Ex-Blackwater guard testifies against colleagues
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Blackwater security guard said Wednesday that he decided to tell the truth about his role in the shootings of 32 Iraqis because he wants to move on with his life, even though it means he probably will go to prison.
Jeremy Ridgeway was testifying against four of his former colleagues who would face long prison terms if convicted in the fatal shootings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 18 others in Nisoor Square in Baghdad.
Ridgeway is the prosecution’s chief cooperating witness in the case focusing on the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings.
He told the jury in the case that “I am mentally prepared to go to prison” and that “I felt remorse, I felt a lot of guilt.” He said he has a wife and two children and, “I wanted them to know I did something good after doing something bad, horrible.”
He has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. His credibility is expected to come under attack from defense lawyers for the four defendants.
The trial has been underway for more than one month.
One of the guards is charged with first-degree murder and the others are charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations, which carry a mandatory minimum prison term of 30 years.
Several ex-Blackwater guards who worked with the four defendants have already testified against their former colleagues, but Ridgeway’s testimony is expected to be crucial to the case.
He was part of a Blackwater crew of 19 men in four heavily armed vehicles who rushed to Nisoor Square to clear a path for another Blackwater convoy carrying a State Department official back to the safety of the Green Zone. The prosecution says the shootings were unprovoked. The defendants say they were taking incoming gunfire and fired back in self-defense.