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Blackwater contractors convicted in Va. trial

By Brock Vergaris
Saturday, March 12, 2011; A04

NORFOLK - Two former Blackwater contractors were found guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the May 2009 shooting death of an unarmed Afghan civilian in Kabul.

A federal jury acquitted Justin H. Cannon of Corpus Christi, Tex., and Christopher Drotleff of Virginia Beach on murder and weapons charges that could have resulted in life sentences.

They also were acquitted in the death of a second unarmed civilian who was killed and of assaulting a third person injured during the shooting at a dark intersection near the scene of an accident.

The men now face a maximum of eight years in prison and will be sentenced June 14.

Cannon and Drotleff were in Afghanistan training the national army there at the time of the shooting. Their first trial ended in a hung jury, and jurors in this case could be heard arguing behind closed doors since they received their instructions Wednesday morning.

The trial focused on whether Drotleff and Cannon feared for their lives the night of the shooting, when the vehicle in front of them that was escorting their interpreters home got into a bad accident on a dark street.

Defense attorneys said they opened fire on a Toyota Corolla when it approached them at a high speed after the accident.

Romal Mohammad Naiem, a passenger in the Corolla, was killed by the shooting.

Prosecutors said the Corolla wasn't a threat and approached to help the accident victims. They said that Drotleff and Cannon acted out of anger and frustration.

- Associated Press

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