Thursday, December 11, 2008

Let's Not Forget Ruby Ridge!

Excerpt from:
Southern Poverty Law Center: Liars Ca$hing in
By: Devvy Kidd
April 19, 2010
"Our" government paid Randy Weaver and his surviving children $3.1 million dollars for the murders of 14-year old Sammy Weaver (shot in the back) and his mother, Victoria, at Ruby Ridge. The killer, FBI agent, Lon Horiuchi, was absolved and given a free pass. The Trentadue family received one million dollars for the murder of their family member. The fruits of our labor to protect murderers and corrupt public officials. It is a stain on our country.
******* Weaver Family
Massacre at Ruby Ridge
I suspect few government officials realized in 1992 the widespread anger and resentment their actions in a remote area of Idaho would inspire. Randy Weaver and his family were just some more "troublemakers" who didn't like the multicultural cesspool and wanted to be left alone. They would be "taken down hard and fast."
While most of the American sheeple paid no attention to this atrocity, a substantial minority on both sides of the political spectrum were outraged and wouldn't forget. Now the story continues.
Please note that, damning as the Justice Department investigation is, FBI officials are now believed to have destroyed evidence to keep it away from investigators.
Don Black
The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 1995, p. A14.
Ruby Ridge: The Justice ReportBy James Bovard
The 1992 confrontation between federal agents and the Randy Weaver family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, has become one of the most controversial and widely discussed examples of the abuse of federal power. The Justice Department completed a 542-page investigation on the case last year but has not yet made the report public. However, the report was acquired by Legal Times newspaper, which this week placed the text on the Internet. The report reveals that federal officials may have acted worse than even some of their harshest critics imagined.
This case began after Randy Weaver was entrapped, as an Idaho jury concluded, by an undercover Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent to sell him sawed-off shotguns.
While federal officials have claimed that the violent confrontation between the Weavers and the government began when the Weavers ambushed federal marshals, the report tells a very different story. A team of six U.S. marshals, split into two groups, trespassed onto Mr. Weaver's land on Aug. 21, 1992. One of the marshals threw rocks at the Weaver's cabin to see how much noise was required to agitate the Weaver's dogs. A few minutes later, Randy Weaver, Kevin Harris, and 13-year-old Sammy Weaver came out of the cabin and began following their dogs. Three U.S. marshals were soon tearing through the woods.
At one point, U.S. Marshal Larry Cooper "told the others that it was ['expletive deleted'] for them to continue running and that he did not want to 'run down the trail and get shot in the back.' He urged them to take up defensive positions. The others agreed.... William Degan ... took a position behind a stump...."
As Sammy Weaver and Kevin Harris came upon the marshals, gunfire erupted. Sammy was shot in the back and killed while running away from the scene (probably by Marshal Cooper, according to the report), and Marshal Degan was killed by Mr. Harris. The jury concluded that Mr. Harris's action was legitimate self-defense; the Justice report concluded it was impossible to know who shot first.
Several places in the report deal with the possibility of a government coverup. After the firefight between the marshals and the Weavers and Mr. Harris, the surviving marshals were taken away to rest and recuperate. The report observed, "We question the wisdom of keeping the marshals together at the condominium for several hours, while awaiting interviews with the FBI. Isolating them in that manner created the appearance and generated allegations that they were fabricating stories and colluding to cover up the true circumstances of the shootings."
After the death of the U.S. marshal, the FBI was called in. A source of continuing fierce debate across America is: Did the FBI set out to apprehend and arrest Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris -- or simply to kill them? Unfortunately, the evidence from the Justice Department report is damning in the extreme on this count.
The report noted, "We have been told by observers on the scene that law enforcement personnel made statements that the matter would be handled quickly and that the situation would be 'taken down hard and fast.' " The FBI issued Rules of Engagement that declared that its snipers "can and should" use deadly force against armed males outside the cabin.
The report noted that a member of an FBI SWAT team from Denver "remembered the Rules of Engagement as 'if you see 'em, shoot 'em.' " The task force report noted, "since those Rules which contained 'should' remained in force at the crisis scene for days after the August 22 shooting, it is inconceivable to us that FBI Headquarters remained ignorant of the exact wording of the Rules of Engagement during that entire period."
The report concluded that the FBI Rules of Engagement at Ruby Ridge flagrantly violated the U.S. Constitution: "The Constitution allows no person to become 'fair game' for deadly force without law enforcement evaluating the threat that person poses, even when, as occurred here, the evaluation must be made in a split second." The report portrays the rules of engagement as practically a license to kill: "The Constitution places the decision on whether to use deadly force on the individual agent; the Rules attempted to usurp this responsibility."
