A U.S. Federal court in Washington sentenced one private security contractor to life in prison and three others to 30-year sentences after finding them guilty for the murder of at least 14 Iraqi civilians.
The four men were put on trial for firing into a crowd of civilians while escorting a diplomatic convoy through Nisour Square on Sept. 16 2007.
Iraqi officials reported that the attack killed 17 civilians, injuring 18, while American investigators put the death toll at 14.
The trial, which spanned two-months, was headed by U.S. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth who opened the sentencing with a condemnation of the four men.
"The wild thing that happened here can never be condoned by the court," he said.
Lamberth sentenced Nicholas Slatten, who started the attack by shooting a young man at an intersection in the head, to life in prison on a first degree murder charge.
His Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough - the three other defendants in the Blackwater trial - were handed 30 year sentences after being found guilty on charges of manslaughter.
The defense team for the four accused the U.S. government in June of suppressing evidence which could prove the men innocent, however proof of the alleged evidence never emerged.
Jeremy P. Ridgeway, a co-worker of the four who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, but has not been sentenced, testified that Slatten had said that he wished to “kill as many Iraqis as he could ‘as payback for 9/11.’”
For his role in assisting prosecutors, Ridgeway testified that he hoped to avoid prison time.
The verdict of the trial has delivered a huge blow to the Blackwater private contracting company, which to date has won over $1 billion in U.S. government tenders.
Following the verdict, the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) released a statement saying that the U.S. is committed to the rule of law.
“In killing and maiming unarmed civilians, these defendants acted unreasonably and without justification,” the statement read.
“In combination, the sheer amount of unnecessary human loss and suffering attributable to the defendants’ criminal conduct on Sept.16, 2007, is staggering.”
The USAO’s statement was paralleled by assistant FBI Washington Director Andrew McCabe who said that the sentencing was “the result of the enduring resolve by law enforcement to protect victims of violent crime."
“The results of this case demonstrate that the FBI will investigate violations of U.S. law no matter where they occur in order to bring justice to innocent victims.”