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Judge’s Ruling Tossing Charges Against Blackwater Guards Alludes to Alternatives

Posted Jan 4, 2010 7:24 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge has dismissed manslaughter and weapons charges against five former Blackwater security guards accused of firing on unarmed Iraqi civilians and killing 17 people. But prosecutors may still be able to charge the guards if they lied to investigators.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina of Washington, D.C., ruled last Thursday that prosecutors had improperly used statements made in compelled reports by the guards about the September 2007 incident, the New York Times reports. Urbina said use of the statements, made under threat of job loss, violated the defendants' Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to the opinion (posted by the New York Times).

Urbina said prosecutors failed to take “commonsense precautions” to avoid tainting the investigation with information from the reports, even though they had used a “taint team,” the New York Times reports in a different story.

The opinion “alludes to at least two routes through which the government could reinstate a prosecution,” the Times says.

The guards said in their statements that they believed they were under attack when they opened fire; if they lied, they could be charged with willfully providing false information in their statements, the Times says. Another possibility, which had been considered by the government, is to charge Blackwater managers with obstruction of justice.

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