FBI headquarters rejected an initial operation plan because there was no provision to even attempt to negotiate the surrender of the suspects. The plan was revised to include a negotiation provision -- but subsequent FBI action made that provision a nullity. FBI snipers took their positions around the Weaver cabin a few minutes after 5 p.m. on Aug. 22. Within an hour, every adult in the cabin was either dead or severely wounded -- even though they had not fired a shot at any FBI agent.
Randy Weaver, Mr. Harris, and 16-year-old Sara Weaver stepped out of the cabin a few minutes before 6 p.m. to go to the shed where Sammy's body lay. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot Randy Weaver in the back. As Randy Weaver, Mr. Harris, and Sara Weaver struggled to get back into the cabin, Vicki Weaver stood in the cabin doorway holding a baby. Agent Horiuchi fired again; his bullet passed through a window in the door, hit Vicki Weaver in the head, killing her instantly, and then hit Mr. Harris in the chest.
At the subsequent trial, the government claimed that Messrs. Weaver and Harris were shot because they had threatened to shoot at a helicopter containing FBI officials. Because of insufficient evidence, the federal judge threw out the charge that Messrs. Weaver and Harris threatened the helicopter. The Justice report noted, "The SIOC [Strategic Information and Operations Center at FBI headquarters] Log indicates that shots were fired during the events of August 22.... We have found no evidence during this inquiry that shots fired at any helicopter during the Ruby Ridge crisis. The erroneous entry was never corrected." (The Idaho jury found Messrs. Weaver and Harris innocent on almost all charges.)
The Justice Department task force expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of the FBI strategy: "From information received at the Marshals Service, FBI management had reason to believe that the Weaver/Harris group would respond to a helicopter in the vicinity of the cabin by coming outside with firearms. Notwithstanding this knowledge, they placed sniper/observers on the adjacent mountainside with instructions that they could and should shoot armed members of the group, if they came out of the cabin. Their use of the helicopter near the cabin invited an accusation that the helicopter was intentionally used to draw the Weaver group out of the cabin."
The task force was extremely critical of Agent Horiuchi's second shot: "Since the exchange of gunfire [the previous day], no one at the cabin had fired a shot. Indeed, they had not even returned fire in response to Horiuchi's first shot. Furthermore, at the time of the second shot, Harris and others outside the cabin were retreating, not attacking. They were not retreating to an area where they would present a danger to the public at large...."
Regarding Agent Horiuchi's killing of Vicki Weaver, the task force concluded, "[B]y fixing his cross hairs on the door when he believed someone was behind it, he placed the children and Vicki Weaver at risk, in violation of even the special Rules of Engagement.... In our opinion he needlessly and unjustifiably endangered the persons whom he thought might be behind the door."
The Justice Department task force was especially appalled that the adults were gunned down before receiving any warning or demand to surrender: "While the operational plan included a provision for a surrender demand, that demand was not made until after the shootings.... The lack of a planned 'call out' as the sniper/observers deployed is significant because the Weavers were known to leave the cabin armed when vehicles or airplanes approached. The absence of such a plan subjected the Government to charges that it was setting Weaver up for attack."
Ruby Ridge Videos
Ambush at Ruby RidgeHow government agents set Randy Weaver up and took his family down
Alan W. Bock October 1993
Perhaps it was inevitable that the longest federal trial in Idaho history would be followed by the longest jury deliberation in such a trial–a 20-daymarathon that had news people joking about whether the jury planned to put in for retirement benefits. The eight-week trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris grew out of such a bizarre set of circumstances that it’s not surprising it took a while for the jurors to sort things out. It probably also took them a while to come to grips with the idea that government agencies could so blatantly engage in entrapment, lying, cover-ups, and the killing of innocent people. As one alternate juror, excused before deliberations were completed, put it: "I felt like a little kid that finds out there is no Santa Claus"
On July 8, 1993, in what The New York Times called "a strong rebuke of the Government’s use of force during an armed siege," a jury in Boise found Randy Weaver, 45 and almost always described in the media as a "white separatist," and family friend Kevin Harris, 25, not guilty on six of eight counts, including murder of a U.S. marshal, conspiracy to provoke a confrontation with the government, aiding and abetting murder, and harboring a fugitive.
Weaver was found guilty on two minor counts: failure to appear on an earlier firearms charge and violating conditions of bail on the same count. As of this writing, he is still in custody, with sentencing scheduled for September 28. Although the maximum sentence for the two crimes is 15 years, his sentence is likely to be about a year, roughly the amount of time he has already served. Kevin Harris went free the day of the verdict.
