A podcast taking a hard look at the government's heavy handed prosecution and outrageous abuse of power in the Raven 23 case that imprisoned a Rochester native released its latest installment this week, an installment that features an interview with Rochester Voice editor Harrison Thorp.
"The Expendables," the 14th installment of the podcast Presumption of Guilt, starts off with presidential hopeful Joe Biden's infamous January 2010 speech made in Baghdad before the Iraqi president in which he says the men of Raven 23, now called the Biden 4, will face prosecution anew, this just two weeks after a federal judge tossed the case against the four Blackwater security guards accused in the so-called Nisour Square massacre in Iraq in 2007.
|Evan Liberty outside D.C. courthouse during 2014 trial (AP photo)|
Evan Liberty, 38, of Rochester, one of four wrongfully imprisoned since October 2014, remains incarcerated at a federal prison in Minorsville, Pa.
Thorp explains during the podcast that from the moment he spoke to Evan's father, Brian Liberty of Rochester, and through him, heard his son's version of the events of Sept. 16, 2007, he has become steadily convinced that these four heroes were "railroaded" to appease a foreign government at the expense of justice for four decorated servicemen.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Warriors for Justice Caucus is said to be stepping up its calls to urge President Trump to pardon the Biden 4. With the outcome of the presidential election still in question, many backers of the Biden 4 have become increasingly nervous about whether President Trump will grant the pardons, since its unlikely that Biden would were he to take up residence in the White House in January.
|From left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough (Courtesy photos)|
The sense of urgency regarding the potential for presidential pardons comes as a motion by defense lawyers to have the charges against the Biden 4 vacated stands in front of U.S. District of D.C. Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has sentenced the four men twice already.
Illinois attorneys John N. Maher and Kevin J. Mikolashek of Maher Legal Services drafted the 60-page Habeas Corpus motion that calls on the court to vacate, set aside and free the four to go home to their families immediately due to a multitude of Brady violations, which refer to when prosecutors fail to turn over evidence favorable to the defense.
Maher, a former JAG officer in Afghanistan and federal prosecutor, told The Rochester Voice in September the case against the four former Blackwater guards revealed a total travesty of justice that put political expediency over the constitutional rights of four U.S. heroes.
|Then Vice-President Joe Biden shakes hands with the Iraqi President during a January 2010 visit to Baghdad where he pledged continued prosecution of the Raven 23 team after a federal judge had tossed the case. (AP image)|
Maher said the willingness of the U.S. government to subvert the four men's rights to "appease a foreign power" was breathtaking.
"The very rule of law we were trying to establish (in Iraq) was sacrificed when it came to these warriors and true patriots," he said.
That willingness showed up first in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email to a state department official in Baghdad on Jan. 2, 2009, just two days after federal judge Ricardo Urbina declared the case garbage.
"... what can we do about Judge (Ricardo) Urbina's ruling' [REDACTED IN ORIGINAL] For example, what is the likelihood of success on appeal? Can the US file a civil action against the company? Pay compensation to the victims? What other options do we have?" Clinton wrote.
Here's the reply from state department legal adviser Harod Koh:
"Re Blackwater. I have already put these very questions to our team, and they are working up a memo on the subject. Significantly, the press accounts are all saying that State Department lawyers appropriately warned the DOJ prosecutors, but that the DOJ lawyers chose to take a different route. I will keep pressing and give you an oral report at Monday's 8:45, and we can get the promised memo to you soon thereafter."
"Fearing reprisals from these Iraqi politicians ... the State Department communicated concerns about the impact the decision was having on them diplomatically and politically to Attorney General Holder directly," Maher's motion states. "These discussions included an exchange of messages conveyed by the State Department between Holder and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Even State Department legal advisors were applying pressure on the Department of Justice to appeal the decision, despite the overwhelming 90-page rebuke from Judge Urbina," who had dismissed the case.
The previously undisclosed cables establish a political motivation to prosecuting Raven 23/Biden 4, the motion reasons.
Raven 23 is often represented as the Biden 4, because it was Biden who a couple of weeks later went to Baghdad and promised the Iraqi government that just because the case was tossed didn't mean the end of it.
"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."
Other information contained in the motion include:
That the Iraqi police colonel who investigated the incident regularly reported U.S. troop movements to Iranian proxis and was, himself, an Iraqi insurgent sympathizer.
"And state department cables at the time show they knew about this," Maher said.
That there is a missing gap of drone footage taken during the attack that might have been able to exonerate the actions of the Biden 4.
"A gap in drone footage discovered from the subsequent trial of Slatten is suspected to reveal the truth of what happened at the Square ... the United States (government) does not have the drone footage helpful to the defense, only drone footage deemed by prosecutors helpful to their narrative," the motion states.
That no witnesses ever testified they saw Liberty fire at civilians in the square.
"After (another Raven 23 member) ordered Liberty to open his door a second time, he saw Liberty fire out the door toward the southeast tree line, where (the member) believed incoming fire was originating. No alleged victim was in that area. No other witness saw Liberty fire his weapon," the motion argues.
The events leading to the Nisour Square 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. 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 positions, the vehicle's occupants were warned verbally then with warning shots before someone from the team killed the driver with a single bullet.
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's important to note the using civilians as shields was a favorite Iraqi insurgent strategy during this time of the war and even dating back to the first Gulf War during George H.W. Bush's presidency.
To listen to the podcast click here.