scene, the after action reports of the involved team members, my husband’s pock marked and disabled vehicle, the burn on Dustin’s sleeve, etc and found that the team had received and returned fire on reasonably perceived threats. They recognized that downtown Baghdad was a war zone, and that reviewing the incident after the fact had its limitations, and drew a reasonable conclusion based on the information they had access to.

 

Most unfortunately, that was politically problematic. How was the U.S. going to try the promised case (and gain the very likely promised conviction) if there wasn’t clear evidence that a bad shoot took place? Enter the Iraqi Police and the F.B.I. The Iraqi Police and mere civilians flooded the scene after the incident took place, and there was absolutely no “crime scene” control like we would expect to see in the U.S. Literal bags of enemy casings were removed, next to no photographs were taken of the injured or killed, vehicles were moved, etc. The Iraqi Police had complete “control” of the scene (I use that term lightly) and the witnesses for three full weeks before the F.B.I. was ordered to come in and do what the Department of State wouldn’t do – find someone from the team at fault based on no evidence.

 

In the meantime, the Iraqi Police put out television ads asking for witnesses and victims to come forward. It was common knowledge that if you or a family member was injured or killed in such an incident, you would be compensated. You could even be compensated if you had certain types of property damage… So it was certainly no surprise that the victim counts began to rise and include individuals whose death certificates were time stamped prior to the gunfight, and people who simply went to work that day and never came home, although there is no physical evidence they were even in that square. I cannot even express to you how completely confused it makes me that my husband has been convicted of killing people that no one can even prove were there… Does that make sense to you? How can that be?

 

So eventually, we get a target letter saying that my husband was being looked at by a grand jury for potential charges related to the incident that took place in Nisur Square on 9/16/07. He and four of his teammates were in fact charged, at which point they self surrendered and were allowed to go home and await trial. There seems to be this opinion from most that if you are charged for a crime, it’s likely that you did it… Let me tell you something I have learned the hard way - that is far from the truth. There is actually a saying in the legal community that goes something like “You could indict a ham sandwich.” Kind of says it all… I used to be one of those people that looked at the news and heard someone was being charged with a crime and would have a knee jerk reaction (“Yup! He did it.”) but I will never, ever make that mistake again. It’s too easy to simply decide someone is guilty of something horrendous in your mind, and judge them accordingly, and our media makes it even easier by encouraging us to do so. Sorry for the mini-rant…

 

So back to my story, because there was a bright spot. During the pre-trial hearings, it was uncovered and found that these men had been the victims of gross and numerous rights violations, and the case was entirely dismissed by a federal judge… We thought we were done and thought we could move on with our lives. We struggled with my infertility, but were finally blessed with our beautiful daughter that we had prayed so hard for and were back on level ground. My husband had a job he loved, working daily on a sprawling green ranch and we lived in a lovely historic home in a sweet small town. We had achieved about six months of pure heaven. I can’t help but cry when I think of how happy we were, how blissfully unaware we were of things to come, how each moment spent whining about the electric bill or small disagreements about weekend plans were such a blessing. I wake in my sleep, tearful for those days, begging God for another chance to be more grateful.

 

When my daughter was about six months old, we found out that government had won their years long battle and were bringing a new case that would likely go to trial that summer… this was five long years after the incident in 2013 when this conversation took place. I was stunned. I remember bawling in my office so my daughter didn’t see me, unable to comprehend how this terrible chapter in our lives was being re-opened after so much time, while my husband whispered encouraging things in my ear through the phone from work. At that point, we simply had to focus on the fact that I believed our justice system exonerated the innocent, and punished the guilty. I knew that the physical evidence in the case and the testimony of many of the government’s own witnesses supported our side of the story, and that it’s a commonly known fact that the Iraqi’s culture permitted them to lie when they considered it justified. Certainly no reasonable person would believe the testimony of individuals whose stories changed 180 degrees from the incident to know, and just so happened to perfectly support the theory the government was presenting, right?

 

Wrong. I know you are probably getting tired of reading, so I am not going to recap all of the details around the perjured testimony, erroneous legal rulings, denied access to physical evidence, refusal to allow helpful evidence, etc in this letter but I will refer to our website, www.freeraven23.com. It has everything you need, including pictures, excerpts of testimony, graphics, videos, etc so that you can be your own judge. It will also tell you everything you need to know about a guy who eventually confessed to having taken bad shots, and instead of owning up to his bad actions, took a plea deal for just one year in a minimum security to blame his horrendous actions on his teammates and help the government gain that conviction they had promised so many years ago. On a side note, VP Joe Biden echoed these same promises publicly during a visit to Iraq, just a week prior to the new indictments being filed. But they will try to convince you this wasn’t political.

