N.H.'s Guinta condemns Raven 23 trial as "political, unjust"

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U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire was the lone member of the state's congressional delegation who, when asked, commented on the imprisonment of Rochester native Evan Liberty in the so-called Nisur Square massacre detailed in a March series in The Lebanon Voice.

Guinta slammed the federal prosecution of the case, calling the trial "steeped in politics" and Liberty's punishment "unjustly harsh."

On Sept. 16, 2007, Liberty was part of Raven 23, a Blackwater security team that responded to the site of a car bomb just outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad during the height of the Iraq War.

Liberty and his colleagues came under fire from insurgents, dressed as Iraqi policemen, but the government contended they fired indiscriminately at Iraqi civilians, many of them children.

He is now serving a 30-year mandatory sentence along with two other Raven 23 members for using automatic weapons during the incident even though the Dept. of State issued the weapons so they could do their job protecting visiting diplomats for the Dept. of State.

The government's case was fraught with perjured government witnesses, misapplied rules and regulations and outright vindictive, prejudiced prosecution and seen by many as serving as an appeasement of Iraqi officials who wanted to be able to prosecute America's servicemen under native Sharia law. An appeal is under way and will likely be heard this fall.

Guinta, a Republican, while not commenting on the specifics of the case, said in a statement to The Lebanon Voice, ""Evan, a former Marine from Rochester, by all accounts has been a model citizen his entire life, protecting Americans in the most dangerous places on Earth. His friends and family describe a true hero, willing to risk his life for his country. For that, the Justice Department pursued a criminal case against him and a security team that came under attack in Iraq. The trial was steeped in politics, and Evan's sentence is unjustly harsh. I have implored (U.S.) Attorney General (Loretta) Lynch to review the facts of the case."

Lynch's office, reached twice by phone and twice by email over a two-week period, failed to comment on the case or Guinta's appeal, or even return a phone call or email.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-N.H.), refused comment on the case, but pressed for a statement from her D.C. office regarding a New Hampshire native, Lauren Zelt, a spokeswoman, said ""Senator Ayotte's office has met and corresponded with the Liberty family, and is monitoring the case. However, under Senate ethics rules, she cannot interfere with an ongoing court case. She will assess the status once the appeals process is complete."

The offices of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-N.H.), and Democratic New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan both declined comment despite numerous phone calls and emails to do so.

Referring to Guinta's support, Brian Liberty, Evan's dad, said today, "He's been more than helpful. I've talked to him man to man and he said he would monitor and help as much as he could."

"Ayotte did the same," he added. "But I realize they can't become directly involved until the appeals process is completed, but they are showing great support with Evan and the three others.

"As far as the others (Sheheen and Hassan), some will say this is bipartisan but it's not. Basically it's Democrats against Republicans. The president and vice president went after this case hard."

Brian Liberty said many people have sent letters to their Congressmen and he appreciates their thoughts.

"I just hope people will take the time to learn more about this," he said. "They can find out a lot at the website"

Liberty is incarcerated at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, Pa., a medium security federal prison.

He and the other three defendants in the case were sentenced on April 13, 2015. Liberty and two others, Paul Alvin Slough, 35, of Keller, Texas; and Dustin Laurent Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn.; got mandatory 30-year-sentences on the weapons charges. The fourth, Nicholas Abram Slatten, 30, of Sparta, Tenn., was sentenced to life in prison for murder.

Below are links to the series' five reports.

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