Pardon hopes for Rochester native very much alive, Justice for Warriors chief says

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Evan Liberty, seen outside the D.C. courthouse where his 2014 trial was held. (AP photo)

As family and friends of Rochester's Evan Liberty wait breathlessly for a presidential pardon for him and the other men of Raven 23, Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus chief Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, told The Rochester Voice on Wednesday he has personally spoken to President Trump regarding the case and JFWC members recently resubmitted their Memorial Day letter calling for the pardon.

While some supporters of Raven 23, also known as the Biden Four, have voiced concerns on social media that the plight of the men might be overlooked due to the contesting of election results, Gohmert said he has every confidence President Trump will do the right thing.

"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."

In a letter sent to The Rochester Voice in October Liberty said he had heard of pardon rumors, but that he tried not to get too high or too low.

"I am careful not to get too excited and stay realistic," he wrote. "I just take it day by day and hope for the best."

With the outcome of the presidential election now appearing to favor Vice President Joe Biden, supporters of the Biden Four are fearful that if he ends up in the White House, their loved ones' pardon hopes will be dashed forever.

From left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, who have all been behind bars since October 2014. (Courtesy photos)

Meanwhile, earlier this fall Illinois attorneys John N. Maher and Kevin J. Mikolashek of Maher Legal Services drafted a 60-page Habeas Corpus motion that calls on the court to vacate all charges, due to numerous 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.

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."

Evan Liberty during his time with Marines, where he served in Cairo as an Embassy Guard. (Courtesy photo)

"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.

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert

"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," according to the motion, which still sits before a D.C. judge.

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.

Gohmert said he and the CJWC were doing all they could to see these heroes set free.

" I am committed to doing everything possible to see that the miscarriages of justice which were recklessly and egregiously carried out by our own government against these American defenders are remedied," he vowed.

Meanwhile, Liberty, said he tries "to stay productive and not waste too much time" while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution Schuylkill in Minorsville, Pa.

"I work out daily, try to eat healthy and read/study constantly," he wrote. "I don't watch much TV except the Spanish TV so at least I am still learning something."

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