Prosecutor declines to prosecute FBI sniper in Ruby Ridge case
Ruby Ridge Prosecutor Declines to Prosecute FBI Sniper
Friday, June 15, 2001
The manslaughter charge against the FBI sharpshooter who killed a woman during the Ruby Ridge standoff will be dismissed, an Idaho prosecutor announced Thursday.
Last week, a sharply divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi could face trial for the death of white separatist Randy Weaver's wife Vicki in the 1992 shooting in north Idaho.
But Boundary County Prosecutor Brett Benson said he will dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge because it was unlikely the state could prove the case and too much time had passed.
Benson said he would file a motion in federal court in Boise, Idaho, on Friday to dismiss the charge brought by his predecessor Denise Woodbury, who lost to Benson in last year's election. Benson did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Horiuchi's attorney, Adam Hoffinger, was out of the country and not available for comment Thursday.
Special Prosecutor Stephen Yagman, who was appointed by Woodbury to handle the case, criticized the decision and said he hoped a different prosecutor might refile the charge or bring a more severe charge.
"I could not disagree more with this decision than I do," Yagman said. "It sounds to me like the system has suffered a temporary corruption."
"The Ruby Ridge incident was a tragedy that deeply affected and divided many of the citizens of this county and country," Benson said in a news release from his office in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. "It is our hope that this decision will begin the healing process that is so long overdue."
The case was seen as a test of whether federal agents are immune from state prosecution. The federal government declined to prosecute Horiuchi, but last week's 6-5 ruling by the appeals court cleared the way for Idaho prosecutors to pursue charges against him.
The standoff at Ruby Ridge in north Idaho prompted a nationwide debate on the use of force by federal agencies. It began after government agents tried to arrest Randy Weaver for failing to appear in court on charges of selling two illegal sawed-off shotguns.
The Weaver's cabin had been under surveillance for several months when the violence began with the deaths of Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, Weaver's 14-year-old son, Samuel, and the family dog.
During the 11-day standoff, Horiuchi shot and killed Weaver's wife and wounded family friend Kevin Harris. Witnesses said the sharpshooter fired as Vicki Weaver held open the cabin door, her 10-month-old baby in her arms.
The standoff ended after Harris and Weaver surrendered. Both men were acquitted of murder, conspiracy and other federal charges. Weaver was convicted of failing to appear for trial on the firearms charge.
Horiuchi has said he didn't see Vicki Weaver when he fired at Harris, who was armed and was ducking inside the cabin. He also said he fired to protect a government helicopter overhead.
Charges against Horiuchi had been dismissed twice by federal courts, on the grounds that a federal agent on duty was immune from criminal prosecution.
The appeals court last week sent the case back to the federal court in Boise to determine if the sharpshooter had acted in a reasonable manner, and thus merited immunity. If a federal judge had ruled that Horiuchi acted unlawfully, then the case could have gone before a jury.
Those in dissent said the majority was using hindsight in "dissecting the mistakes" of Horiuchi. They called the majority's opinion a "grave disservice" to FBI agents and argued that Horiuchi, who is still an FBI agent, should be immune from prosecution.
The Justice Department last summer settled the last civil suit stemming from the standoff. The government admitted no wrongdoing, but paid Harris $380,000 to drop his $10 million civil damage suit.
In 1995, the government paid Weaver and his three surviving children $3.1 million for the killings of Weaver's wife and son.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Re: Lon T. Horiuchi/CR -97-097-N-EJL
From: o chival email@example.com
Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 9:57 PM
We think that neither Horiuchi nor Benton may have immunity for thier actions.
We believe that Americans shall demand full accountability from public servants.
We the people
I sent this email to Idaho & this is the response I got... See attachment
Re: Lon T. Horiuchi/CR -97-097-N-EJL
To whom it may concern,
The role of the Prosecuting Attorney is to be a servant of the people
and the government. We must be an advocate for both. We must be vigilant
in the quest to seek out and convict the guilty, but must also ensure that
individuals are not wrongfully convicted. We must strive to preserve the
public welfare and safety of all citizens. We must try to objectively
approach each case based upon the merits no matter how emotional the issues.
This has been a very emotional, divisive and controversial issue in
Boundary County for many years. The good people in this County hold widely
different views on how this matter should have been handled. This case has
been previously been litigated several times in federal courts, and now
Boundary County is faced with the decision to continue to pursue this case
in potentially many more courts of law and for many more years.
This office has based its decision upon the same criteria that it
uses in every case. Based upon that criteria, we have decided that the
necessary, reasonable and sound decision to make is to dismiss this case.
This decision was made after a meticulous study of all documents and
evidence in our possession.
The Prosecutor's Office has made the determination based upon all
the circumstances surrounding this case that success at a criminal trial
with the highest burden of proof, would not occur. Further, pursuing such
a case would in no way preserve the public welfare and safety of the
citizens of Boundary County. Therefore, dismissal of this case is
warranted under these circumstances.
One thing people need to remember is that good and binding law
has been established as a result of Boundary County's efforts in this
matter. Now federal officers and agents may be tried in state courts
in the 9th Circuit (11 western states).
It is not disputed that the Ruby Ridge incident was a tragedy and
deeply affected and divided many of the citizens of this County and Country.
It is our hope that this decision will not breed further conflict, but
will begin the healing process so long deserved.
Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
AMERICA IS OUTRAGED, GET OFF YOUR ASS'S AND DO THE RIGHT THING!
There are NO statute of Limitations on MURDER!
Charges dropped in Ruby Ridge case
Horiuchi Fired At Waco -- Cases Found
Written by Randy Weaver's defense attorney, the second chapter of the
paperback edition is one of the best accounts of what happened at
Ruby Ridge. With Gerry Spence's permission, it is reproduced here.
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IDAHO v. HORIUCHI
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