SANGER, Texas - He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians while working as a military contractor. But now three years since that conviction, he could get out of prison early.
In 2014, 37-year-old Paul Slough and three other Blackwater contractors were convicted in the 2007 killings. Since then, the so-called ‘Blackwater Case’ has long since faded from the headlines — but not for the families of the four men sentenced, including a wife and a daughter in Sanger, Texas.
The September 2007 shootings at a traffic circle in Baghdad during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq War inflamed resentments over the role of private security forces in general and Blackwater Worldwide in particular.
Prosecutors would charge. Fourteen unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed, and 17 others were wounded.
Seven years of court proceedings would end with four Blackwater contractors going to prison. At sentencing, the judge called them good guys who panicked in a tough situation.
Now, a federal appeals court has overturned the murder conviction of one and ordered resentencing on three others who were given 30 years for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, including North Texan 37-year-old Paul Slough.
Paul’s wife, Christin, and her 4-year-old daughter live 90 miles north of Dallas. They visit him once a week at a federal prison west of Oklahoma City.
“He is my complete rock,” she said. “When I'm not sure what to do with myself, he sends me scripture. He cheers everybody else up about his situation. I kind of fall in love with him more and more every day."
Christin and loved ones of the other three maintain a website that champions their cause and makes the case they were simply protecting themselves and others that day.
"We have court documents. We have exhibits. We have transcripts of court testimony,” she explained. “All of these things that paint an incredibly different picture than the one they received so far."
Paul grew up in a small town near Lubbock. He enlisted in the Army right out of high school and did a tour in Iraq before taking the job with Blackwater.
“He gave most of his adult life to serving his country. It is the epitome of irony that he has spent protecting freedom only to have it stripped from him,” Christin said. “There are some scenarios that could play out that he could be home and home soon. We don't know what it looks like. And honestly, every time we start to have a little faith in our government it gets dashed. So we're just going to continue to have faith in God because our government has failed us repeatedly."
Under federal guidelines, an inmate must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence. A resentence of eight years or less for Paul and the others could see them released.
But either way, Christin says the families will continue to appeal with a final goal of having the convictions overturned altogether.