NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - An ex-Blackwater contractor from Virginia Beach turned himself in Wednesday at Norfolk's Federal Court to start serving his term for one count involuntary manslaughter. The conviction is related to a 2009 incident in Afghanistan where two men were killed and another injured.
Chris Drotleff hugged his mother, Sharon Drotleff, Good-bye. Drotleff, 33, will spend the next 37 months in a federal prison. With time served and good behavior that could be reduced to 19 and a half months.
WAVY.com was the only station there this morning when Drotleff arrived in Norfolk. He spoke to WAVY's Andy Fox, smoked a last cigarette, then walked into the arms of the Federal Government.
Drotleff is the first contractor of Blackwater Security (now renamed Academi) to go to prison for crimes committed in Afghanistan. He was charged with Capital Murder and claimed self defense in a war zone, but during the first trial, jurors could not decide. A second trial found him guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of two men in Afghanistan.
Drotleff said he was defending himself in May 2009 when a car hit the lead vehicle in his convoy, taking out the vehicle. Drotleff said when the car made a u-turn, he thought the occupants were going to finish the job, so he opened fire and many of the bullets went into the back of the car as it passed.
But U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar said the bullet holes were in the back of the car and the act was reckless. At trial, Judge Doumar was not convinced Drotleff was defending himself.
"We can't get around the fact that all of the bullet holes were in the rear of the vehicle...it was reckless conduct, totally reckless," Doumar said.
Sharon is proud of her son.
"This is a special guy. He is so full of life and energy. He is wonderful. I am there for him. He has a huge support system," she said.
Chris choked up and said, "I've lost all that time with my kids, my family, it just hurts."
Drotleff said explaining the situation to his son was hard.
"I told him 'Daddy went off fighting bad guys. Daddy was fighting the bad guys, and the bad guys tried to hurt me, and they ended up getting hurt, and now I'm being sent away for defending myself.' He understands. He knows I'll be back," Drotleff said.
Drotleff calls himself a scapegoat because he worked at Blackwater.
"The government is making a point that Blackwater behavior will not be tolerated, and it's a huge political game to appease the Afghan Government," he said.
Sharon responded, "It was painful to watch him go through this. To not be able to hug him, touch him."
Drotleff said he thinks he got a raw deal and that it as particularly cruel for officials to put him in a Houston, Texas prison instead of a prison closer to his family.
"To my family, I'll see you when it's over," Drotleff said.
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