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Blackwater Wants Charge Dropped After Ex-Worker Blames Addiction Print

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot - July 8, 2006
By Jeffrey S. Hampton, The Virginian-Pilot

MOYOCK, N.C. - The state plans to ask for the dismissal of an extortion charge against a former Blackwater USA employee who had demanded $1 million from the company in return for not publicly disclosing sensitive company information.

"This appears to be the just resolution," said District Attorney Frank Parrish.

Parrish plans to file for dismissal Monday, he said late Friday.

Blackwater officials agreed to drop the charge against Laura Holdren-Nowacki, 35, of Moyock, shortly after she blamed an addiction to painkillers as the reason she demanded $1 million and a new Suburban, among other things, in an e-mail sent Monday to Bill Mathews, executive vice president of Blackwater.

"We'd rather see her treated than incarcerated, " Andy Howell, a Blackwater attorney, said Friday afternoon. The company plans to help her get treatment, he said.

Blackwater, based in Moyock, trains military and law enforcement officers in crime-fighting and combat tactics and offers for-hire contractors expert in warfare operations. Blackwater contractors have been used to protect dignitaries and convoys in war-torn countries such as Iraq and  Afghanistan.

The company has grown rapidly in recent years and often attracts national attention. Holdren-Nowacki' s hearing Friday drew representatives from several media outlets.

Holdren-Nowacki released a statement of apology shortly after pleading not guilty to the extortion charge in Camden County District Court on Friday morning.

"The allegations and statements that I made regarding Blackwater were the product of my addiction," she said in the statement. "My addiction has literally destroyed my life and brought me to where I am today. I want to apologize for my actions and quickly open a new chapter in my life."

The statement was quoted by The Associated Press and a copy of it was given to The Virginian-Pilot by Blackwater.

Blackwater hired Holdren-Nowacki from a Florida car dealership in August to manage a fleet of vehicles, Howell said. She was fired from the job in April, according to papers filed as part of a warrant issued Monday.

The termination was a mutual agreement, Howell said. She was given a "generous severance package," according to the warrant filed with the Camden County Sheriff's Office. Severance pay is common for Blackwater employees who quit or are fired, Howell said.

Holdren-Nowacki sent e-mails beginning June 29 threatening to release sensitive information about Blackwater and some of its employees, according to the warrant. She threatened to call family members of the Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah, Iraq, but did not say she had information
about the deaths, Sheriff Tony Perry said Friday.

In March 2004, four Blackwater employees were killed in Fallujah and their bodies were burned and hung from a bridge. The incident drew worldwide attention.

In an e-mail sent Monday, she made several demands of the company, including $1 million in cash, a black 2006 Chevrolet Suburban delivered to her house by 10 a.m. Monday and all her medical bills paid since her arrival at Blackwater.

After contacting the Camden County Sheriff's Office, Mathews, the Blackwater executive, called Holdren-Nowacki using a phone with a recording device, according to the warrant. She was aware she was being recorded, and a Camden deputy was with Mathews. She acknowledged sending the e-mail, according to the warrant.

By 3:40 p.m. Monday, officers with the Camden County Sheriff's Office had a warrant to search her home on Lou Sawyer Road and seize Blackwater papers and equipment. Among the items found were computers, a briefcase of papers and compact disks. None of the material contained sensitive information, Perry said.

Blackwater officials have not studied the seized items yet, Howell said Friday afternoon. 

 
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