Department of State security contractors were convicted in 2014 for 2007 Iraqi deaths
Washington, DC -- Friends of Raven 23, the key group advocating on behalf of convicted Raven 23 team members, issues this statement in response to the sentencing decision by U.S. Federal District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth. The sentencing decision, which was inexplicably delayed for nearly six months after the guards’ convictions, was rendered in open court on April 13th, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
The families of the four convicted guards, highly-decorated veterans who vehemently maintain their own innocence, are gravely disappointed that the judge did not accept their argument that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment renders the sentences imposed unconstitutional. While still upholding the weapons charge with a 30 year mandatory minimum, the Judge did exercise his discretion to provide the most lenient sentence of thirty years and a day. The families of Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard still contend that upholding the mandatory minimum sentence is patently cruel and unusual in light of the complete lack of forensic evidence tying any defendant to any alleged victim.
The family of the fourth guard, Nick Slatten, who received a mandatory life sentence for first-degree premeditated murder, is equally disappointed that Judge Lamberth failed to follow the law and grant a judgment of acquittal. Not one shred of evidence—let alone the legally sufficient evidence the law requires—proves that Nick shot and killed the driver of the white Kia. To the contrary, the government’s own witness admitted to killing this person, and the government’s own physical evidence and eyewitness testimony supported this admission.
Despite the judge's decision to sentence the defendants today, their families are hopeful that he will reconsider in response to forthcoming motions for new trial. As explained in an emergency motion to continue filed by the defense team, this new evidence is a statement by an Iraqi witness that he overheard the driver and the passenger of the white Kia talking to each other after the shooting started, a statement that directly contradicts this witness's trial testimony and the government's theory that Nick Slatten murdered the driver in an ambush attack with the first shots fired in the incident. As the motion explains, "[t]he new evidence flatly contradicts the government's case as to how the Nisur Square incident started, and as to the who, how, and why of the shooting of . . . the driver of the white Kia. It destroys the government's case against Nicholas Slatten (who is charged with murdering [the driver]). It also fundamentally undercuts the government's theory of the case as to all of the Defendants, both as to Count Two, the shooting of the passenger of the white Kia, and also as to whether [the] Defendants reasonably perceived and reasonably responded to an apparent attack against the convoy." Additionally, the statement provides a stark contrast to the witnesses original trial testimony with respect to his own actions; very clearly indicating that he perjured himself during the trial.
The families of the Raven 23 members held a joint press conference with their legal teams immediately following the sentencing, in which they stated “We urge you to look past the media spin and false narrative created by the U.S. Department of Justice to consider what we’ve known all along: that these four decorated veterans, Nick Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, are guilty of nothing more than being selected as scapegoats for the confessed wrongdoing of another teammate. At any other point in history, these men would be held up as heroes, but instead are being imprisoned for what amount to life sentences for defending themselves and their teammates in the most dangerous place on earth.”
The families are confident in the merits of the appeal, however in the event of its unexpected failure, they have vowed to keep fighting for the release of their husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers. They encourage everyone to educate themselves on the facts of the case by reviewing trial evidence and transcripts at www.freeraven23.com and speak out against the blatant targeting of these men, and countless other servicemen and women, in politically-motivated prosecutions.
Family representatives will also be available by appointment in the Washington, DC area from April 15th through April 17th.
For media inquiries and requests for interviews, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972-342-5395.