Blackwater Executives Get Slap on Wrist in 6-Year Criminal Case

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Gary Jackson (AP Photo)

Former leaders of the security firm once known as Blackwater have avoided serious punishment following a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.


In 2010, federal prosecutors charged five ex-Blackwater executives with violating U.S. firearms laws, filing false statements and obstructing justice. The case grew out of the 2008 conviction of two former Blackwater employees who helped the Justice Department build its case.


But last week the government gave up on the case, and dropped all charges against three of the defendants. The two remaining defendants, Gary Jackson and William Mathews Jr., pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor weapons recordkeeping charge.


They were sentenced to three years probation, four months of house arrest, and a $5,000 fine. They had originally been indicted on multiple felony charges, for which they could have served decades in prison. Several of the charges dealt with the gifting of personal firearms to King Abdullah of Jordan and his entourage while the company was trying to win a security contract. Others related to the seizure automatic weapons that exceeded Blackwater’s legal limit. Blackwater officials claimed they were just storing the weapons for the Camden County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina.


Neil Gordon at the Project on Government Oversight, wrote: “It was an odd outcome for such a major misconduct probe with serious national security implications.”


He speculated that the Justice Department might have been forced to drop the case, or else risk exposing sensitive national security information during a trial. Blackwater—a major contractor for U.S. military and intelligence agencies—had claimed that the U.S. government knew and approved of the activities for which it was being prosecuted. The defense may have undertaken a “legal gambit,” wrote Gordon, “to force prosecutors to back off by threatening to reveal” secret or classified data.


The plea deal occurred quickly and quietly, without comment from the government.


Blackwater has changed its name more than once since it became involved in multiple controversies during the Iraq war. It is now called Academi.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Did Blackwater Graymail Lead to a Whitewash? (by Neil Gordon, Project on Government Oversight)

Ex-Blackwater Employees' Felony Charges Dropped, Said CIA Told Them To Provide King With Rifles (by Michael Biesecker, Associated Press)

Blackwater Fined Millions, Given 3 Years to Prove It’s Reformed (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Blackwater, Changing Name Again, Wins Contract from State Department (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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