Citing prosecutorial misconduct and malfeasance and saying "it is imperative to stand up for these brave veterans," the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus on Tuesday sent a letter to the White House urging President Trump to pardon Evan Liberty of Rochester and three other former Blackwater guards wrongly imprisoned in the so-called Nisour Square massacre that occurred in 2007 during the height of the Iraq War.
Also known as the Biden Four and trending today on Twitter at #Biden4 and #Raven23, three of the heroes wrongly convicted are serving decades-long prison terms, while one, Nicholas Slatten of Tennessee, is serving life without parole for a murder someone else has confessed to.
|Evan Liberty outside the courthouse where his trial was held in 2014. (AP photo)|
At a resentencing last September before a federal judge, Liberty's sentence was reduced from 40 years to an additional 14. He has already wrongly spent more than five years at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
The events leading to the incident began the afternoon of Sept. 16, 2007, when a powerful bomb went off outside the Green Zone in Baghdad and a Blackwater team escorting a diplomat had to get them to safety as fast as it could. Evan Liberty's tactical support team - named Raven 23 - raced to secure a traffic circle so the first Blackwater team could safely reach the Green Zone."
As what appeared 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 Blackwater Team Raven 23 was securing the circle.
Earlier in the day a morning briefing had warned Blackwater teams about a white Kia suspected of being loaded with explosives driving around looking for targets, so when the car 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.
|Evan Liberty in Marine uniform (Courtesy photo)|
Evan Liberty and the three others charged in the attack then say what appeared to be Iraqi police began firing at Raven 23, initiating a furious exchange that federal prosecutors said left at least 14 Iraqi civilians dead and many more wounded.
It should be noted that using civilians as shields was a favorite Iraqi insurgent strategy during this time of the war.
Liberty, who grew up in Rochester and graduated from Spaulding High, went on to become a decorated Marine and Embassy Guard before joining Blackwater, a private firm that provided security for diplomats during the height of the Iraq War in 2007.
In their letter to President Trump, the caucus cites many accounts from witnesses who saw incoming fire from the square.
"Another Iraqi witness described seeing an individual dressed as Iraqi police shooting in the direction of the U.S. security team," a Tuesday press release from the caucus noted.
"Unfortunately, the Iraqi government conducted a corrupt investigation into the incident and the liberal media amplified many false accusations against these warriors, wrote U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. "It was Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden who pushed for further prosecution, a truly unconscionable move given the facts of the case."
The letter to Trump details a myriad of prosecutorial missteps including withholding exculpatory evidence and improperly utilizing sworn statements by the veterans which were provided under the promise of immunity.
Presumed Presidential nominee Joe Biden's name is connected due to his infamous meeting with the then Iraqi president in 2010 during which Biden pledged that the Raven 23 defendants would be prosecuted despite a federal judge's order in 2009 to dismiss the case.
"Dustin, Evan, Nick and Paul were aptly nicknamed the 'Biden Four' after then-Vice President Joe Biden shamefully stood next to the Iraqi president in 2010 and announced he was "determined" to appeal a federal judge's dismissal of the charges against them," wrote U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert. R-Texas.
Speaking exclusively with The Rochester Voice today, Evan's parents, Brian and Debra Liberty of Rochester, said they were both thrilled with the caucus' decision to advocate for a presidential pardon.
"I am excited and I know Evan is too; he told me so," said Debra Liberty, who exchanges emails with her son daily and mailed copies of both the caucus' press release and letter to the president urging a pardon.
Debra Liberty added that Evan also plans to email the news and files of the documents to Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-1st District and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.
Gohmert's comments on the case can also be heard on the newest release of the podcast Raven 23: Presumption of Guilt, which is a series exploring the travesty of justice that Raven 23 exemplifies. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.
To read the press release from the caucus click here.