Blackwater Founder "Had Intent" to Kill, Lawyers Say

Judge expresses doubt

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Blackwater USA founder, Erik Prince, is being accused of deliberately causing the death of innocent Iraqi civilians.

    Attorneys for Iraqis suing security contractor Blackwater USA have put the blame for the deaths of more than 20 Iraqis at the foot of  the company's owner, Erik Prince.

    "The person responsible for these deaths is Mr. Prince,'' Susan L. Burke, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, The Washington Post reported. "He had the intent, he provided the weapons, he provided the instructions, and they were done by his agents and they were war crimes."

    At a hearing in Alexandria Friday, lawyers for Prince denied the allegations and tried to further their motion to get the family members and victims' estates' lawsuit accusing Blackwater of "lawless behavior" dismissed. 

    But Judge T.S. Ellis III said, while the Iraqi's lawyers could infer malice, "you can't infer, as far as I can tell...intent to kill these people."

    "These are certainly allegations of not engaging in very nice conduct, but where are the elements that meet the elements of murder?" Ellis asked.

    Blackwater, now called Xe Services LLC, provided -- and still provides -- security to U.S. diplomats, even though the State Department said its contracts would not be renewed after a deadly firefight that killed 17 civilians in Iraq in September 2007.

    Six former Blackwater guards were criminally charged in 14 of those shootings. The current lawsuit alleges that Prince and Blackwater covered up killings and hired known mercenaries.  Attorneys for Blackwater say, although the deaths were tragic, the guards were closely supervised by U.S. government officials, the Post reports.

    Ellis is expected to issue a ruling on the case soon.