In a surprising decision, Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied the government’s motion requesting restitution be awarded to the alleged victims of the 2007 firefight in Nisur Square that eventually led to the hotly contested 2014 convictions of four men: Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. The government’s motion, asking for nearly $1.5MM, included outlandish and unsupported award amounts, most notably a single alleged victim’s family requesting $28,000 USD for ‘funeral food.’ This filing, like so many other parts of the government’s case, did not even come close to meeting the requirements of legal sufficiency for what was being requested.
Legal counsel for the four defendants thoroughly challenged the government’s motion for restitution, demanding supporting documentation and also explanations for amounts that had no basis in logic. The government failed to respond to the defenses’ challenges and the judge denied their request for more time. Normally, restitution is decided at a defendant’s sentencing. In this case however, the judge provided the government an additional 90 days in order to prepare and support their motion. The judge opined that if they had not successfully provided the needed documentation in the additional 90 days they were given, they would be unlikely to be able to provide it with an extension, thus denying the motion out right.
While surprising, this decision is a just and logical outcome to the question of restitution considering the outlandish and unsupported requests made by the government. Additionally, it breaks the pattern of the judge siding with the government, even when the government’s position is unsupported, as we’ve seen in prior rulings. The families are hopeful that this decision indicates a change in tides and that Judge Lamberth is seeing the government's blatant misconduct for what it truly is.
The families wait in hope for the judge to make his decision on the motion for new trial, which the judge stated today that he was turning his attention to next.