There's not a lot of folks who go to visit Evan Liberty in prison at FCI Schuylkill in Minorsville, Pa.
There are a few close friends like Chris Buslovich, a high school buddy at Spaulding High, Evan's mom and dad, Brian and Debra Liberty of Rochester, and a few others.
The Rochester Voice also learned recently that Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley's son is a frequent visitor at the federal facility.
McCarley told us her son is a longtime childhood friend of Evan, and his visits to the prison "say it all" about their relationship and fondness for one another.
Evan Liberty, who grew up in Rochester and attended Spaulding High where he joined the Marines prior to graduating, is currently serving a 15-year sentence in the so-called Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007 during the Iraq War. So far he's served almost six years.
What happened that day in 2007
Evan Liberty, 37, one of four Blackwater security guards wrongly imprisoned in the Nisour Square event, was part of a security detail sent to the square on Sept. 16, 2007, to assist another security unit that was transporting a diplomat to the Green Zone of Baghdad.
As they took up position in the square, a white Kia that was ordered to stop, continued to roll forward against orders. Because it presented an imminent threat - a bulletin on a white Kia and suicide bomber had been reported earlier in the day - a Raven 23 sharpshooter killed the Kia's driver. Then Raven 23 came under attack from insurgents dressed as Iraqi policemen. Seventeen died in the incident, including several children.
The prosecution in the case said that Raven 23 members just opened up with their automatic weapons because they panicked, but that's not likely given their history of experience in a guerrilla warfare environment. In fact, there are many flaws in the prosecution's case, including withholding exculpatory evidence, which are all on full display in the transcripts of the trial and appeal process, which still continues.
Evan was originally sentenced to a 30-year minimum sentence, but that was deemed "cruel and unusual" by an appeals court.
This past September he was resentenced, this time to 14 years, the number of years based on a vacuous and arbitrary accounting of how many died or were wounded by him, personally.
Momentum builds for their release
The Rochester Voice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and last week the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus have joined a growing chorus of groups and supporters denouncing the government's vindictive prosecutorial overreach including withholding exculpatory evidence and witnesses manipulation. They all urge an immediate pardon of Evan and three others who were sentenced to either lengthy prison terms or life without parole.
The effort to bring these boys home was originally known as Free Raven 23 as that was the handle on their Blackwater unit, but recently it's been alternatively called the Biden Four, since former Vice President Joe Biden went to Baghdad and guaranteed Iraq's then president in 2010 that the Obama administration would vigorously appeal a judge's ruling dismissing the case three weeks earlier.
|From left, former Blackwater guards Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough|
In his ruling to toss the case on Jan. 29, 2009, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said, "The Justice Department's explanations have been contradictory, unbelievable and not credible," according to a report on Maine Pubic Radio.
Three weeks later on Jan. 23 Vice President Joe Biden during a joint news conference with the then-Iraqi president said that the "the United States is determined to hold accountable anyone that commits crimes against the Iraqi people" and promised a vigorous appeal.
As U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who heads up the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus said on a Biden Four podcast recently, "(The Obama administration) said they were gonna get 'em, and son of a gun, they did."
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers weighed in on the prosecution's shameful handling of the case in 2018, saying, "This happened following a sham of a trial that the esteemed National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has stated 'should have never happened,' was fraught with 'prosecutorial overreaching and unfairness,' leaves "the integrity of the criminal justice system . . . compromised,' and includes a murder charge against Nick Slatten (one the codefendants) for which 'a more textbook case of vindictive prosecution can scarcely be imagined.'"
On the home front, the pain from injustice stings
McCarley, a former New Hampshire state rep and longtime Democrat, said she did not want to discuss the facts of the case, but did say it's time for Evan and his three codefendants to come home.
"I have no comment on the events that occurred in Baghdad in 2007," she said. "This was a tragedy for all concerned. As always, this is a situation where the front line soldiers pay the price and the higher-ups escape any accountability. It is time for these young men to be released."
Brian Liberty, Evan's dad, said last week that since the coronavirus pandemic occurred, inmates at his facility get no time outside and just an hour or two a day in the prison's common area every day. He also gets a little time out of his cell every day for his job cleaning the offices of prison officials.
Brian Liberty said Evan was "very excited" last week when he heard about the news from the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus.
He said Evan told him he'd be writing U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan as well as U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, who represents New Hampshire's 1st District, with the good news.
So far the three have not responded to The Rochester Voice's request for comment.
The Rochester Voice can't confirm whether any of them have answered Evan's email.
How you can help
To contact New Hampshire's two senators and Dist. 1 rep use the following emails.
To write a letter to President Trump urging a pardon. Mail it to the White House through this government portal. A letter suggested by the group "Free Raven 23" is below.
President Donald J. Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: The Decorated Veterans of Blackwater's Tactical Support Team Raven 23
Dear President Trump:
I am writing on behalf of four decorated veterans who need your help. These men--Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten, and Paul Slough--went to war for our country and served deployments to some of the world's most dangerous regions. Then, after their tours were over, they went back into harm's way as contractors supporting the Department of State's mission to bring democracy to Iraq.
In 2007, while working under Blackwater's contract with the State Department, they came under fire and faced a car bomb threat in a Baghdad war zone. They used the force necessary to do their jobs and come home to their families, only to find themselves convenient targets of a political witch hunt. For nearly eleven years, they have been fighting their way through a civilian justice system that has failed at every turn.
As a result of numerous rights violations during the legal proceedings, one of these men (Nick) is scheduled to be retried (by a second civilian jury) in June 2018. The other three men (Dustin, Evan, and Paul) will be resentenced sometime after that.
I ask that you look into their case. These are good, honorable men who, under stronger leadership, would still be fighting for this country, not against its government. What has passed for justice so far in their case is anything but, and it is time that is recognized through a presidential pardon.
To sign the online petition go to https://www.change.org/p/president-donald-j-trump-mr-president-please-pardon-the-biden-four
To listen to Gohmert's comments on a Raven 23/Biden Four podcast produced in part by Gina Keating go to https://www.buzzsprout.com/389536/3730862-congressional-justice-for-warriors-caucus-offically-requests-presidental-pardon-for-men-of-raven-23