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The Blackwater Killings - Criminal Case III

U.S. vs. John A. Houston & Michael Henson

 

 

U.S. vs. John A. Houston & Michael Henson

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Case No.: 1:09-cr-00232-AW-1

Filed on September 4th, 2008

 

February 4th, 2010 - U.S.A.’s Memorandum to Admit Evidence Rel. to Def. Michael Henson

February 1st, 2010 - Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Venue

January 28th, 2010 - U.S.A.’s Memorandum to Admit Evidence Rel. to Def. John Houston

December 16th, 2009 - Memo to Counsel

October 16th, 2009 - Motion to Unseal

October 15th, 2009 - Government’s Motion in Limine Regarding Affirmative Defenses

April 29th, 2009 - Indictment

September 4th, 2008 - Criminal Complaint

 

 

February 4th, 2010 - U.S.A.’s Memorandum to Admit Evidence Rel. to Def. Michael Henson

 

“[…] Facts giving rise to the charges:

 

“From approximately April 2007 until at least early 2008, the defendant was employed by SOS International [hereinafter SOSI], a company contracted by the United States Department of Defense, to provide services in Iraq. The defendant worked with the U.S. military and had access to firearms while in Iraq. During part of his employment, the defendant was supervised by codefendant John Houston, and both defendants Houston and Henson were otherwise personal friends.

 

“In early 2008, defendant Houston contacted Henson while the latter was on leave in the United States, specifically at his home in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg. Houston informed Henson that he was smuggling weapons from Iraq to Fort Bragg. Houston also asked Henson if he wanted to secrete any materials in the smuggled shipment and to retrieve the smuggled firearms upon their illicit arrival at Fort Bragg. Henson responded, via e-mail, that he concurred with the arrangements and that he would retrieve the shipment of smuggled weapons upon their arrival at Fort Bragg.

 

“Prior to his indictment and pursuant to their investigation of co-defendant John Houston, law enforcement officials contacted the defendant. The defendant agreed to speak with law enforcement officials on several occasions in late 2008 and early 2009. The defendant, however, made multiple false statements during the course of said interviews and meetings, including misrepresenting the fact that he had ever seen a particular weapon in co-defendant John Houston’s possession. The defendant, however, subsequently admitted that the weapon belonged to him [i.e., Henson] and that he previously observed said weapon under Houston’s bed in Iraq a short time before that weapon was one of eight others smuggled into the United States by both Houston and Henson. […]”

 

February 1st, 2010 - Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Venue

 

“[…] Defendant John A. Houston, through his attorneys, James Wyda, Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, and Michael T. Citara Manis, Assistant Federal Public Defender, hereby requests this Honorable Court to dismiss the indictment herein for lack of venue in Maryland, or in the alternative, to order that this case be transferred to another, more appropriate district. […]”

 

January 28th, 2010 - U.S.A.’s Memorandum to Admit Evidence Rel. to Def. John Houston

 

“[…] Facts giving rise to the charges:

 

“From approximately April 2007 to August 2008, the defendant worked in Iraq for two companies contracted by the United States Department of Defense. From approximately April 2007 to May 2008, the defendant was employed by SOS International [hereinafter SOSI]. He thereafter obtained employment with MPRI until August 2008. At various times during his employment in Iraq, the defendant worked as a military analyst and in a supervisory capacity. While in Iraq, the defendant worked with the U.S. military and had access to firearms.

