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Feds To Pay Weaver Family $3.1 Million Justice Department Settles Suit Over 1992 Killings At Ruby Ridge

Wed., Aug. 16, 1995, midnight

Friends and supporters of white separatist Randy Weaver said Tuesday a $3.1 million government settlement could never compensate him for the loss of his wife and son.

But the mother of slain deputy U.S. marshal William Degan said Weaver had instigated the tragedy and deserves nothing for leaving her two grandsons fatherless.

The U.S. Justice Department agreed Tuesday to settle the Weaver family’s $200 million civil claim arising from a siege three years ago near Naples, Idaho.

Each of the three Weaver daughters will receive $1 million, while Randy Weaver will get $100,000.

Weaver’s lawyers were not available to say how much of the settlement will go to them. The agreement ends all claims by the family against the government and its employees.

Kevin Harris, a Weaver friend also wounded in the standoff, has his own claims against federal agents and the Justice Department. He is seeking $10 million.

“The settlement reflects the loss to the Weaver children of their mother and brother,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “By entering into a settlement, the United States hopes to take a substantial step toward healing the wounds the incident inflicted.”

The government did not admit any wrongdoing or legal liability.

Weaver could not be reached for comment. But Gerry Spence, the Wyoming cowboy lawyer who represented Weaver during his criminal trial, said: “In the Weavers’ eyes, the government acknowledges wrongdoing by the payment of these monies as damages.”

Spence does not represent Weaver in his civil claim.

Connie Cords, who lived in Naples during the standoff and is back visiting, said the family deserves the money.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It won’t make up for the loss of his wife and son, but at least it’s something for all … the government put him through and for the time he spent in jail.”

Weaver served 16 months in jail for failing to appear in court to answer weapons charges. He and Harris were acquitted of murder, conspiracy and the weapons charges.

Weaver friend Jackie Brown of Naples said she was surprised the settlement wasn’t higher.

“In my personal opinion, if they had drained the coffers of the United States it wouldn’t have been enough,” Brown said. “But if they’re happy with it, I’m happy.”

Boundary County Commissioner Bob Graham only hopes the settlement will provide closure for the community.

“Now maybe we can finish the criminal part and get this whole Ruby Ridge thing behind us. I think that is everyone’s hope,” Graham said.

Not all Naples residents are Weaver supporters, however.

Several who didn’t want their names used said Weaver should not be rewarded for being a rebel.

“It’s a shame,” one woman said. “Money is not going to bring anybody back and the taxpayers are the ones that will end up paying for this.”

Degan’s mother, Marie Degan of Quincy, Mass., was dejected at Weaver profiting from actions she said he initiated. She said her two grandsons and daughter-in-law will “never get over it.

“Weaver is the one responsible for the whole thing,” she said. “He put his family in harm’s way and this is what he gets - paid off.”

The case is still roiling the Justice Department.

Five top FBI officials, including the agency’s recently demoted No. 2 man, Larry Potts, have been suspended with pay.

Federal prosecutors continue a criminal investigation into whether the officials covered up approving “shoot-on-sight” orders given to FBI snipers.

The incident began the morning of Aug. 21, 1992, when six deputy U.S. marshals were watching Weaver’s remote mountaintop cabin in hopes of soon arresting him on weapons charges.

Weaver friend Kevin Harris killed Degan during a gunfight that also claimed the life of 14-year-old Samuel Weaver. An FBI sniper killed Weaver’s wife, Vicki, on the second day of the 11-day standoff.

Boundary County Prosecutor Randall Day is considering whether to charge federal agents in the case. The Justice Department last year decided no federal agents would be charged with federal crimes.

The federal criminal investigation now being conducted by U.S. Attorney Eric Holder in Washington, D.C., is looking at possible false statements or obstruction of justice by the five suspended FBI employees.

At least two of the five have admitted to internal Justice investigators they destroyed FBI documents about the siege. Another suspended FBI official has admitted knowing that documents were destroyed during the internal inquiries over the shooting rules.

The snipers were told they “could and should” use deadly force on any armed adult male spotted in the open. Longstanding FBI policy restricts the use of lethal force to selfdefense or while protecting others from imminent harm.

An internal Justice Department inquiry concluded that shooting rules probably were unconstitutional. But Justice investigators decided the agents had no intent to use excessive force. FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded the shots they fired were acceptable under the normal bureau rules and that the agents disregarded the special rules.

Harris’ attorney, Ellison Matthews of Boise, said the government settlement with Weaver does not mean his client will not be compensated.

“We’re in hopes of getting ours resolved, too,” he said. “It’s really good that the (Weaver) gals have been provided with a fund that will secure their future.”

The Weaver girls live in Grand Junction, Iowa. Sara, 19, has her own house; Rachel, 13, and Elisheba, almost 4, live with their father.

U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, applauded news of the settlement but said the government still hasn’t explained how the tragedy occurred in the first place.

“There still needs to be a complete investigation into this incident - with the guilty parties appropriately punished - and changes instituted to prevent anything like this from happening again.

“This is necessary not only for justice to prevail,” Chenoweth said, “but to restore and maintain the trust of the people in their law enforcement agencies.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: The tab in Weaver case could top $7 million The Randy Weaver case started in October 1989 when Weaver sold a federal informer two sawed-off shotguns at a cost to taxpayers of $400. The Weaver tab since has ballooned into the millions - even before the Justice Department’s decision to pay the Weaver family $3.1 million. Government officials have said they don’t routinely keep track of the cost of individual cases. After Weaver’s trial in July 1993, court documents, interviews and comparisons with other cases suggested the cost could reach $4 million. That included $1 million or more in overtime, equipment and expenses for the 11-day standoff at Weaver’s cabin and another $1 million to try Weaver and co-defendant Kevin Harris. The $4 million estimate included neither the Tuesday settlement nor the cost of internal FBI investigations and upcoming Senate hearings into the case.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = J. Todd Foster and Kevin Keating Staff writers The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: The tab in Weaver case could top $7 million The Randy Weaver case started in October 1989 when Weaver sold a federal informer two sawed-off shotguns at a cost to taxpayers of $400. The Weaver tab since has ballooned into the millions - even before the Justice Department’s decision to pay the Weaver family $3.1 million. Government officials have said they don’t routinely keep track of the cost of individual cases. After Weaver’s trial in July 1993, court documents, interviews and comparisons with other cases suggested the cost could reach $4 million. That included $1 million or more in overtime, equipment and expenses for the 11-day standoff at Weaver’s cabin and another $1 million to try Weaver and co-defendant Kevin Harris. The $4 million estimate included neither the Tuesday settlement nor the cost of internal FBI investigations and upcoming Senate hearings into the case.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = J. Todd Foster and Kevin Keating Staff writers The Associated Press contributed to this report.


 
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