NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A former Blackwater contractor charged in the shooting deaths oftwo Afghans will be held in custody until his trial because hishistory of disregarding authority suggests he would breakconditions set for his release, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy Miller also found that ChristopherDrotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach would be a potential danger to thepublic if he were freed on bond. He cited a bizarre incident inSeptember in which prosecutors say Drotleff invited FBI agents tohis home to talk, then refused to let them in and called police toreport that armed men were trying to enter his house.
Miller said Drotleff's actions created "the equivalent of anambush situation" that could have had local police confrontingarmed FBI agents they believed to be intruders.
Drotleff and another former contractor, 27-year-old JustinCannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, are charged with second-degreemurder, attempted murder and weapons charges. They are eligible forthe federal death penalty, although the attorney general has notdetermined whether to seek it.
Both men have said they were justified in opening fire last yearon a car that caused an accident in front of their vehicle at aKabul intersection. The men were in the country to train the AfghanNational Army.
Federal prosecutor Randy Stoker said Drotleff had been drinkingin violation of military and company policy the day of the shootingand that he left the base without authorization. Drotleff'sattorney, Lawrence Woodward, said the men were driving someinterpreters home when a car rammed the vehicle ahead of them. Hesaid they got out to help the crash victims and fired their weaponsonly after the car that caused the accident sped toward them.
Stoker said the shooting was unprovoked. He said bullet holesshowed that some of the shots were fired from behind the car as itsdriver tried to flee.
Much of the 90-minute hearing focused on Drotleff's military andcriminal records. Drotleff was punished several times forunauthorized absences and disrespecting officers during more thantwo years in the U.S. Marines. Stoker said Drotleff told courtofficials he was discharged in 2001 for refusing an anthrax shot,but records showed he received a less-than-honorable dischargeafter altering a military ID.
The prosecutor also noted that Drotleff's criminal recordincludes 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 criminalrecord shows no felony convictions.
Woodward said Drotleff had a job lined up working for a plumbingcompany. He said that if Drotleff had wanted to flee, he could havedone so months ago but he stayed and cooperated withauthorities.
But the judge said he was troubled by Drotleff's "abysmal"military record and scrapes with the law. "He has disobeyed directorders on numerous occasions," Miller said.
A trial date has not been set.
A detention hearing for Cannon is scheduled for Thursday inTexas, 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 activityby the company led to the deaths of dozens of Iraqis. Thosekillings and other problems in Iraq have led to the U.S.government's push to increase oversight of contractors in warzones.
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