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Guinta holds out hope HR 5662 could help free Evan Liberty

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Editor's note: This is one of several stories by The Lebanon Voice chronicling the case of Raven 23 and Rochester native Evan Liberty, who is wrongly serving a 30-year sentence in a federal prison in the infamous Nisur Square incident in Iraq of 2007.

WASHINGTON - The Rochester native and former Blackwater guard serving a 30-year prison sentence for using an automatic weapon during a firefight in Iraq in 2007 could have some more ammunition in his appeal process if a bill in Congress passes muster.

One of the co-sponsors of HR 5662 - U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH - said while there is little chance it would vacate the sentence imposed on Evan Liberty, "his legal team would have another argument to add to their appeal," which is now under way.

Liberty, 34, is currently serving the sentence at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, Pa., a medium security federal prison, where his release is isn't scheduled until 2040.

It was around noon on Sept. 16, 2007, that Liberty's squad at Blackwater, named Raven 23, got a call to assist with security for diplomatic personnel near the Green Zone of Baghdad.

A huge car bomb had ignited in the Nisur Square, and a separate Blackwater team escorting the diplomats had to get out as fast as it could. Liberty's tactical support team went off to block off a traffic circle to keep traffic back (during the first team's escape).

As what appears to be civilian traffic mostly either slowed or turned back, a white Kia driving on the wrong side of the road approached the roadblock where Raven 23 was securing the circle.

When the white Kia continued to drive erratically toward the Raven 23 positons, the vehicle's occupants were warned verbally then with warning shots before someone from the team killed the driver with a single bullet.

Brian Liberty, Evan's father, said that's when what appeared to be Iraqi police began firing at Raven 23, initiating a furious exchange that federal prosecutors later said left at least 14 Iraqi civilians dead and many more wounded.

Evan Liberty and three other Blackwater guards were found guilty in 2014 in what became known as the Nisur Square massacre. They were sentenced the following April.

Defense lawyers all along have said the automatic weapons charge was bogus, that the statute had been passed to stop domestic machine-gun wielding bank robbers and druglords, not American security operatives using the weapons while working for the U.S. Dept. of State guarding diplomats.

H.R. 5662 would "provide an exception to certain mandatory minimum sentence requirements for a person employed outside the United States by a Federal agency, who uses, carries, or possesses the firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence committed while on-duty with a firearm issued by the agency."

"I've spoken with Evan's dad," Guinta told The Lebanon Voice. "And what was clear to me is we have someone - a law abiding upstanding citizen - who was in a war zone as a contractor doing his job and as a result he's now in prison. I didn't think it was fair."

Guinta said he helped author the legislation, not knowing whether it would help Evan Liberty's situation or not, adding, "It might help bring some change for the future."

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