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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Helvenston’

Families of dead Blackwater Contractors Settle Suit

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 6, 2012

Bill Sizemore The Virginian Pilot  January 6, 2012

Seven years after it was filed, what could have been a landmark lawsuit over battlefield accountability in an era of privatized warfare has been quietly laid to rest.

As a result, the security company formerly known as Blackwater has avoided a public examination of the bloody event that catapulted the company to worldwide attention and changed the course of the Iraq war.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2005 by the families of four Blackwater guards killed in a convoy ambush in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. In what became an iconic image of the war, the four were shot and dismembered, and two of the bodies were strung from a bridge while a crowd of Iraqis cheered and chanted.

Televised images of the gruesome scene were flashed worldwide, prompting a devastating retaliatory assault on the city by U.S. forces that fanned the flames of the Iraqi insurgency.

The security company, now known as Academi, reached a confidential settlement with the families last week.

Two sources who insisted on anonymity said the company agreed to a total payout of $635,000 – a mere fraction of the legal fees in the long-running case, let alone the $30 million in claims and counterclaims at stake.

The settlement is in keeping with an aggressive makeover effort by Academi’s current owners, who bought the company from founder Erik Prince a year ago and are doing their best to distance themselves from allegations of lawless behavior at Blackwater, from the streets of Baghdad to the executive suite in Moyock, N.C.

Beyond any financial considerations, the Fallujah victims’ families never got what they always said they wanted most: an opportunity to hold the company publicly accountable for their loved ones’ deaths.

The four men – Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Michael Teague and Jerry Zovko – were traveling in two Mitsubishi SUVs, escorting a convoy of flatbed trucks to pick up kitchen equipment from a U.S. military base.

Please read the entire article here

Posted in Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Iraq, Misjudgements, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Hawaii man’s family will appeal dismissal of Blackwater lawsuit

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 26, 2011

The families of the decedents are now being denied the ability to present their case against Blackwater simply because they do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay the private arbitrators.”

by Greg Kakesako at the Star Advertiser

The family of a Big Island man killed in a horrific ambush in Fallujah, Iraq seven years ago will appeal a federal court decision that dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the security company formerly known as Blackwater, the family’s attorney said.

Paauilo resident Wesley Batalona and three other civilian military contractors died in a March 31, 2004 ambush. Insurgents led a mob which mutilated and set fire to their bodies before dragging the charred remains through the streets and hanging two from a bridge. Images from the scene were relayed around the world, and the event triggered a massive U.S. military siege known as the Battle of Fallujah.

Marc Miles, a Southern California attorney who represents June Batalona, Wesley Batalona’s wife, told the Star-Advertiser today said the four men who were hired by Blackwater Security Consulting “have been denied their day in court.”

Last Friday,  U.S. District Judge James C. Fox entered judgment against the families of Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Jerko “Jerry” Zovko and Michael Teague, finding that court-ordered arbitration fell apart because neither side was paying the costs of that process.

“The families had lost their case against Blackwater because they were not wealthy enough,” Miles said.

In Jan, 5, 2005, Batalona’s family and relatives of the three other contractors filled a wrongful death suit.

Survivors of the contractors contend Blackwater failed to prepare the men for their mission and didn’t provide them with appropriate equipment, such as a map. The men were sent in Mitsubishi SUVs to escort a convoy of three empty trucks to pick up kitchen equipment for a food company, the lawsuit said. Their survivors argued they should have been given armored vehicles.

A congressional investigation concurred with that view, calling Blackwater an “unprepared and disorderly” organization on the day of the ambush.

Blackwater, however, argued that the men were betrayed by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and targeted in a well-planned ambush. The company said the result of the ambush likely would have been the same even if they had stronger weapons, armored vehicles, maps or even more men.

Blackwater countersued the four families seeking $10 million arguing that the families had breached the security guards’ contracts by their wrongful death legal action.

Miles said for years, Blackwater has avoided a trial of these claims against it, through the use of at least five Washington law firms and appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Miles said after losing the appeals, Blackwater forced the case into private arbitration, knowing it could afford the heavy price tag associated with litigating a case in private arbitration.

“Our clients never had the ability to pay,” Miles added, “and we made it clear from the very beginning.”

