Transcript of Blackwater Press Conference

WASHINGTON , Dec. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of the Blackwater press conference: 12:05 P.M. EST ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICK ROWAN : Good afternoon. My name is Pat Rowan and I'm the...

QUESTION: What kind of analysis have you done about trying to try this under U.S. law? There's been a huge debate about whether MEJA really did apply to State Department contractors, and you have raised 2004 amendments which do not talk about the State Department.

How are you going to argue that that does extend beyond just someone who is working in conjunction with the military to someone who has actually contracted to the State Department?

MR. ROWAN: Under the statute as it exists now after the 2004 amendments, I believe the language is individuals working for any other federal agency or any provisional authority to the extent such employment relates to supporting the mission of the Department of Defense overseas. So one can be an employee or a contractor of any other federal agency provided that their employment relates to supporting the mission of the Defense Department overseas. And, in this instance, we've obviously alleged that in our charging document and at trial we will present the evidence that demonstrates that the work that these men were doing supported the mission of the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: In Ridgeway's plea deal, is there any way that he can argue you don't have venue under MEJA? Or, if the other defendants are successful, then getting the case kicked out before trial? Does that invalidate his plea deal?

MR. ROWAN: I'm not going to comment on the particulars of Mr. Ridgeway's plea.

QUESTION: They were authorized to carry firearms, so why did you bring the firearm charge? And I noticed also it was not in the plea with Mr. Ridgeway. But they were authorized to carry firearms.

MR. ROWAN: That's correct. The offense, the charge that you're referring to, 18 USC Section 924(c), is an offense that we use when there's either a drug trafficking offense or a crime of violence. In this instance we have a crime of violence. The federal courts have recognized that this Section 924(c) applies equally to persons who are licensed to carry firearms and abuse that privilege by committing a crime with a weapon. I believe that principle has come up in the context of civil rights charges against police officers who obviously are permitted to carry weapons. But then if they use that weapon in the course of a crime of violence, it's an appropriate charge, and one that we thought made sense in this case.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up on your answer on MEJA, your contention is then that the State Department was in Iraq supporting the Department of Defense?

MR. ROWAN: Well, our contention is that, well first of all let me make it clear. Our evidence on this point is something we will present to the judge and the jury, and they will have the opportunity to determine whether or not we've provided sufficient evidence of this point.

What we are saying is that the defendants who we've charged were supporting the mission of the Department of Defense and that's the charging language we use, that's the predicate for the use of MEJA in this case.

QUESTION: So any U.S. personnel in Iraq at the time were supporting the Department of Defense, is that the theory here?

MR. ROWAN: I wouldn't go so far as to say that's so. We believe -- and again I'm obviously avoiding getting into the evidence. But we believe the evidence in this case is sufficient to establish that these individuals were supporting the mission in the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: So the Blackwater guards weren't the ones protecting the convoy or the diplomatic people at the time. It would have been the military, is that what you're saying?

MR. ROWAN: I'm not going to get into what the evidence shows about who would have done what or who was doing what at that time. It's just not something I'm comfortable getting into today.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could ask Mr. Persichini a question?