The story behind the Weaver/Harris verdict began with government entrapment and continued through 16 months of armed surveillance of Weaver’s cabin in the steep, heavily wooded Selkirk Mountains near Naples, about 40 miles south of the Canadian border in the rural "panhandle" region of northern Idaho. It climaxed in a bloody shootout that left three people dead, including Weaver’s wife, Vicki, killed by an FBI sniper as she stood in the door of the cabin holding her 10- month-old baby. In the wake of the shootout, federal agents offered shifting and contradictory accounts of the events.
There are several eerie similarities between the Randy Weaver episode and the federal government’s deadly confrontation with Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas, last spring. Both involved the use of massive force against people with fringe religious beliefs. Both standoffs were initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms based on technical weapons charges. In both cases the FBI eventually became involved. There are two main differences: Fewer lives were lost in Idaho, and the government may actually be held accountable for what it did there.
We might as well begin with the government’s indictment, which portrayed a conspiracy by RandyWeaver, his family, and others "to forcibly resist, oppose, impede, interfere with, intimidate, assault, and/orotherwise cause a violent confrontation with law enforcement authorities." In January 1983, Randy and Vicki Weaver left Iowa, where they had been living, and moved to northern Idaho–perhaps, as the indictment reads, "in their belief and prediction that a violent confrontation would occur with law enforcement officers involving a ‘kill zone’ surrounding their property," or perhaps, as friends and supporters say, to get away from the rat race and find a place where they could raise their children apart from the hustle, bustle, and immorality of American society.
It has been pretty well established that Randy and Vicki were loosely affiliated with or sympathetic to the Christian Identity movement, which holds, among other off-center beliefs, that the true descendants of the tribes of Israel are the modern nationalities of Europe, that today’s Jews are impostors, and that Yahweh has fierce punishment planned for sinful America and its Babylonian Occupational Government. Christian Identity believers claim to live by Old Testament laws, to be the true heirs of Israel. Many or most are white separatists. (Unlike white supremacists, separatists say they simply want to live apart from other races, rather than persecuting or subjugating them.)
Naples may not be the remotest place in Idaho, as some early media reports had it, but it’s pretty rural. About 15 miles south is Sandpoint (population: 5,200), a lovely resort community on the shore of the Pend Oreille Lake. About five miles north is Bonner’s Ferry (population: 2,000), founded in 1863 as a trapper’s outpost, with an economy now based on lumber, farming, mining, and recreation. Fewer than 2,000 people live in the Naples zip code. It’s about 10 miles square, but because mountains rise on either side of the valley through which State Highway 95 runs, only an area about two miles by eight miles is inhabited.
A general store and a small sawmill are the only signs of commercial activity. Naples first "boomed" in the 1930s; in the ’70s it tolerated an influx of hippies getting back to nature. Many of the residents are retirees. Others are attracted by the beautiful mountains, the low cost of living, the friendly, small-town quality of life, and, as Earl in the general store puts it, "the freedom." It’s a place where every other resident, it seems, is a hunter, and most households have guns.
In January 1984, the Weavers bought 20 acres pretty far back in the woods and up in the mountains, on what was called Ruby Ridge. To get to the property, you have to drive about three miles on a decent dirt road off the main drag, then another couple of miles on a much steeper and heavily rutted dirt road. Yet it’s only a few minutes from the town store, which in traditional general-store fashion stocks a little bit of almost everything, including classical-music tapes and compact discs. At Ruby Ridge, Randy and Vicki built a cabin on a small, rocky bluff, planted extensive gardens, built a couple of storage sheds, and lived, schooling their children at home. Randy would take occasional odd jobs to pay for things that required cash, but you can make it on relatively little money in the area if you garden and hunt.
The Weavers taught their children their unusual religious beliefs, but they weren’t particularly active in either Christian Identity or white separatist activities. They went to a few Aryan Nation meetings–there’s an active organization around Hayden Lake, about 50 miles south of Naples–and to some Christian Identity summer camps. A sign at the entrance to their driveway reads "Every Knee Shall Bow to Jahshuah Messiah" (a.k.a. Jesus). They weren’t active churchgoers.
Around October 1989, Randy Weaver was introduced to "Gus Magisono," an alias for Kenneth Fadley, a paid undercover BATF informant in the Aryan Nation. "Magisono" asked Randy to sell him two shotguns with the barrels sawed off, even showing him where to cut. Randy was reluctant, but "Gus" was persistent and Randy was strapped for cash. Weaver finally sold him two shotguns for $300. Eight months later, a couple of BATF agents approached Weaver and asked him to serve as an informant within the Aryan Nation. They told him they didn’t have a warrant, but they did have incriminating conversations on tape. They threatened him with arrest and confiscation of his truck or house if he didn’t cooperate. He refused.