The three private arbitrators refused to continue the arbitration session because the families could not afford to pay them, Miles added.

Miles said the families petitioned the North Carolina federal court to allow them to return to the North Carolina state court in order to prosecute their case against Blackwater.

But Blackwater attorneys asked the federal court to enter a judgment in its favor and end the entire case, despite the evidence never having been presented and no trial ever having been conducted, Miles added, which a federal judge did last week.

“This is a sad day in the American legal system,” said another attorney for the four families in a written statement. Daniel J. Callahan added: “Our courts have long been a place where all citizens have equal access to justice.  The ruling here turns that principal on its head.  The families of the decedents are now being denied the ability to present their case against Blackwater simply because they do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay the private arbitrators.”  Miles said the appeal should be filed with the 4th federal Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.,  within 60 days.

“We will take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary,”  Callahan added.

Katy Helvenston, the mother of contractor Scott Helvenston, said the families couldn’t afford the costs, and she fears the case is over.

“It’s pretty much destroyed my life,” Helvenston said. “I haven’t known one moment of joy since Scotty was slaughtered. I think the worst party is the betrayal from my country. I feel so betrayed.”

Following a 2007 shooting in Baghdad, Blackwater changed its management, name and eventually its ownership. USTC Holdings, an investment firm with ties to founder Erik Prince, acquired the company that’s now called Xe Services.. The deal includes its training facility in Moyock, N.C.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Posted in Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Iraq, Misjudgements | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Judge tosses Blackwater deaths suit after 6 years

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 25, 2011

A congressional investigation concurred with that view, calling Blackwater an “unprepared and disorderly” organization on the day of the ambush.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit that blamed the security company formerly known as Blackwater for the deaths of four contractors killed in a grisly 2004 ambush on the restive streets of Iraq.

U.S. District Judge James C. Fox said court-ordered arbitration fell apart because neither side was paying the costs of that process, so he decided to shut the case nearly seven years after the killings. Katy Helvenston, the mother of contractor Scott Helvenston, said Tuesday the families couldn’t afford the costs, and she fears the case is over. The lawsuit was filed about a year after the men’s deaths.

“It’s pretty much destroyed my life,” Helvenston said. “I haven’t known one moment of joy since Scotty was slaughtered. I think the worst party is the betrayal from my country. I feel so betrayed.”

Insurgents killed the four contractors, then mutilated the bodies, dragged the charred remains through the streets and hung two of the corpses from a bridge. Images from the scene were relayed around the world, and the event triggered a massive U.S. military siege known as the Battle of Fallujah.

Survivors of the contractors contend Blackwater failed to prepare the men for their mission and didn’t provide them with appropriate equipment, such as a map. Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague were sent in Mitsubishi SUVs to guard a supply convoy. Their survivors argued they should have been given armored vehicles.

A congressional investigation concurred with that view, calling Blackwater an “unprepared and disorderly” organization on the day of the ambush.

Blackwater, however, argued that the men were betrayed by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and targeted in a well-planned ambush. The company said the result of the ambush likely would have been the same even if they had stronger weapons, armored vehicles, maps or even more men.

Following a 2007 shooting in Baghdad, Blackwater changed its management, name and eventually its ownership. USTC Holdings, an investment firm with ties to founder Erik Prince, acquired the company that’s now called Xe Services in December. The deal includes its training facility in Moyock, N.C.

Daniel Callahan, an attorney representing the survivors, said they plan to appeal the ruling. Helvenston said she doesn’t expect success from further appeals.

An attorney for Xe didn’t immediately repond to requests seeking comment.

See Background Setback for Families Suing Blackwater

RALEIGH, N.C.  Associated Press A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit that accused the security company formerly known as Blackwater of wrongful death, closing the case more than six years after four company contractors were killed in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge James C. Fox said in his decision that neither side was paying for court-ordered arbitration. The mother of one of the contractors said Tuesday the families couldn’t afford the costs and that the case appears over.

Insurgents killed the four contractors in a March 2004 ambush, then mutilated the bodies before dragging the charred remains through the streets and hanging two from a bridge.

Survivors of the men contend Blackwater failed to prepare them for the mission and didn’t provide them with appropriate equipment.

Posted in Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Exclusive Remedy, Misjudgements, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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