 

“From approximately mid-2007, the defendant approached U.S. military soldiers and asked the soldiers to unlawfully smuggle weapons from Iraq into the U.S. on his behalf. A U.S. soldier reported the matter to his superiors. Subsequently, in a series of e-mails in early 2008, the defendant arranged with the U.S. soldier and co-defendant Michael Henson to unlawfully smuggle firearms from Iraq to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in a manner that would evade U.S. military and civilian customs regulations and inspections. The defendant then transported a bag of weapons via two SOSI employees under his supervision to the U.S. soldier, who ostensibly had agreed to secrete the weapons to Fort Bragg on behalf of the defendant. Co-defendant Michael Henson agreed to collect the weapons once they arrived at Fort Bragg. Military investigators, however, seized the weapons before they departed Iraq. The weapons seized included eight machine guns and one semi-automatic pistol. […]”

 

December 16th, 2009 - Memo to Counsel

 

“[…] Pursuant to the telephonic scheduling conference with counsel today, the parties will proceed with the following schedule. The two week jury trial in the above referenced matter will take place on March 30, 2010 at 9:45 a.m. in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, courtroom, 4A. Motions are to be filed on or before January 29, 2010. The pre-trial conference and motions hearing are scheduled for March 9, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. in courtroom, 4A. Counsel is instructed to bring joint voire dire, joint jury instructions, verdict sheet, and any motions in limine to the conference. […]”

 

October 16th, 2009 - Motion to Unseal

 

“[…] The United States of America by and through its attorneys, Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, and James A. Crowell IV, Assistant United States Attorney for said District, hereby moves this Court to unseal all documents and docket entries connected to the search warrant filed in the above case, including those sealed pursuant to case numbers 08-2811-WC, 09-418-WC and 09-419-WC when the aforementioned matter was before United States Magistrate Judge William Connelly prior to indictment. The unsealing is now necessary for court proceedings.

 

“Wherefore, it is respectfully requested that the Government's Motion to Unseal be granted. […]”

 

October 15th, 2009 - Government’s Motion in Limine Regarding Affirmative Defenses

 

“[…] The United States of America, by and through its undersigned attorneys, and pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 12(b), respectfully moves the Court in limine to prohibit the Defendants, individually and jointly, from presenting the affirmative defenses of coercion, duress, or necessity to defend or otherwise authorize their illegal acts.

 

“The United States believes that both Defendants may claim, individually or jointly, that they, in some so far unexplained fashion, committed the charged felonies because of coercion or duress inflicted by a coconspirator and/or other yet unknown individual or out of necessity. Under controlling case law, these Defendants are not entitled to offer this defense, individually or jointly, unless they proffer evidence establishing each of the elements of the defense.

 

“In Bailey, the Court reasoned that juries should not be burdened with testimony relating to duress and necessity in cases where the asserted defense fails as a matter of law, noting pointedly that such cases ‘present a good example of the potential for wasting valuable trial resources.’ […] Procedurally, ‘[i]n order to have [an affirmative] defense submitted to a jury, a defendant must first produce or proffer evidence sufficient to prove the essential elements of the defense.’ […]

 

“Where ‘an affirmative defense consists of several elements and testimony supporting one element is insufficient to sustain it even if believed, the trial court and the jury need not be burdened with testimony supporting other elements of the defense.’ […] Accordingly, where the defendants' individually or jointly proffered evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to support an affirmative defense the trial judge should exclude that evidence. […]”

 

April 29th, 2009 - Indictment

 

“[…] 1. Beginning on or about February 19, 2008, and continuing until on or about February 28, 2008, in the Republic of Iraq and elsewhere, the defendants, John A. Houston and Michael Henson and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly did combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to commit an offense against the United States, to wit, to knowingly and willfully, with intent to defraud the United States, attempt to smuggle and clandestinely introduce into the Unted States merchandise which should have been invoiced, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 545.

 

“2. It was part and an object of the conspiracy that defendants Houston and Henson would and did unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly to smuggle firearms from Iraq into the United States. […]”

 

September 4th, 2008 - Criminal Complaint

 

“[…] 8. Houston was a Sergeant Major in the United States Army before retiring from active duty on June 30, 2006. Houston served as a Special Forces soldier assigned to a unit under the command of the United States Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After his retirement from the Army, Houston accepted a position (likely in 2007) with SOS International, Ltd. (SOSi), a company registered in the state of New York, as a Department of Defense (DoD) Contractor under contract number W9IGER-06-D-007. This contract relates to the staffing of the Iraqi Advisor Task Force located in the country of Iraq.