In December 1990, Randy Weaver was indicted for manufacturing, possessing, and selling illegal firearms. The difference between legal and illegal in this case was about a quarter inch of barrel per gun and a $200 tax stamp. On January 17, l991,two BATF agents, posing as a couple having engine trouble with a pickup truck hauling a camper, stopped on the one-lane bridge leading to the Weaver property. Randy and Vicki stopped to help. When Randy looked under the hood, the male agent stuck a .45-caliber pistol the back of his neck and announced he was under arrest. Other law-enforcement agents piled out of the camper. Vicki Weaver was thrown face down into the snow and mud. Randy was taken into custody and later released on a $ 10,000 bond. Vicki was not arrested.
The trial was originally set for February 19, 1991, then changed to February 20 for the convenience of the BATF. But Probation Of ficer Karl Richins sent Weaver a letter, dated February 7, instructing him to appear on March 20. Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Howen, who later acted as prosecutor, knew Weaver had been sent an erroneous notification, he appeared before the grand jury on March 14 (six days before the date Richins gave Weaver) and got an indictment for failure to appear on February 20. That set the stage.
There’s some question about whether Randy Weaver ever received a notification, even the one giving the wrong trial date. In any case, he apparently decided not to appear, fearing he would be railroaded into prison without an opportunity to defend himself properly, on the basis of false testimony. He spent the next 18 months on his mountain, hardly even venturing outside the cabin. Friends brought food and other supplies for the family, which by August 1992 included Sara, 16, Sammy, 14, Rachel, I0, and a 10-month-old baby, Elisheba.
Meanwhile, the feds began an elaborate 1 6-month surveillance of the cabin and surrounding area. Federal agents testified in court that they never seriously considered simply knocking on the door and serving the arrest warrant, because they feared an armed confrontation. Instead, they paid a neighbor (a relative term in this terrain but the house was on the only road to the Weaver property) to record the comings and goings of visitors and take down license numbers. They paid for a phone line to be installed at the neighbor’s house. They placed agents of the BATF and the U.S. Marshals Service on and around the property, usually in full camouflage gear. Agents went to the cabin in the guise of people interested in an adjacent piece of prop erty that had no source of water and hadn’t had a serious prospective buyer in years.’
Two concealed video cameras, one solar powered, were set up to monitor the family’s activities and visitors. Sniper positions were scouted The feds discussed various plans, including the the use of stun guns and tear gas, cutting the water supply and kidnapping Sara, who slept in the "birthing house" (a shed several yards from the main cabin) during her menstrual period. About 160 hours of videotape were recorded. Agents rented a whole condominium building in Spokane as a base of operations. Neighbors and friends were questioned. Planes and helicopters were rented for aerial reconnaissance and photography. The habits of the family dogs were studied. Phone taps were ordered for several residences and for the phones at the general store.
Your tax dollars at work. All to capture a man accused of a minor gun offense, a charge that might well have been rejected had it come to trial. Even if Weaver had been found guilty on the weapons charge, he would probably have gotten a shorter sentence than the one he imposed on himself by holing up in his cabin.
The Weavers were aware of being watched, although they may not have known how extensive the operation was. They saw lowflying aircraft, and Vicki even invited a couple of obviously nervous "real estate prospects" into the cabin for coffee one day. Some friends report the family believed they would all be killed eventually, while others say the Weavers expected the feds to get tired of the game. Perhaps their attitude shifted back and forth.
Finally, on August 21, 1992, the ultimate tragedy began. A six-man team from the Special Operations Group of the U.S. Marshals Service came onto the Weavers’ property at 4:30 a.m., dressed in full camouflage and ski masks, carrying night vision goggles and silenced 9-mm M-16 machine guns with laser scopes. Three deputy marshals, Lawrence Cooper, William Degan, and Art Roderick, poked around close to the cabin, while the other three, in radio contact, were placed at observation points. The agents testified that they were doing surveillance for a possible future operation. A medical team was on alert at the bottom of the hill.
It’s not easy to picture the Weaver property if you haven’t been there. I spent several hours there in July with Jackie Brown, who was one of Vicki Weaver’s closest friends and the cabin’s caretaker during the trial. The cabin is on a stony outcropping, above most of the surrounding terrain, though a steep mountainside some 200 yards to the north towers over it. The road leading to the driveway is fairly steep; the driveway curves around a huge rock and up to the cabin. Except for a few acres cleared for gardens, the whole area is thickly wooded. In addition to the dirt road, an old logging road encircles much of the property. A trail runs more or less straight down from the cabin about a quarter mile to meet the logging road at a place described in testimony as the "Y" (it looked more like a "T" to me). The trail from the "Y" up toward the cabin is overhung with a canopy of leafy branches. The woods are so thick that you can’t see the cabin from the "Y" or vice versa.