 

So after about six months, including an period of eight of weeks of tortuous jury deliberations, the phone call finally came and the jury was ready to tell us their verdict. We got dressed and raced to the city in the rain. Due to the rain, my husband dropped my mom and I off at the front doors and went to park the car. In the stress and hurry of the moment, we didn’t think to stop and kiss goodbye. I’ve regretted that thoughtlessness every moment of every day for the last year. I barely got into the court room it was so packed, and had to beg the bailiff to find room for me, so that I could at least be present when they read off our fate. Nick’s one and only murder charge was so far-fetched, I had had no doubt that he would be found innocent… so when his guilty verdict was read off first I knew exactly how the remaining 31 counts would read. My mom and I sat in stunned silence while they read the remaining verdicts and the masses filed out of the courtroom. I walked numbly up to the front, and asked my lawyers “what happened?” They had no explanation for me, and no one likely ever will. We have theories, and conjecture, but ultimately, unless someone for the jury opens up, none of us will ever really know what happened in that jury room that took our lives careening of course. One of my lawyers had slipped into the room where my husband his brothers in arms had been taken into custody. As she handed me their belts, jackets, and contents of their pockets she looked at me and told me that my husband had sent me a message… that he had wanted me to “Keep the Faith”, which remains our battle cry to this day.

 

I don’t know that I will be able to fully explain to anyone what this past year has been like. It’s a blur of plexiglass, fear, anger, resolve, countless hours of outreach and a few months where I almost shut down and had a hard time even completely basic tasks. There are so many things I could tell you about… the vindictive prosecution against Nick, the weapons charges, the improper  venue that landed us in D.C. where we didn’t stand a chance, the non-existent jurisdiction, the blatant and documented perjury by the key Iraqi witness, or the fact that we’ve been waiting for five months for the judge to rule on a motion we filed for a new trial which is preventing us from moving forward in our appeal. It’s just too much for one letter. Eight years of heartache and hope, anger and relief, frustration and faith. But, if you’ve made it this far, at least you probably have a good grasp on why myself and the rest of the Raven 23 families are asking, begging really, for your help. We have so much hope that our men will come home, that our families will be restored as they should be, and that ultimately a system that was so corrupted could be corrected to prevent future victims of tyranny…  because that is exactly what this is.

 

If your heart hurts, if you want these men home, if you want to prevent this from happening to other heroes, please join our fight. How you can help ranges from simple things like sharing our Facebook page and posts, to prov

If you’re new here, I’ve written a letter to you. Please read it, and don’t hesitate to share it with others.

 

Hi. I’m Christin. My husband Paul Slough is in prison, and may remain that way for the next 25 years if we don’t do something about it.

 

Truthfully, I wish I was alone in this but I’m not. I am joined in my terrible fight by the rest of our family, and the families of Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Nick Slatten, not to mention the countless friends, both old and new that have joined us. We aren’t fighting because our loved ones messed up and we just want them back, but because they never belonged in prison in the first place.

 

Every single weekend my two year and old I drive hours away from our family and friends to visit my husband for a couple hours in a sterile prison visiting room. While she should be playing outside, doing arts and crafts or attending birthday parties, instead she is eating over processed sugary garbage out of a prison vending machine and constantly being corralled back into her plastic chair. Paul and I try to catch up and plaster smiles on our faces for our beloved daughter, but most days it’s hard to choke back the tears while I gaze upon him and my daughter. My husband, like his friends, is a decorated combat veteran who was willing to sacrifice everything for his country. He did sacrifice his youth, his physical health, and to the degree only a combat veteran can explain, his mental health for our freedom. He did everything right… made the tough calls, conducted himself with honor, and treated everyone fairly.

 

In 2006 after being honorably discharged from the Army, he was invited to go through selection to work on a contract basis for the Department of State. Although the majority of applicants “wash out” before selection is complete, my husband’s experience and training bore out a contract offer to work in Iraq, which after thorough discussion he accepted. He worked in Iraq for many months on an Ambassador Protection Detail, however he felt his skills and personal preferences were better suited to a Tactical Support Team, which he transferred to. This transfer was not made without resistance, however. His supervisor on his APD team basically begged him to stay, and was incredibly disheartened to lose his most reliable second in charge.

 

Not but a couple months later, on September 16, 2007, my husband’s Tactical Support Team was called out of the green (“safe”) zone to assist another team that had been hit by a car bomb, so big you could see it from outer space. They locked down a place called Nisur Square so that it would be a route option for the battered team to get back to the green zone. After locking down all traffic, a white Kia popped out of the already stopped traffic and started traveling towards the convoy, refusing to stop for the hand gestures, yelling, water bottles, and warning shots to the engine block of the car. At the same time, the team began receiving incoming small arms (AK-47) fire, so bad that my husband’s vehicle was pock marked with bullet strikes, his vehicle was disabled and had to be towed from the square. I shudder when I see the pictures. There’s a bullet strike at the very top lip of the turret where my husband’s torso was exposed, just at the slim line where his vest would have met his exposed lower half. It still gives me chills even now as I write this. In my darker moments, I wonder what would have happened if that shot had been true? If it had met its intended target? Would someone from our government have believed them then? Or would they have even cared?

