Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va., have been charged with crimes including second-degree murder, attempted murder and firearms offenses while working as contractors for the U.S. Department of Defense in Afghanistan. Cannon and Drotleff were charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA).
The 13-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 6, 2010, and unsealed today, alleges that on May 5, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Cannon and Drotleff shot and killed two Afghanistan nationals and wounded a third. The indictment alleges that at the time of the shootings, Cannon and Drotleff were Department of Defense contractors employed by Paravant LLC, which is a subsidiary of Xe (formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide). According to the indictment, as contractors, Cannon and Drotleff provided training to the Afghan National Army for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the use and maintenance of weapons and weapons systems.
Cannon was arrested today in Corpus Christi by FBI agents. Drotleff was also arrested today by FBI agents in Virginia Beach. Cannon and Drotleff were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, six counts of using and discharging a firearm during a violent crime, and four counts of murder resulting from the use of a firearm during a violent crime. If convicted, the maximum penalty faced by Cannon and Drotleff is life in prison or the death penalty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy C. Stoker and Alan M. Salsbury from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia - Norfolk Division as well as Trial Attorney Robert McGovern of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.