Former Blackwater guard sentenced for killing of Afghan civilian

June 14, 2011

A contractor in Afghanistan for the former Blackwater security firm was sentenced Tuesday in Norfolk, Va., to more than three years in prison for shooting an Afghan civilian in Kabul in May 2009.

The decision by District Judge Robert G. Doumar was swiftly hailed by U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for showing that “no one is above the law — even in a combat zone — and the reckless use of force will be punished.”

The contractor, Christopher Drotleff, 31, worked as a firearms instructor for Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Blackwater’s successor firm Xe Services. He and a colleague, Justin Cannon, who is to be sentenced later this month, were convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter.

Drotleff’s attorneys emphasized that the contractors’ convoy had just experienced a crash and that both men feared they were being attacked. They emptied 30 rounds from an AK-47 and a handgun into a passing car driven by Sayed Kamal Fareed, injuring him and killing his passenger, Romal Mohammed Naiem.

Neither of the contractors had been authorized to leave the military base where they were housed, and witnesses at the trial said Drotleff had been drinking, which he denied.

According to the Justice Department’s pre-sentencing memo, Drotleff had a highly troubled record, including a military discharge for other than honorable conditions, and convictions for disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, assault and battery, and driving while intoxicated.

His attorney Trey Kelleter said: “We think he will be vindicated on appeal” in this case. Xe Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the decision to employ a firearms trainer with a criminal record.

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