 

As you likely could have guessed, a firefight ensued in Nisur Square. From the time my husband’s team entered the square, until the time the team left, all told they were there about ten minutes. Although it’s clear that people were killed or injured in the square that day, a third responding team showed up within minutes of their exit and saw nothing even resembling the ‘massacre’ the incident was later made out to be. We even have pictures from moments after… you can see that the white Kia is afire from the last ditch effort to get it to stop (within mere feet of the convoy) but nothing else… not a single injured or killed person, no first responders, ambulances, or police cars. Just… nothing.

 

What has transpired since then has been nothing short of grotesque. Unbeknownst to us, at the same time this incident had occurred, our government and the Iraqi government had been negotiating the Status of Forces Agreement, by which our countries would have a formal agreement related to our occupancy. The Iraqi government had been pushing hard to have legal jurisdiction over any alleged crime committed by individuals who were not the military. This would mean that all contractors, from the mail guy to the DOS/DOD security personally would be subject to Sharia Law if accused of a crime while in country… Can you imagine? When this incident took place and the Iraqi Police found out it was a contractor that was involved, they claimed that the team came into the square and simply opened fire on its occupants, completely unprovoked, and attempted to exert jurisdiction to try the case in their courts. Understanding the legal precedence that would set, and the outrage from the American people should our government allow that to happen, our government insisted they would try the case in the U.S.

 

But there was a problem… There was nothing to take to court. The Department of State evaluated the scene, the after action reports of the involved team members, my husband’s pock marked and disabled vehicle, the burn on Dustin’s sleeve, etc and found that the team had received and returned fire on reasonably perceived threats. They recognized that downtown Baghdad was a war zone, and that reviewing the incident after the fact had its limitations, and drew a reasonable conclusion based on the information they had access to.

 

Most unfortunately, that was politically problematic. How was the U.S. going to try the promised case (and gain the very likely promised conviction) if there wasn’t clear evidence that a bad shoot took place? Enter the Iraqi Police and the F.B.I. The Iraqi Police and mere civilians flooded the scene after the incident took place, and there was absolutely no “crime scene” control like we would expect to see in the U.S. Literal bags of enemy casings were removed, next to no photographs were taken of the injured or killed, vehicles were moved, etc. The Iraqi Police had complete “control” of the scene (I use that term lightly) and the witnesses for three full weeks before the F.B.I. was ordered to come in and do what the Department of State wouldn’t do – find someone from the team at fault based on no evidence.

 

In the meantime, the Iraqi Police put out television ads asking for witnesses and victims to come forward. It was common knowledge that if you or a family member was injured or killed in such an incident, you would be compensated. You could even be compensated if you had certain types of property damage… So it was certainly no surprise that the victim counts began to rise and include individuals whose death certificates were time stamped prior to the gunfight, and people who simply went to work that day and never came home, although there is no physical evidence they were even in that square. I cannot even express to you how completely confused it makes me that my husband has been convicted of killing people that no one can even prove were there… Does that make sense to you? How can that be?

 

So eventually, we get a target letter saying that my husband was being looked at by a grand jury for potential charges related to the incident that took place in Nisur Square on 9/16/07. He and four of his teammates were in fact charged, at which point they self surrendered and were allowed to go home and await trial. There seems to be this opinion from most that if you are charged for a crime, it’s likely that you did it… Let me tell you something I have learned the hard way - that is far from the truth. There is actually a saying in the legal community that goes something like “You could indict a ham sandwich.” Kind of says it all… I used to be one of those people that looked at the news and heard someone was being charged with a crime and would have a knee jerk reaction (“Yup! He did it.”) but I will never, ever make that mistake again. It’s too easy to simply decide someone is guilty of something horrendous in your mind, and judge them accordingly, and our media makes it even easier by encouraging us to do so. Sorry for the mini-rant…

 

So back to my story, because there was a bright spot. During the pre-trial hearings, it was uncovered and found that these men had been the victims of gross and numerous rights violations, and the case was entirely dismissed by a federal judge… We thought we were done and thought we could move on with our lives. We struggled with my infertility, but were finally blessed with our beautiful daughter that we had prayed so hard for and were back on level ground. My husband had a job he loved, working daily on a sprawling green ranch and we lived in a lovely historic home in a sweet small town. We had achieved about six months of pure heaven. I can’t help but cry when I think of how happy we were, how blissfully unaware we were of things to come, how each moment spent whining about the electric bill or small disagreements about weekend plans were such a blessing. I wake in my sleep, tearful for those days, begging God for another chance to be more grateful.