After poking around the property for a while, the three deputy marshals stood behind the rock near the driveway, well below the cabin, and started throwing little stones up toward the cabin, to "see if they could get the dogs’ attention." Soon Striker, the family’s yellow labrador, began following the agents, who circled the property along the logging road to the "Y," where there’s a thick stand of trees.
Sammy Weaver and Kevin Harris, apparently believing the dog had sniffed out a deer or some other game (the family was out of meat), followed the dog along the logging road. Randy Weaver went down the straighter, easier trail. It’s a fairly standard hunting practice to get a deer surrounded and trapped.
Cooper testified that before the deputy marshals could take cover (he said they feared being shot in the back), they saw Randy coming down the trail and ordered him to stop. Randy yelled at Kevin and Sammy to head back for the cabin, that it was an ambush. He fired a couple of shots in the air and ran toward the cabin.
Cooper and Degan took cover in the stand of trees. The dog and the two boys came to the "Y" and turned up the trail toward th cabin. What happened next is still in dispute.
Cooper told the jury that as the boys passed their concealed spot, Degan crouched on one knee and yelled, "Stop, U.S. Marshal!"–whereupon Kevin fired his .30-06 rifle from the hip and shot Degan in the chest. But Idaho State Police Capt. David Neale testified that shortly after the battle, Roderick told him that he, Roderick, had fired first, wounding and then killing Sammy’s dog, Striker. And although the government initially claimed that Degan was killed by the first shot of the battle, seven shells from his gun were found near the deputy marshals’ hiding place.
What is certain is that the dog was shot in the rear end (suggesting that he was running away) and then killed by a second shot. Sammy Weaver, who was running toward the cabin, wheeled around, yelled something like "you shot my dog, you son of a bitch," fired a couple of rounds, and started running again. He was shot twice–first wounded in the elbow and then killed by a bullet in the back. Kevin fired his .30-06 at the marshals and believed he had hit Degan, though he insists the marshals started shooting first and he was firing in self-defense after Sammy was hit.
Roderick went for help. His report seems to have given those who weren’t there the impression that a massive, continuing gun battle was going on. The authorities seemed to believe that the agents were "pinned down" by gunfire from the cabin, a very unlikely scenario given the terrain. Kevin made it to the cabin; he went back later to confirm that Sammy was dead. Toward evening, Randy and Kevin retrieved Sammy’s body, wrapped it as best they could, and put it in the birthing shed near the main cabin. A siege that was to last 11 days was under way.
What happened the next day may have been determined on an airplane taking Richard Rogers, commander of the FBl’s Hostage Rescue Team, from Washington, D.C., to Idaho. The law ordinarily permits the use of deadly force by law-enforcement officers only when the officers or others are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. But in writing the "rules of engagement" for the siege to follow, Rogers, who had not yet spoken to anyone who had actually been at the cabin, didn’t know aboutthe 14 shots firedby the deputy marshals. He seemed to be under the impression that a fierce two-way gun battle was going on even as he wrote. So he decided that any armed adult outside the Weaver cabin should be subject to "shoot-to-kill" sniping, whether or not that person was menacing anyone.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Rogers, videotape surveillance showed that all members of the family, including the children, routinely carried a weapon when outside. The family owned 14 weapons–all legal until a couple of shotguns were sawed off at a government snitch’s behest. That may seem like a lot of guns to some, especially city dwellers, but it isn’t very unusual in rural areas.
The arrival of the hostage team marked the beginning of buildup. At least 400 people equipped with sophisticated militar hardware, including "humvees," armored personnel carriers, an. various aircraft, were eventually deployed in the woods around Randy Weaver’s plywood cabin.
The rules of engagement supposedly required a warning before any shots were fired, but that didn’t happen. On August 22, the day after the shootout, Randy Weaver left the cabin for the little outbuilding that held his son’s body. As he raised his arm to unlatch the door to the shed, he was shot by a sniper posted on the mountainside. The bullet entered his right shoulder area and exited near his armpit. He and Kevin Harris, who was also outside, ran for the cabin. Vicki Weaver stood in the doorway, yelling for the two to hurry, cradling baby Elisheba in her arms. She was unarmed.
As Kevin Harris tumbled into the house, another shot from the sniper went through the glass window and entered Vicki Weaver’s temple, killing her instantly. The bullet and fragments of Vicki’s skull went on to injure Kevin Harris’s arm and torso, breaking a rib and puncturing one of his lungs.
