Blackwater Fights To Keep Out Testimony In FCA Suit

Blackwater Fights To Keep Out Testimony In FCA Suit

Law360, Washington (February 15, 2017, 4:05 PM EST) — Academi Training Center Inc., successor to private military contractor Blackwater, on Tuesday asked a Virginia federal court to exclude expert witnesses from testifying in a False Claims Act suit over allegations it falsified firearms qualifications for U.S. State Department guards in Afghanistan.
Academi asked a Virginia District court in three separate filings to exclude testimony from four expert witnesses offered by relators Lyle Beauchamp and Warren Shepherd, former marksmen who claim the private security contractor billed the United States for unqualified snipers it used in Afghanistan. Beauchamp and Shepherd, sought to exclude at least one Academi expert witness, in a series of sealed filings also entered Wednesday.

Among the expert witnesses Academi sought to exclude was a former employee, Robert Winston, whom the security contractor claims is barred from testifying under the terms of a wrongful termination settlement. The motion to exclude Winston’s testimony claims the plaintiff’s counsel, Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley, should have been aware the settlement prohibits Winston from speaking in the case, since the firm represented him in that case.

“Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley has not only induced Mr. Winston into breaching his settlement agreement, they have created an irreconcilable conflict of interest with their client. Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley’s conduct is sanctionable, if not altogether disqualifying. At minimum, the Court should exclude Mr. Winston’s testimony,” the motion states.

Weisbrod Matteis & Copley Chairman August Matteis struck back at the allegation, writing off the motion to exclude Winston’s testimony as a diversion tactic offered in the wake of the court’s denial of Academi’s request to delay the trial.

“Academi’s frivolous motion to strike the testimony of Robert Winston comes on the heels of the Court’s denial of Academi’s attempt to delay this trial.  The accusations in the motion are nothing more than Academi’s most recent attempt to suppress the truth, divert attention from the evidence in this case, and avoid its day of reckoning in Court,” he told Law360.

In addition its claim Winston would be violating the terms of his settlement by testifying, Academi also urged District Judge T.S. Ellis III to exclude the testimony of Michael Rocque, Robert Mitchell and Katheryn R. DeVelvis, in motions filed Tuesday.

Academi claims Rocque and Mitchell are likely to offer testimony attempting to “extrapolate conduct from two firearms instructors into a broad scheme by every Academi firearms instructor to falsify every machine gun qualification for five years.”

The motion claims the two proposed expert witnesses will focus on allegedly poor evaluation practices by just two firearms instructors out of dozens of instructors employed by the company. The motion also claims testimony from the experts ignores testimony from Academi shooters who say their targets were properly evaluated.

Academi further alleges damages calculations provided by Katheryn DeVelvis do not reflect her independent opinion, but rather that Beauchamp and Shepherd supplied her with specific methodologies, which Academi claims are inconsistent with the FCA, to produce the estimates.

Counsel for the relators also sought to exclude Academi witness David Faulkner, in a sealed motion filed Tuesday.

Academi Training Center Inc. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Beauchamp and Shepherd are represented by William Copley, Susan Sajadi, Janet Goetz, Chadwick Mitchell Welch and William Jacobs of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC.

Academi is represented by Tara Lee, Meghan McCaffrey, Sara Roitman, Scott Lerner and Keith Frost of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.

The case is U.S. ex. rel. Lyle Beauchamp, et al. v. Academi Training Center Inc., case number 1:11-cv-00371, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

–Additional reporting by Rick Archer. Editing by Joe Phalon.

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