A former Blackwater contractor charged in the shooting deaths …
Updated: Thursday, 14 Jan 2010, 5:47 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 12 Jan 2010, 4:27 PM EST
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A former Blackwater contractor charged in the shooting deaths of two Afghans will be held in custody until his trial because his history of disregarding authority suggests he would break conditions set for his release, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy Miller also found that Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach would be a potential danger to the public if he were freed on bond. He cited a bizarre incident in September in which prosecutors say Drotleff invited FBI agents to his home to talk, then refused to let them in and called police to report that armed men were trying to enter his house.
Miller said Drotleff's actions created "the equivalent of an ambush situation" that could have had local police confronting armed FBI agents they believed to be intruders.
Drotleff and another former contractor, 27-year-old Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, are charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. They are eligible for the federal death penalty, although the attorney general has not determined whether to seek it.
Both men have said they were justified in opening fire last year on a car that caused an accident in front of their vehicle at a Kabul intersection. The men were in the country to train the Afghan National Army.
Federal prosecutor Randy Stoker said Drotleff had been drinking in violation of military and company policy the day of the shooting and that he left the base without authorization. Drotleff's attorney, Lawrence Woodward, said the men were driving some interpreters home when a car rammed the vehicle ahead of them. He said they got out to help the crash victims and fired their weapons only after the car that caused the accident sped toward them.
Stoker said the shooting was unprovoked. He said bullet holes showed that some of the shots were fired from behind the car as its driver tried to flee.
Much of the 90-minute hearing focused on Drotleff's military and criminal records. Drotleff was punished several times for unauthorized absences and disrespecting officers during more than two years in the U.S. Marines. Stoker said Drotleff told court officials he was discharged in 2001 for refusing an anthrax shot, but records showed he received a less-than-honorable discharge after altering a military ID.
The prosecutor also noted that Drotleff's criminal record includes drunken driving, assault and resisting arrest.
Woodward acknowledged that Drotleff had a bad military record, but he said that was 10 years ago. He also said Drotleff's criminal record shows no felony convictions.
Woodward said Drotleff had a job lined up working for a plumbing company. He said that if Drotleff had wanted to flee, he could have done so months ago but he stayed and cooperated with authorities.
But the judge said he was troubled by Drotleff's "abysmal" military record and scrapes with the law. "He has disobeyed direct orders on numerous occasions," Miller said.
A trial date has not been set.
A detention hearing for Cannon is scheduled for Thursday in Texas, Stoker said.
Drotleff and Cannon were arrested last week, a day after Xe -- the North Carolina-based company formerly known as Blackwater -- settled a series of federal lawsuits alleging that illegal activity by the company led to the deaths of dozens of Iraqis. Those killings and other problems in Iraq have led to the U.S. government's push to increase oversight of contractors in war zones.
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