- Free raven 23 - Free raven 23

Free Raven 23 is a movement dedicated to securing the freedom of Nick Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard.  These four men are decorated veterans and former Department of State contractors who operated in Iraq under the call sign Raven 23.  In 2007, while responding to a car bomb attack in a Baghdad war zone, Raven 23 took incoming fire and faced a car bomb threat, and several members of the team (including ones who were not prosecuted) took necessary, defensive actions.  Tragically, civilians were killed and injured, and in the aftermath, under enormous pressure from the Iraqi government, the United States government accused Dustin, Evan, Nick, and Paul of crimes. And it did so despite overwhelming evidence that Raven 23 was fired upon, even though not a single bullet or bullet fragment connected ANY of these men to any alleged victim, and even though one OTHER member of Raven 23 admitted that he had fired wildly into the crowd without positively identifying threats.

Because the men of Raven 23 were serving under a State Department contract at the time, our courts have (wrongly) interpreted federal law as allowing the United States government to prosecute them in civilian court, under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. In 2014, after years of legal wrangling, including the entire case being thrown out because the government recklessly violated their constitutional rights, Dustin, Evan, Nick, and Paul were tried before a civilian jury in Washington, DC, and wrongly convicted. In 2015, Nick was sentenced to life, and Dustin, Evan, and Paul were sentenced to 30 years and a day. In 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Nick’s conviction because proof of his innocence was wrongly hidden from his jury. The government was unsuccessful in convincing a second civilian jury to convict Nick, and a mistrial was declared. However, despite revelations of more exculpatory evidence and government misconduct during Nick’s second trial, the United States announced its intent to try Nick a third time. Jury selection is set to begin October 29, 2018. In 2017, the appeals court also overturned one of Evan’s convictions, overturned Evan, Dustin, and Paul’s 30-year sentences, and ordered that these three men be resentenced. In May 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused to intervene, allowing Dustin and Paul’s convictions and all but one of Evan’s convictions to stand. These three men have been sitting in federal prisons for over a year without sentences because the trial court has yet to follow the appellate court’s mandate to resentence them.

If you’re new to this site, you’re over 11 years into our fight for true justice. Admittedly, the amount of information on these pages can be overwhelming. But please don’t let our efforts to inform where the media has largely failed to report on this case detract from the message. The Free Raven 23 mission is really this simple:

             1.  Set the Record Straight on Nisur Square

            2.  Expose Rights Violations that Led to Unjust Convictions

            3.  Get True Justice for Nick, Paul, Evan & Dustin

Set the Record Straight on Nisur Square

First, we want to correct the public misconception that Nick, Paul, Evan, and Dustin indiscriminately opened fire on innocent civilians in Nisur Square.  Using trial evidence and testimony—most of which was introduced by the government, not the defense—the website shows in great detail that Nick did not actually shoot or kill the person he was convicted of murdering and that Paul, Evan, and Dustin clearly perceived threats and acted in self-defense.     

  • Nick did not murder the driver of the white Kia.  We know this because:

    • There is no evidence Nick shot, let alone killed, the driver

      • No witness saw Nick shoot the driver

      • No physical evidence links Nick or his weapon to the driver

      • No one testified to any statement by Nick that he shot or killed the driver

      • There is no evidence Nick fired the first shots in Nisur Square. The government misrepresents the grand jury testimony of one witness from the team to say that he heard Nick shoot first, even though this witness testified during the same proceeding that he heard other shots before Nick’s. During Nick’s second trial, we learned that the government secured this witness’s testimony when he was suffering from mental illness and taking narcotics, even though that was never disclosed to Nick, and Nick’s team did not have a chance to cross-examine the witness before the grand jury. 

    • The government’s own evidence proves someone else killed the driver

      • Statements given immediately after the incident by a codefendant—statements which Nick's original jury did not get to hear but his new jury will—conclusively prove Nick did not kill the driver because this codefendant (an up gunner) did so in self-defense

      • Another of Nick’s codefendants has confirmed that the person who made those statements, NOT Nick, shot the driver

      • The government cooperator and admitted wrongdoer (who was also an up gunner) testified that he fired what he believed were the first shots through the Kia's windshield after he saw the up gunner on the team who admitted to killing the driver shooting at the Kia

      • Numerous witnesses (including Iraqis) testified that the first shots fired from the team came from the up gunners (which was NOT Nick's position). One of them testified that he is 100% certain the first shots that killed the Kia’s driver came from the person who admitted to killing the driver. Another testified that shots came from inside the vehicle (Nick’s position), but ONLY AFTER the Kia’s driver had already been killed.

