The Case for Freedom

This page summarizes key facts presented at trial that show that the accused members of Raven 23 acted to protect their mission, their teammates and themselves on September 16, 2007.  The facts presented on this page show:

  1. A history of violent conflicts occurred in the area - There were numerous small arms and VBIED (car bombs) attacks in and around the Nisur Square area of Baghdad.  There was a VBIED attack 1 mile from Nisur Square on September 16, 2007
  2. The victim's white Kia automobile presented a threat - There was substantial testimony from the men of Raven 23 that the white Kia at Nisur Square presented itself as a threat. There were also reports from security analysts to be on the lookout for a white Kia because it was suspected to be a VBIED
  3. Raven 23 team was taking small arms fire in Nisur Square - there was ample physical evidence to conclude that Raven 23 was taking small arms fire on September 16, 2007
  4. Crime Scene was disturbed - For more than 30 days the crime scene at Nisur Square was open to the public and disturbed.  Collected evidence was lost and/or never examined by the defense
  5. Lack of Jurisdiction - The Justice Department does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute Raven 23 under MEJA laws because they were supporting the mission of the State Department, not the Department of Defense. 

The details of each of these conclusions are supported by direct quotes from the trial testimony given by the prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, witnesses and field experts during the trial that concluded in 2014. 
 

History of violent conflicts in the area

A massive car bomb was detonated in Nisur Square on April 30, 2007, leaving a crater the size of a football field.  Two other car bombs were detonated. In the 6 weeks leading up to September 16, 2007, two other bombs within walking distance of Nisur Square were detonated, killing 40 and injuring 60
Source: US vs Raven 23, Closing Arguments for the Defense, Aug 27, 2014, Page 12

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater security teams were briefed on the threat of three suicide car bombs operating in the area intent on attacking a convoy or a market place. One of the vehicles identified in the brief was a white Kia sedan. 
Source: US vs Raven 23, Closing Arguments for the Defense, Aug 27, 2014, Page 12

You heard about an incident on September 9, 2007, at Amanat city hall. An intense two-way gunfight which was about a week prior to the incident.
Source: Closing Arguments, August 27 2014, Pg 104, lines 7-9

There was an insurgent bounty on the head of Blackwater contractors.
Source: Closing Arguments, August 27 2014, Pg 103, line 20

Former Navy Seal testified how insurgents executed five of his fellow comrades at Blackwater. It was an infamous day. And it was caused by the ambush that the Iraqi police led the teams into.
Source: Closing Arguments, August 27 2014, Pg 104, line 3-6

And you finally heard about this incident on September 12. An EFP attack also caused by Iraqi police leading a tactical security team into an ambush.
Source: Closing Arguments, August 27 2014, Pg 105, lines 9-12

Miezska Laczek-Johnson testified every neighborhood around Nisur Square was elevated risk areas and Sept 1 - Sept 16 incident log littered with IEDs, VBIEDs, direct fire and small arms fire incidents.
Source: Closing Arguments, August 27 2014, Pg 106, lines 1-12
 

White Kia Presented a Threat

The prosecution contends that the white Kia in Nisur Square on September 16, 2007 was not moving until the driver was shot and killed by Raven 23 security personnel. 

Kia was a threat.jpg

Jeremy Ridgeway: The Kia was moving at the convoy 
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, Page 16 line 22

Jeremy Ridgeway: Kia was moving at the convoy at a faster rate of speed than he was comfortable with
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, Page 18: lines 6-8

Jeremy Krueger: Viewed the Kia as a threat
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, Page 15, line 24

Charles Gehrsitz & Michael Gosiewski: From helicopter view, white Kia had obviously passed all other vehicles, appeared to be a VBIED and had crossed a line of sand. Source:
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 17, lines 1-8

Kevin Rhodes: High probability the white vehicle was a VBIED. 
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 23, line 20

Kevin Rhodes: Distance equals life when we're talking about VBIED's. Every foot matters.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 25, lines 16-18

Eddy Randall: Under the circumstances, the Kia was a threat because it was moving toward the convoy.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 28, line 25

Raven 23 was taking enemy fire

Enemy fire was first reported and recorded in the TOC log on September 16, 2007 @ 12:12pm by Jeremy Kreuger 
Source: US v Raven 23, Defense Closing Arguments, Aug 27 2014, Page 11

State Department agents searched for and collected eight AK-47 shell casings from a grassy area to the southwest of the square with a direct line of sight to the command vehicle
Source: Closing, Aug 27 2014, pg 39, lines 16-25

Kevin Rhodes: Lead vehicle (Bearcat) had water pouring out of the radiator from incoming fire
Source: Closing, Aug 27 2014, pg 40, line 20

Physical evidence: FBI photo shows the radiator strike is more than twice as large as an M-203 frag
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 40, line 16

Trajectory evidence and analysis of the damage to the radiator indicates the damage could not have originated from an M203 grenade fragment.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 43, lines 20-25

