Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sixth Blackwater Defendant Proffers the Facts (and One Falsehood)

The Smoking Gun has posted the "Factual Proffer in Support of Guilty Plea" (here) that was signed last month by a sixth Blackwater contractor who was indicted for manslaughter and weapons violations in connection with the 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad's al-Nisoor Square. The other five aren't taking a plea deal, but will go to trial.

The sixth contractor, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty last month. As part of his plea deal, he provided prosecutors with a sworn "proffer" of the facts surrounding the incident, all of which he acknowledged could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt had the government taken him to trial. His narrative of the incident isn't pretty - it sounds like a live action version of Grand Theft Auto being played by overly hyped-up teenage boys without adult supervision - but it's about what I expected. However, the proffer also includes a whopping lie, although I can't fault Ridgeway for that, since the government made him say it.

Note the last sentence in the first paragraph of the document posted at The Smoking Gun: "Defendant Ridgeway's employment as a Blackwater contractor related to supporting the mission of the Department of Defense in Iraq." Of course, his employment was not at all in support of Defense, since Blackwater in Iraq was not contracted by or working for the Defense Department. Wishful thinking on that point is crucial to the government's case since they have no real, vice fanciful, basis in law for charging the Blackwater contractors, and evidently the prosecutors think gratuitous assertions like Ridgeway's will help maintain the suspension of disbelief they have created regarding the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.

If the prosecutors can't come up with an actually convincing legal basis for manslaughter charges, Mr. Ridgeway might end up being the only one of the Blackwater Six to ever see the inside of a prison.

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