      • Physical evidence—a bullet fragment pulled from the Kia's steering wheel—matches the type of weapon used by the up gunners (which is different from Nick's weapon) 

      • More physical evidence—a bullet hole in the metal frame of the Kia’s headrest—was claimed by the government to be the kill shot . . . UNTIL a trajectory expert testified it was impossible the shot was fired from Nick’s position inside the vehicle and, instead, came from an up gunner.

      • The government's star witness testified Nick suppressed an active shooter

      • The Department of State collected enemy shell casings from the precise location that Nick stated he suppressed an active shooter (i.e., NOT the Kia’s driver), accounting for the two shots Nick is alleged to have fired and establishing that the team received incoming fire

      • The Kia driver’s father refused to testify against Nick because the government told him that someone else (i.e., the codefendant who admitted to killing the driver in self-defense immediately after the incident) killed his son

  • Paul, Evan, and Dustin took necessary and justified actions to defend themselves and their team against a reasonably-perceived car bomb threat (the white Kia) and incoming enemy fire.  We know this because:  

    • Government prosecutors admitted during oral arguments in the Raven 23 appeal on January 17, 2017, that the ENEMY fired first

    • No less than nine people on the team (but not Nick) either fired on the Kia in self-defense or said the Kia could have reasonably been perceived as a threat 

    • The Department of State concluded the team took incoming fire “from armed gunmen, including Iraqi police, from at least five locations” around the square 

    • The Department of State found enemy shell casings in the precise location Nick told them that he had suppressed an active shooter

    • One of the team’s vehicles was so badly damaged by incoming fire that it was disabled and had to be towed from the square 

    • Live action communication logs document incoming fire being called in 

    • A third-party witness and weapons expert who was in the area testified that he heard a clear, two-way gunfight and that AK-47 (i.e., enemy) shells fell in his location behind the convoy 

    • Dustin Heard’s arm was burned by a tracer round fired at the convoy 

    • Eyewitnesses in helicopters saw guns and Iraqi police uniforms being removed from the scene

While the record shows that Nick, Paul, Evan, and Dustin did not commit crimes in Nisur Square, the record also shows that one member of the team—the government’s star witness—admitted to indiscriminately firing over 100 rounds into the crowd.  While this man’s admitted misconduct had tragic consequences, Nick, Paul, Evan, and Dustin should not have been found guilty by association for his crimes—either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion.

Expose Rights Violations that Led to Unjust Convictions 

Second, we want to highlight egregious rights violations perpetrated by the government to unjustly convict these men, including: 

  • Accepting the Iraqi National Police’s biased and botched investigation, including relying on a lead investigator that U.S. intelligence shows has suspected insurgency ties, accepting a scene that had been cleansed, and sponsoring the testimony of witnesses who had been solicited by television advertisements and coached by the time the FBI arrived in Iraq three weeks after the incident 

  • Prosecuting them in the improper venue under a law that does not apply to them 

  • Hiding exculpatory evidence 

  • Knowingly presenting perjured testimony 

  • Vindictively pursuing a murder charge against Nick after he successfully asserted his right not to be prosecuted for manslaughter despite having clear evidence Nick did not kill the alleged victim 

These are rights violations of constitutional proportion, and they eliminate any confidence in the jury’s guilty verdicts.  In connection with this part of our mission, we think it’s important for you to understand some of the reasons why the government pursued convictions rather than justice—including using the promise of convictions to gain leverage in negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.  And, we also think it’s important for you to know the lengths to which the government was willing to go to ensure that these men would spend the rest of their lives in prison simply because they would not quietly accept plea deals—including misusing a federal weapons law to secure 30-year mandatory minimum sentences against Paul, Dustin, and Evan based on the type of government-issued weapons they were using to perform their official duties when the incident took place.

Get True Justice for Nick, Paul, Evan & Dustin 

Third, we want you to join us in our fight for true justice.  When the government pursues convictions rather than the truth, justice is never served.  Moreover, the practice of sacrificing our defenders for political appeasement threatens our national security, and it must stop.  You can help us course correct in the following ways: 

  • Raise awareness about the injustices that occurred in the Raven 23 case by word-of-mouth and through social media 

  • Tell the publications and television and radio hosts you support that you want them to take a closer look at this American injustice 

  • Join our fight to have Congress clarify the weapons law to prevent its improper use against another serviceman or woman 

  • Add Nick, Paul, Evan, and Dustin and their loved ones to your prayer lists, because at Free Raven 23, we #KeepTheFaith 

Now that you know what we’re about at Free Raven 23, we invite you to join us in defending those who defended us!