The sniper, Lon Horiuchi, was a West Point graduate armed with state-of-the--art sniping equipment and trained to be accurate to within a quarter inch at 200 yards. He claims he missed Kevin and hit Vicki by accident. But Bo Gritz, the former Green Beret commander who eventually negotiated Randy Weaver’s surrender, said that after he became a negotiator the FBI showed him a psychological profile of the family prepared for the Marshals Service before the siege that described Vicki as the "dominant member" of the family. "Vicki was the maternal head of the family," Gritz told the Spokane Spokesmar-Review. "I believe Vicki was shot purposely by the sniper as a priority target....The profile said, if you get a chance, take Vicki Weaver out."
In any case, Vicki Weaver was dead. Her body remained in the kitchen, covered with a sheet, for a week. Gritz, who thought he remembered Randy Weaver from Weaver’s days as a Green Beret, arrived on the scene and offered to try talking Randy out peacefully. At first the FBI ignored him, but eventually they let him approach the cabin. Gritz secured a promise from Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence, whose previous clients had included Imelda Marcos and the family of Karen Silkwood, to represent Weaver if he surrendered peacefully.
On Sunday, August 30, Vicki Weaver’s body was removed, and Kevin Harris, whose wound was infected, was taken to a hospital under heavy guard. Around noon the following day, after lengthy discussions with Gritz, Randy Weaver and the three girls came out. Randy was arrested, and his daughters were met by their maternal grandparents, who later took them back to Iowa.
Ron Howen, the assistant U.S. attorney who had been on hand during the siege, secured a 10-count grandjury indictment of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris in September. As the trial began in April, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge told the seven-woman, five-man jury: "This will be one of the most interesting cases you could be asked to sit on as jurors." As Dean Miller, staff writer for the Spokesman-Review, wrote later: "If anything, Lodge’s remark was an understatement."
The first of 54 government witnesses was Deputy U.S. Marshal Lawrence Cooper, who appeared in court wearing the same paramilitary full-camouflage regalia he had worn the day Sammy Weaver and William Degan were killed. A couple of witnesses detailed the confusion about when Randy Weaver’s original court date had been scheduled. Then came a long string of witnesses testifying about the Weavers’ beliefs. Although no evidence was presented to tie the Weaver family to neo-Nazi activities, the full panoply of right-wing anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic beliefs was trotted before the jury. Spence objected, saying the prosecution was attempting to "demonize" his client, but the prosecution was allowed to spend several days describing conspiracy theories, interlocking groups, and violent activities.
Spence and the other defense attorneys used cross-examination to poke holes in the sometimes shifting stories of government witnesses and to put the government on trial indirectly. They uncovered the embarrassing fact that some bullets had been removed from the scene, then brought back later to be dropped on the ground and photographed. They made sure jurors got a closeup look at photographs of the dead dog, Striker, with tracks showing that tank-like vehicles had run over his lifeless body several times. They got the original snitch to admit that it was difficult to persuade Randy Weaver to sell sawed-off shotguns, that Weaver had little inclination to break the law.
Judge Lodge issued a formal reprimand and imposed a fine on the prosecution after background information on the sniper and his initial reports–ordered to be made available to the defense–was sent by fourth-class mail from Washington, D.C., arriving the day after the sniper had testified. The defense team got a government ballistics expert to admit, after poring over maps and diagrams of the "Y," that the physical evidence supported the defense’s version of events as easily as it did the prosecution’s.
At one point, with the jury out of the courtroom as attorneys argued whether a witness should be called, Judge Lodge wondered aloud why Spence was objecting. By Lodge’s estimate, about 75 percent of the testimony from government witnesses so far had helped the defense. When the prosecution was finished, the defense declined to call a single witness, saying the government had so manifestly failed to prove its case that no defense was necessary.
On the final Friday of the case, Spokesman-Review writer Dean Miller reported, lead prosecutor Ron Howen "was 15 minutes into his response to the defense motion for dismissal when he appeared to lose his train of thought. Up to that time, his left hand was shaking violently and his delivery lacked its characteristic vigor. After a long pause, he sighed loudly, shuffled through his notes and looked over at co-prosecutor Kim Lindquist, who smiled encouragingly back, raising his eyebrows. Howen turned back to his notes and then stopped. ‘I’m sorry, judge, I can’t continue,’ he said, his voice unsteady." He left the courtroom and did not return after a recess. Lindquist had to present the closing argument the following Tuesday.
Spence was pleased by the verdict but not satisfied. "A jury today has said that you can’t kill somebody just because you wear badges, and then cover up those homicides by prosecuting the innocent," he said. "What are we now going to do about the deaths of Vicki Weaver, a mother who was killed with a baby in her arms, and Sammy Weaver, a boy who was shot in the back? Somebody has to answer for those deaths." Boundary County Prosecutor Randall Day, whose jurisdiction includes Naples, has the option of filing charges against the officials involved in the deaths, but he hasn’t disclosed his plans yet. Spence has said he would like to be deputized to prosecute the case himself. A civil suit on behalf of Randy Weaver is a virtual certainty.