 

When my daughter was about six months old, we found out that government had won their years long battle and were bringing a new case that would likely go to trial that summer… this was five long years after the incident in 2013 when this conversation took place. I was stunned. I remember bawling in my office so my daughter didn’t see me, unable to comprehend how this terrible chapter in our lives was being re-opened after so much time, while my husband whispered encouraging things in my ear through the phone from work. At that point, we simply had to focus on the fact that I believed our justice system exonerated the innocent, and punished the guilty. I knew that the physical evidence in the case and the testimony of many of the government’s own witnesses supported our side of the story, and that it’s a commonly known fact that the Iraqi’s culture permitted them to lie when they considered it justified. Certainly no reasonable person would believe the testimony of individuals whose stories changed 180 degrees from the incident to know, and just so happened to perfectly support the theory the government was presenting, right?

 

Wrong. I know you are probably getting tired of reading, so I am not going to recap all of the details around the perjured testimony, erroneous legal rulings, denied access to physical evidence, refusal to allow helpful evidence, etc in this letter but I will refer to our website, www.freeraven23.com. It has everything you need, including pictures, excerpts of testimony, graphics, videos, etc so that you can be your own judge. It will also tell you everything you need to know about a guy who eventually confessed to having taken bad shots, and instead of owning up to his bad actions, took a plea deal for just one year in a minimum security to blame his horrendous actions on his teammates and help the government gain that conviction they had promised so many years ago. On a side note, VP Joe Biden echoed these same promises publicly during a visit to Iraq, just a week prior to the new indictments being filed. But they will try to convince you this wasn’t political.

 

So after about six months, including an period of eight of weeks of tortuous jury deliberations, the phone call finally came and the jury was ready to tell us their verdict. We got dressed and raced to the city in the rain. Due to the rain, my husband dropped my mom and I off at the front doors and went to park the car. In the stress and hurry of the moment, we didn’t think to stop and kiss goodbye. I’ve regretted that thoughtlessness every moment of every day for the last year. I barely got into the court room it was so packed, and had to beg the bailiff to find room for me, so that I could at least be present when they read off our fate. Nick’s one and only murder charge was so far-fetched, I had had no doubt that he would be found innocent… so when his guilty verdict was read off first I knew exactly how the remaining 31 counts would read. My mom and I sat in stunned silence while they read the remaining verdicts and the masses filed out of the courtroom. I walked numbly up to the front, and asked my lawyers “what happened?” They had no explanation for me, and no one likely ever will. We have theories, and conjecture, but ultimately, unless someone for the jury opens up, none of us will ever really know what happened in that jury room that took our lives careening of course. One of my lawyers had slipped into the room where my husband his brothers in arms had been taken into custody. As she handed me their belts, jackets, and contents of their pockets she looked at me and told me that my husband had sent me a message… that he had wanted me to “Keep the Faith”, which remains our battle cry to this day.

 

I don’t know that I will be able to fully explain to anyone what this past year has been like. It’s a blur of plexiglass, fear, anger, resolve, countless hours of outreach and a few months where I almost shut down and had a hard time even completely basic tasks. There are so many things I could tell you about… the vindictive prosecution against Nick, the weapons charges, the improper  venue that landed us in D.C. where we didn’t stand a chance, the non-existent jurisdiction, the blatant and documented perjury by the key Iraqi witness, or the fact that we’ve been waiting for five months for the judge to rule on a motion we filed for a new trial which is preventing us from moving forward in our appeal. It’s just too much for one letter. Eight years of heartache and hope, anger and relief, frustration and faith. But, if you’ve made it this far, at least you probably have a good grasp on why myself and the rest of the Raven 23 families are asking, begging really, for your help. We have so much hope that our men will come home, that our families will be restored as they should be, and that ultimately a system that was so corrupted could be corrected to prevent future victims of tyranny…  because that is exactly what this is.

 

If your heart hurts, if you want these men home, if you want to prevent this from happening to other heroes, please join our fight. How you can help ranges from simple things like sharing our Facebook page and posts, to providing funds for outreach, to helping us write letters to our political leaders and media outlets. And although its hard to look at this situation and have hope, we do, because as always we will stay true to our promise to #keepthefaith.

 

All My Love,

Christin Slough

 

iding funds for outreach, to helping us write letters to our political leaders and media outlets. And although its hard to look at this situation and have hope, we do, because as always we will stay true to our promise to #keepthefaith.

 

All My Love,

Christin Slough