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‘This was murder,’ says judge, sentencing ex-Blackwater guard to life for Nisour Square massacre

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Welcoming the sentence, one attorney said, “Justice prevails for my clients—six families that suffered tragic losses that day.”

Rejecting claims from defense attorneys and family members that U.S. prosecutors scapegoated former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten to improve U.S.-Iraqi relations, a federal judge sentenced former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten to life in prison Wednesday for his role in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square massacre.

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“The jury got it exactly right,” Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for D.C. reportedly said while issuing the sentence. “This was murder.”

Paul Dickinson, an attorney who represented families of six massacre victims—including 9-year-old Ali Kinani—welcomed the sentence in a series of tweets Wednseday evening, declaring that “justice prevails” for his clients.

U.S. prosecutors charged that on Sept. 16, 2007, Slatten fired the first shots into a crowded Baghdad traffic circle, killing 19-year-old Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y and setting off a flurry of machine gun and grenade fire that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead and over a dozen more injured.

“Several of Slatten’s supporters openly accused prosecutors of scapegoating an innocent man in order to placate Iraqi public opinion,” The Associated Press reported. “The shootings strained U.S.-Iraqi relations and focused intense international scrutiny on the extensive use of private military contractors in Iraq.”

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As journalist Jeremy Scahill detailed in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, the company, “founded by secretive right-wing Christian supremacist Erik Prince…had deep ties to the Bush administration and served as a sort of neoconservative Praetorian Guard for a borderless war launched in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.”

Prince has since move on from Blackwater, which relaunched as Academi, but the billionaire war profiteer—and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVoshas advised the Trump administration on intelligence and defense issues.

According to The Washington Post, Judge Lamberth said Wednesday

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He agreed with jurors that evidence showed that the convoy was not under insurgent fire and that Slatten shot into Al Rubia’y’s vehicle with premeditation, striking the medical student between the eyes.

Lamberth, a U.S. Army captain and lawyer who served in Vietnam, disputed Slatten’s defenders’ claims that his conduct was justified, saying he had seen combat, “but I was in a situation where we depended on each other to carry out orders to ensure that innocent people were not needlessly killed, and we followed those orders.”
A jury found Slatten, now 35, guilty of first-degree murder in December. That verdict came as part of his third trial, after an appeals court ordered a retrial for Slatten—and resentencing for Blackwater contractors Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, and Paul Slough—in August of 2017, and Slatten’s second trial ended in a mistrial in September of 2018.

Slatten’s new sentence may still not stick. The New York Times reported Wednesday that his attorneys “made clear that they would keep fighting, including by asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn the sentence and the verdict.”

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The Times also pointed to the newspaper’s report from May that President Donald Trump might be considering a pardon for Slatten, given that “the White House had requested paperwork about his and a handful of other cases, according to two United States officials.”

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Images from global climate strikes show city streets packed with millions of people

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This Friday, millions of people around the world are skipping school and work to demand action on climate change. According to reports, "global climate strikes" are currently taking place in over 150 countries, all designed to take place ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit this coming Monday.

Images coming out of New York City alone show the massive scale of the protests. Tweeting from the NYC march, climate activist Greta Thunberg said that "lower Manhattan is absolutely packed with people."

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WATCH: Barbara McQuade explains how she jailed mayor of Detroit — for same thing Trump did

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On Thursday, it was revealed that a whistleblower in the intelligence community has submitted a complaint about President Donald Trump's conduct with a foreign leader.

There was widespread speculation Friday on the nature of the complaint, but experts suspect it has to do with the president trying to extract opposition research on Joe Biden from the president of Ukraine. Recently, Trump's lawyer and friend Rudy Giulani traveled to the country to unearth dirt on Biden's son.

And experts are concerned that Trump promised the foreign leader a better relationship with the U.S. in exchange.

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‘Mr. President, we’ll see you in court’: 23 states join California in suing Trump administration

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California and 23 other states on Friday sued the Trump administration over its bid to restrict their authority to limit auto emissions, setting the stage for a bitter court battle over states' rights and climate change.

The lawsuit is in response to President Donald Trump's announcement this week that his administration was revoking a waiver accorded to California over the past 50 years to set its own vehicle emissions standards which are tougher than those imposed by the federal government.

The waiver over the years has helped the state -- which has some of the most polluted cities in the country -- to improve its air quality and become a model for battling climate change.

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