This will be a Christmas that Brian and Debra Liberty of Rochester will never forget.
That's because Tuesday night around 6 p.m. they got the news that their youngest son, Evan Liberty, a decorated Marine and former Blackwater Worldwide security guard who was wrongly imprisoned in the so-called 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007, had been pardoned by President Trump and was on his way home.
"He's been pardoned," Brian Liberty told The Rochester Voice. "He found out about it when someone came to his cell and said 'You're outta here, pack your stuff.'"
Just like that, like a Christmas miracle, 38-year-old Evan Liberty, after more than six years behind bars - 2,254 days to be exact - was a free man.
|From left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, who have all been behind bars since October 2014. (Courtesy photos)|
The pardon brings to an end an agonizing 13-year battle to prove his innocence in the shooting outside Baghdad's Green Zone, where Evan Liberty and his Blackwater convoy Raven 23 were directed to protect another Blackwater unit that was delivering a diplomat to safety on Sept. 16, 2007.
As Raven 23 set up in a traffic circle to clear a path for the other unit, Iraqi insurgents dressed as policeman opened fire on Raven 23.
Evan Liberty and his comrades returned fire and in the wake of the firefight, Iraqi officials said at least 14 Iraqi civilians were killed.
While Evan Liberty and other Raven 23 members told investigators they were fired at and were only defending themselves, U.S. prosecutors chose to indict them for manslaughter, claiming they panicked and fired upon unarmed civilians.
In 2009 a federal judge dismissed the case for prosecutorial misconduct and withholding exculpatory evidence, but the Obama administration chose instead to promise Iraq a continued effort to punish the men and sent Vice President Biden to Iraq to publicly promise so to the Iraqi president, hence Raven 23 being dubbed the Biden 4.
A recent motion to void the charges sent to the D.C. judge who presided over their trial explains the court's vindictive prosecution and how it unfolded.
"Prosecutorial misconduct has run stem to stern in this case," the motion asserts. "The impetus for the prosecution's zeal to 'secure justice for the Iraqi people,' as then Vice-President Joseph Biden publicly promised, overwhelmed prosecutorial discretion and resulted in a crabbed governmental mindset - not to follow the evidence proving justification and self-defense - but rather, to cobble together an inferential narrative to win at all costs and serve a foreign power, sacrificing protections provided to the (Biden 4) by the U.S. Constitution."
Others pardoned in the case include Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough and Dustin Heard, who have all been behind bars since Oct. 22, 2014.
The impetus for pardon gained steam this May when the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus sent a letter to President Trump urging him to see justice done.
Just last Wednesday Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told The Rochester Voice that President Trump had not forgotten the men of Raven 23 and that their pardons were on his radar.
"President Trump has been exceedingly insightful and perceptive regarding government improprieties and injustices," Gohmert said in a statement sent The Rochester Voice. "I am sure he will use his superb judgment in seeing that justice prevails."
This story will be updated.