Judge Considers Misconduct Citation Against Prosecutors in Blackwater Case

Prosecutors who mishandled the investigation into a deadly 2007 Blackwater Worldwide shooting face a possible misconduct citation from a judge who says they withheld evidence and violated the guards’ constitutional rights.

AP/FoxNews.com
January 4, 2010

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors who mishandled the investigation into a deadly 2007 Blackwater Worldwide shooting face a possible misconduct citation from a judge who says they withheld evidence and violated the guards’ constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina admonished the Justice Department last week for its “reckless” handling of the investigation into a shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead. He threw out manslaughter and weapons charges against five security guards and, in a footnote, said he was also considering whether the repeated government missteps amounted to misconduct.

Such a ruling would be an embarrassing cap to a politically sensitive investigation and a black eye to a department that is still dealing with the fallout from last year’s botched corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens. In that case, a judge wiped away the senator’s conviction and appointed a lawyer to investigate prosecutors for withholding evidence from defense attorneys.

If Urbina rules the Blackwater prosecutors committed misconduct, it would touch off an internal Justice Department investigation and could lead to sanctions against the government or the individual prosecutors.

Blackwater guards were hired to protect diplomats in Iraq. The shooting unfolded in a crowded intersection, where Blackwater said its guards were ambushed by Iraqi insurgents. Prosecutors said the heavily armored Blackwater convoy used machine guns and grenades to unleash a wild, unprovoked assault on innocent civilians.

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