The federal prosecutors who oversaw a troubled investigation of Blackwater security guards accused in a deadly 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad have been replaced.
District of Columbia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Kohl and Jonathan Malis, along with Department of Justice trial attorneys Stephen Ponticello and Barry Jonas, are off the case, according to the BLT. D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion, John Han and T. Patrick Martin are on.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in December 2009 dismissed the Blackwater case in a scathing opinion, citing prosecutor misconduct, as Main Justice reported at the time. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in April reversed Urbina, calling his analysis flawed and sending the case back to him to be reheard. Urbina has asked for a status update from prosecutors by the end of the month.
In the 2007 incident, the Blackwater guards were accused of firing on Iraqi civilians, killing 17. Urbina’s dismissal of the case was greeted with shock and anger in Iraq. Blackwater has since been named Xe Services.
At issue was the extent to which the first team of prosecutors used immunized statements from the Blackwater guards to build their case. Because the guards worked under contract to the State Department and were required to answer questions about the shooting, the defense argued those statements were compelled and could not be used to convict the defendants.
The fresh legal team was installed “out of an abundance of caution to place this prosecution on the strongest possible footing with respect to any future Kastigar litigation,” D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman William Miller said in a statement, the BLT reported.