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Felony charges against Blackwater employees dropped

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The federal prosecution of five former employees of the private security firm Blackwater has crumbled after the defendants said they were acting at the behest of the CIA by providing five guns as gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Federal prosecutors indicted former Blackwater president Gary Jackson and four others in 2010 on a long list of felony firearms violations involving dozens of weapons, including 17 M-4 military assault rifles and 17 Romanian-made AK-47s.

All charges against three of the accused were dismissed Thursday at the request of prosecutors after a federal judge ruled earlier this month to reduce several of the felony charges to misdemeanors.

Under a plea agreement, Jackson and former company vice president William Matthews admitted guilt Thursday on misdemeanor charges related to record-keeping violations, resulting in $5,000 fines and four months of house arrest. They had originally faced decades in prison on 12 felony charges each.

"At the time the Department of Justice brought this case I don't think they knew all of the facts," Kenneth Bell, Jackson's lawyer, said Friday.

Thomas Walker, a U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina, emphasized that the case did result in guilty pleas.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided Blackwater's 7,000-acre training compound in Moyok, N.C., in 2008, seizing the automatic weapons. The company, which was registered with the ATF as a federal firearms dealer, claimed it was simply storing the guns owned by the Camden County Sheriff's Office, which had only a handful of deputies.

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