If the holocaust in Waco hadn’t happened even as the Weaver trial was under way, all this might be an essentially regional story of government bungling with tragic results. But Waco did happen. The lead agency was the BATF, determined to make an arrest of dubious public-safety importance with an overwhelming show of force. The FBI got involved when the confrontation became a siege (Dick Rogers was on the scene at Waco too), and massive amounts of military and paramilitary equipment were deployed against American citizens. The option of a simple arrest was rejected in favor of a military-style attack. Innocent people were killed.
If you talked to some of the self-styled patriots who hung around the Boise courthouse, you would hear all kinds of scary theories. The Weaver operation was just a dress rehearsal for Waco, which was part of a government campaign to shut down, intimidate, or terrorize minority religious groups and political dissenters. Now and then, you’d hear that the real problem was Zionist control of the government.
But the reasons for what happened in Naples and Waco are probably less sinister and more mundane: In their approach to the Weavers and the Branch Davidians, federal law-enforcement officials displayed a mixture of vanity, arrogance, fear, anger, and frustration. An ironworker hanging around the Naples General Store in early July saw it this way: "All these federal agencies–IRS, DEA, BATF, FBI, FDA–have too many agents trained in paramilitary tactics. They get itchy to see if the training really works, so every so often they have to target some poor sap."
Certainly the BATF, which Reagan and Bush era budget cutters recommended abolishing, seems to be an agency in search of a mission. It began life as the Bureau of Prohibition, but it survived after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. It was reorganized as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms under the Nixon administration. It currently carries out a mix of licensing, regulatory, tax-collection, and law-enforcement functions that could easily be handled by other agencies, if they are necessary at all. It’s doubtful that the republic would be any poorer if the BATF ceased to exist.
But the problem goes beyond the BATF, to a mindset that says people with strange ideas cannot be trusted. The notion that religious nuts with guns are always a threat to public safety becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The attempt to subdue these supposedly dangerous people provokes the very violence it is intended to prevent.
It need not be so. Sociologist Jim Aho, author of The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism, recently told a Coeur d’Alene newspaper that "the big myth about these people is they are essentially evil." Through years of research and interviews, Aho found that members of "patriot" groups weren’t unusually inclined toward violence, nor were they particularly socially isolated. Contrary to stereotypes, they were about as well educated as their neighbors. Aho said his findings surprised him, but "on the whole, I found these people pretty indistinguishable," apart from their "bizarre and unique" beliefs.
This is not to say that you’d want to have members of the Christian Identity movement over for dinner. But people can have odd ideas, even abhorrent and disturbing ideas, and still live peacefully with their neighbors. It’s best that we let them.
The Ruby Ridge Prosecutions
by Paul Blackman & David Kopel
[Slightly different version of article in Las Vegas Review-Journal, Aug. 31, 1997]
Which is better: letting criminals go free, or prosecuting both a crime victim and a criminal? Folks who just want to let the criminals go should applaud the federal Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute any of the federal officials involved in the fatal shootings of Vicki and Sammy Weaver, in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Folks who like seeing the innocent and the guilty prosecuted simultaneously, though, should enjoy the decision of the Boundary County, Idaho, prosecutor to bring charges against both Lon Horiuchi (who killed Vicki Weaver) and against Kevin Harris (who has already been tried and acquitted for defending himself against an attack by federal agents).
Unfortunately, the decisions of both the federal and state prosecutors mean that several of the criminals at Ruby Ridge will never be charged with anything.
Consider Larry Potts, the Washington FBI headquarters man in charge of Ruby Ridge.
The prosecutors investigated Larry Potts for approving the dramatic change in the "rules of engagement" for the FBI’s siege of the Weaver family’s remote Idaho cabin in August, 1992. According to the official FBI guidelines, deadly force is allowed only when necessary to protect someone against immediate danger. The rules of engagement are not based on the whims of FBI officials, or even on the acts of Congress. Instead, the limits on deadly force are implicit in the Constitution, and therefore decreed by the Supreme Court.
At Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the normal, constitutional rules of engagement were changed; the new rules were orders to kill any armed adult male seen on the Weavers’ property. The non-prosecution of Larry Potts is based on a disputed fact: it cannot be proven that Potts approved the order saying FBI agents "can and should" shoot.
