WASHINGTON — A federal jury on Wednesday returned guilty verdicts for the four former Blackwater security guards charged in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.
The jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder, and the three other three guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — guilty of at least three counts of voluntary manslaughter. The four men were charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings, but the jury had reached verdicts on only part of the charges after weeks of deliberations. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth allowed the jury to announce the verdicts agreed upon, with the expectation jurors would continue deliberating on the other counts.
The shootings on Sept. 16, 2007, caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare. The State Department hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere in the country. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common.
The case was mired in legal battles for years. An 11-week trial gave way to jury deliberations on Sept. 2. The maximum sentence for conviction of first-degree murder is life imprisonment. The gun charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms of 30 years. The maximum prison term for involuntary manslaughter is eight years; for attempted manslaughter it is seven years.