 

“[…] 12. On March 12, 2008, agents interviewed a confidential informant [hereinafter referred to as CI #1] via telephone. CI #1 is a U.S. Army reservist who was activated and deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Your affiant believes that CI #1 has proven to be a reliable source of information because much of the information provided by CI #1 has been corroborated by a second confidential informant; because information provided by CI #1 to law enforcement has been acted upon and found to be true; […]

 

“[…] 13. CI #1 advised that he met John Houston some time before the fall of 2007, while stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kalsu in Iraq. CI #1 advised that Houston was employed as the Operations Center Director, Iraqi Advisor Task Force (IQATF) at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq.

 

“14. CI #1 advised that Houston asked CI #1 on approximately fourt occasions to smuggle firearms into the United States from Iraq inside a ‘Conex’ box (i.e. a shipping container used to ship U.S. Army equipment). Houston communicated with CI #1 via secured SIPR e-mail address john.houston@3id.army.smil.mil and Yahoo! Mail commercial e-mail address ranger0565@yahoo.com, by telephone, and in person. Houston used code language when not speaking face-to-face with CI #1 to disguise Houston’s actions. In such situations, Houston never directly referred to smuggling ‘firearms’ but, rather, referred to said firearms as ‘stuff’. Houston told CI #1 that he had obtained several firearms from individuals working for the security contractor Blackwater in Iraq. Houston stated that Blackwater employees maintained a Conex filled with firearms seized by Blackwater employees from Iraqi insurgents. Houston stated that, after the Nissour Square shooting involving Blackwater personnel on September 16, 2007, Blackwater employees gave Houston some of their firearms because they wanted to dispose of the weapons before an investigation ensued. Houston offered to give CI #1 two of these firearms if CI #1 successfully smuggled all additional firearms into the U.S. […]

 

“15. In February 2008, as CI #1 prepared to depart Iraq with his unit, Houston made the last of his requests to CI #1 to transport firearms for him. CI #1 contacted the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID) at FOB Kalsu and reported Houston’s request. On February 17, 2008, acting at the direction of CID Special Agents, CI #1 sent an e-mail via SIPRNET to john.houston@3id.army.smil.mil (i.e. Houston’s SIPR e-mail account) advising Houston that CI #1 had a way to ‘move some stuff’ in a Conex. […] Several days later, Thomas Bevier came to see CI #1 and advised that Bevier was holding a bag of ‘stuff’ from Houston for CI #1. CI #1 advised CID that the firearms had already arrived at FOB Kalsu, and CI avoided Bevier for a couple of days before finally telling Bevier that he could not help Houston with the ‘stuff’. […] CI #1 advised CID that the firearms were being housed in the Containerized Housing Unit (CHU) occupied by Bevier. […]

 

“[…] 24. On March 19, 2008, a second confidential informant [hereinafter referred to as CI #2] was interviewed via telephone. CI #2 is a U.S. Army reservist who was activated and deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Your affiant believes that CI #2 has proven to be a relable source of information because much of the information provided by CI #2 has been corroborated by a second confidential informant […]

 

“[…] 26. According to CI #2, in July or August of 2007, Houston advised CI #2 that Houston had some firearms that Houston was trying to transport into the US. Houston asked CI #2 if CI #2 would be willing to smuggle firearms back into the U.S. inside of MILVANS (Conex boxes). […]

 

“[…] 29. CI #2 stated that Houston told CI #2 that Houston had obtained the machineguns from Blackwater contractors. Houston said that Blackwater contractors maintained a Conex box filled with seized weapons. Houston said that after Blackwater ‘got into trouble,’ they had to get rid of the firearms so that they didn’t get caught with them. Houston claimed that he was given the firearms by these Blackwater contractors. CI #2 said that, in addition to having the two AK-47s and two MP-5s, Houston also bragged about having a British Sterling machinegun. […]”

 

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