But there is no real dispute that Potts approved an earlier change in the rules of engagement, saying the FBI "could" shoot any armed adult male. (Randy Weaver and his friend Kevin Harris often carried guns on their own property, as is completely legal under Idaho law.) Even if Potts didn’t approve the "order to kill" rules of engagement, he clearly did approve a "license to kill" rule, which is illegal and unconstitutional. But he’s getting away with it.
FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi-- who shot Vicki Weaver in the head while she was standing in the cabin doorway, holding her baby in her arms--is being charged with voluntary manslaughter by the local Idaho prosecutor. The federal government, though, is leaping to Horiuchi’s defense, because he was obeying an order. But the Nuremberg and My Lai prosecutions have established that "I vas just following orders" is no excuse for killing innocent people. The license-to-kill orders were so outrageous that other FBI snipers at the scene -- for example, the SWAT team from Denver -- agreed among themselves that the license-to-kill order should not be obeyed. The Denver agents chose to disobey the unconstitutional order, and instead to stick with the traditional rules of engagement.
Besides choosing to obey an illegal assassination order, Horiuchi lied under oath at Randy Weaver’s trial. Horiuchi claimed that he opened fire on Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris because the two men were threatening to shoot an FBI helicopter. But the trial judge found this testimony so blatantly false that he ordered the charges related to the testimony to be dismissed. (The helicopter was nowhere near where Weaver or Harris could have shot at it.)
Moreover, sniper Horiuchi violated even the illegal rules of engagement. True, he did obey the illegal orders when he shot at Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, who were outside their cabin carrying guns.
But Horiuchi’s second shot violated even the license to kill rules; the second shot was the one that killed Vicki Weaver, as she was standing in the doorway of her cabin, holding her baby.
The rules prohibited firing a shot if it would endanger any children.
Horiuchi claims that he never saw Vicki Weaver standing in the doorway, and his shot that killed her was really intended to kill Kevin Harris, who was running back into the cabin. Let’s assume that Horiuchi was telling the truth about what he saw. (Let’s also ignore the substantial evidence that the FBI had plans to kill Vicki Weaver--who was not accused of any crime--because she was the "dominant" member of the family.)
Even Horiuchi’s version of the facts shows that he violated the rules. After the shooting, Horiuchi drew a diagram of the target he had aimed at. His drawing shows that he was aiming at a part of the door approximately ten inches above where he thought 16-year-old Sara Weaver was crouching. She wasn’t there, to be sure; but that’s where Lon Horiuchi was aiming -- just above the head of someone the rules of engagement prohibited him from endangering.
And when he fired, in violation of the rules of engagement, he killed Vicki Weaver and injured Kevin Harris.
This is the basis for the manslaughter charge against Horiuchi: his second shot was so reckless that he is culpable for the death that resulted.
True enough, but what about Horiuchi’s first shot: his intentional, illegal attempt to kill Randy Weaver? Why no charge for this crime? And why no charge for all the FBI officials--from field commanders all the way up to Larry Potts, who authorized the FBI snipers to shoot people illegally?
The FBI came on the scene a few hours after a shoot-out between a squad of U.S. Marshals and the Weaver family. Why are no charges being filed against the United States Marshal who shot fourteen-year-old Sammy Weaver in the back, as the unarmed Sammy was running home, away from the confrontation?
Amazingly, the only person being charged by the Idaho prosecutor for the initial shoot-out is the Weavers’ friend Kevin Harris. During that shoot-out, Harris killed a United States Marshal, and said he was acting in self-defense. The federal government prosecuted him for the killing in 1993, and he was acquitted.
The Constitution outlaws prosecuting a person twice for the same crime. But the Supreme Court has gutted this rule, by allowing separate prosecutions by the state and federal governments.
Given the strange decisions of the federal and Idaho prosecutors, Congress and the state legislatures should promptly take two steps: First, enact legislation barring double state/federal prosecution for the same alleged crime. Second, pass resolutions calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the federal officials responsible for the deaths at Ruby Ridge.
Ruby Ridge Updates (2001)
Ruby Ridge Articles
"When federal officers violate the Constitution, either through malice or excessive zeal, they can be held accountable for violating the state's criminal laws . . . . A group of FBI agents formulated rules of engagement that permitted their colleagues to hide in the bushes and gun down men who posed no immediate threat. Such wartime rules are patently unconstitutional for a police action." Judge Alex Kozinski writing in the majority opinion for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
"You've got a right not to be shot for nothing, you know . . . . If there are no restraints on law enforcement, then rather than the rule of law we have the rule of the gun . . . . The police can shoot you, period. That's it." Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who had argued the appeal on behalf of Boundary County
"Don't call Randy Weaver paranoid. His worst fears about the government have already come true." Jonathan Karl
"It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." Voltaire