Hole in the radiator was consistent with the size & shape of a bullet. "radiator strike is more than twice as large as an M-203 frag."
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 44, lines 22

Brett Fishback (former green beret) The first gunfire that he heard sounded like an AK-47. It was a burst of gunfire. He was certain. And he heard more gunfire after those initial bursts and it sounded to him like a two-way fire fight where he could hear AK's and he could hear M-4.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 50, lines 10-16

Spent shell casings: This is the bus stop. This is a pile of eight AK-47 shell casings which were located right behind that bus stop. Right behind the shack where the muzzle flashes were, where the threats were coming from.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 56 lines 17-20

Bullet strikes were found to the command vehicle, a black suburban, a black taxi, a white daewoo, and a fountain - all impacts were consistent with the convoy taking fire from the south-southwest.
Source: 
Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 56 lines 17-20

Bullet strikes on convoy, just below the turret, are strikes consistent with returning fire. "Who do you shoot at in the convoy? The people in the turrets. That's where they struck."
Source:  Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 74 lines 1-3

Eddie Randall is sitting in the fourth vehicle in the driver's side, and he told you he saw the incoming bullets hit the command vehicle, the left side of the command vehicle. We went through with him, where were you? I was right here. And you could see through the windshield? Yes, I could see the left side of the command vehicle. I saw the bullets strike hits. I saw the puffs of the smoke. Hit the side of the command vehicle.
Source:  Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 16 lines 1-8

Dustin Hill, Matthew Murphy, Kevin Rhodes, Jeremy Krueger, Adam Frost, Jimmy Watson, Eddie Randall, all told you in one way or another there was incoming gunfire at Nisur Square on September 16, 2007
Source:  Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 18 lines 6-9

Tommy Vargas saw and told other Blackwater guards that there was someone shooting at them from the shack. And we have an evidence exhibit, Defense Exhibit 273, this you've seen many times, this is the bus stop. This is what Tommy Vargas interpreted as the shack because it looks like a shack from a distance. Clear line of site, as Mr. Heberlig showed you, from behind that bus stop to Nisur Square. Perfect place for someone who had an AK-47 and felt that they should shoot at that American convoy to shoot.
Source: Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 23 lines 2-10

Iraqi Police Fired at the Convoy: Timothy Spisak, and this was some of the more interesting testimony at the trial. Spisak was a former Navy SEAL. I think he accurately fit the description the government gave, the cream of the crop description. A little older gentleman, he's been out of the SEALS for a while. Highly credible, trained individual. What did he see from the air when his helicopter was there just shortly after this whole incident took place? He saw several blue shirted police officers taking off their shirts and dropping their weapons. Think about that. Think about the testimony you've heard about how men dressed up wearing IP uniforms and the threats they posed to the convoy. Spisak saw it in real time. These men taking off their phony uniforms and dumping their weapons. Why would he make that up? Unimpeached completely. Government witness.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 47, line 22

Evidence was lost, stolen and disturbed

And what you do know is that four days later somebody came between the 16th and the 20th, someone came over to the -- behind that bus stop, and they picked up those shell casings and they got rid of them. What happened to them? And if they picked up those shell casings and got rid of those shell casings, because maybe they didn't want any evidence of Iraqi incoming gunfire at the convoy
Source: Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 27 lines 3-9

Nisur Square was a non-secured scene, and the FBI didn't get there until October 10th of 2007, three weeks after this all occurred. Who knew, who knows what happened in that amount of time?
Source: Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 28 lines 1-4

Eddie Randall, wasn't impeached on this, but said his experience in other firefights where they knew they were taking incoming fire is that after the firefight, when somebody acts, the team went back to see what had happened, all the evidence of the incoming fire was gone. Happened all the time.
Source: Closing, Aug 28, 2014, pg 28 lines 16-21

Justice Department has no jurisdiction to prosecute

No MEJA jurisdiction: DoD Secretary Gordon England testified that Blackwater security was not supporting the mission of the department of defense. It was supporting the mission of the Department of State. 
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 110, lines 7-10

Source: court instructions to the jury, september 2, 2014, pg 45

Source: court instructions to the jury, september 2, 2014, pg 45

Atty Schertler: The defendants cannot be tried here in this court when [their] conduct occurs entirely outside the United States, like it did here, unless the government proves to you, again, beyond a reasonable doubt -- they have to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt -- that the employment of these Department of State contractors that was to protect Department of State officials related to supporting the mission of the Department of Defense. 
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 134, lines 17-24

source: gordon england, asst secretary, department of defense, sept 27, 2007

source: gordon england, asst secretary, department of defense, sept 27, 2007

That was the official position of the Department of Defense. They said these men are not supporting our mission overseas.
Source: Closing, Aug 27, 2014, pg 136, lines 24-25

source: gordon england, deputy secretary, department of defense, september 2, 2014

source: gordon england, deputy secretary, department of defense, september 2, 2014