[JURIST] US District Court Judge Louise Wood Flanagan of the Eastern District of North Carolina Thursday sentenced two former Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] employees to three years probation for possession of stolen firearms in exchange for their continued cooperation with a Justice Department investigation into whether the private security firm was smuggling weapons into Iraq. In addition to probation, Kenneth Wayne Cashwell and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux were each fined $1,000 and expected to testify in other Blackwater cases. Information regarding the two men's involvement in the investigation was introduced in private during sentencing. Both men had faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine as a result of the weapons charges. Cashwell also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the sale of the firearms and was sentenced to three months house arrest. AP has more. The New Bern Sun Journal has local coverage.
Blackwater faced intense scrutiny following a September 16, 2007 incident in West Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. In November, a US grand jury opened an investigation [JURIST reports] into Blackwater employees involved in the incident after an FBI investigation labeled the shootings unjustified [JURIST report]. In October 2007, the New York-based Center for Constitutional rights filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Blackwater on behalf of an injured survivor and the families of three men killed during the incident. The complaint alleged that Blackwater violated US law and should be liable for assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.