The distressed sister of decorated veteran Nick Slatten has denounced U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) efforts to convince a federal court to reconsider its decision to vacate her brother’s first-degree murder conviction as a “vindictive assault on justice.”
“My brother Nick has spent over three years in prison for a crime he did not commit, for a crime the government not only knows he did not commit, but has had evidence since day one that he did not commit,” Jessica Slatten told Breitbart News. “The government secured a conviction against my brother only by keeping that evidence from his jury, which is why the D.C. Circuit overturned his conviction.”
“I have not heard from [U.S. President Donald] Trump or anyone in his administration, although we have reached out and are hopeful he will see this prosecution for the vindictive assault on justice that it is,” she declared.
Mr. Slatten’s sister accused Trump’s DOJ, currently led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, of suppressing evidence that allegedly clears her brother of all wrongdoing, telling Breitbart News:
The public and the press are still being denied access to the evidence that 100 percent exonerates my brother. At some point, you have to question why that is. At some point, you have to wonder why they are so afraid of the truth but so quick to defame a decorated war veteran. Those of us who have lived this nightmare know it’s because the truth isn’t on their side in a case that has much to do with political appeasement and precious little to do with justice. I hope the public finally gets to see that, and I am confident that, if the government persists in its vindictive attack on my brother, this time the outcome will be different.
In early August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the murder conviction of veteran Nicholas Slatten of Sparta, Tennessee. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison on a first-degree murder charge for his involvement in a 2007 incident that resulted in the killing of 14 allegedly unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. He was working for the U.S. government at the time as a Blackwater Worldwide security guard.
“The D.C. Circuit overturned Nick’s conviction on appeal because evidence that one of his co-defendants killed the driver and admitted to it was kept from the jury,” Jessica Slatten, the defendant’s sister, told Breitbart News, echoing the three-judge panel’s ruling that the trial court “abused its discretion” in not allowing Mr. Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants, despite the admission.
In a split decision, the court also ordered re-sentencings for Slatten’s co-defendants: Paul Slough of Keller, Texas; Evan Liberty of Rochester, New Hampshire; and Dustin Heard of Maryville, Tennessee, concluding that imposition of a 30-year mandatory minimum for a firearms offense that up until then had only been applied to gang members’ prison terms — in addition to sentences for numerous counts of voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter —violated the constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
DOJ recently petitioned the appeals court for an “en banc rehearing,” requesting that all the court’s judges reconsider the vacated conviction ruling and re-sentencing orders, but the D.C. Circuit denied their request, according to a court document filed Monday.
“What that means for Nick is that the government has 180 days to retry him or not,” explained Slatten’s sister.
“By denying the government’s request to reconsider that ruling, the D.C. Circuit has underscored that at least some of the values my brother twice went to war for still endure,” she declared.
DOJ declined to comment on what it plans to do next.
The appeals court mandated the re-sentencings of Mr. Slatten’s co-defendants on the basis that a law specifying a mandatory minimum is unconstitutional as applied to their case. Although the next step is ultimately the U.S. government’s prerogative, DOJ generally has a duty to defend the constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress.
Mr. Slatten’s sister expects DOJ to keep trying to convince the appeals court to reconsider its decision.
“As Nick prepares to fight for his life again, I think it’s important for the public to know that he is still largely fighting in the dark,” she said, referring to evidence that the DOJ is allegedly keeping under wraps.
All four defendants claim that they fired against the 14 Iraqis in self-defense.