February 4, 1995 in Nation/World

County Goes In Hock Over Weaver Probe Boundary Officials Will Borrow $100,000 To Pay For Investigation Of 3 Killings On Ruby Ridge

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Boundary County commissioners will borrow $100,000 to pay for an ongoing investigation into the 1992 standoff between federal agents and Randy Weaver.

“Money for the investigation was not in our regular budget. The cost of it will far exceed what the sheriff’s office can cover,” said Commission Chairman Bob Graham.

Commissioners unanimously passed an emergency resolution this week to borrow the money, which will be paid off when tax revenues come in later this year.

“Hopefully this won’t mean an increase in taxes,” Graham said. “But this is just an estimate by the sheriff’s office and prosecutor as to how much is currently needed to finance the investigation.”

A clerk in the commissioners’ office said there is no tally for how much the investigation has cost so far.

“It’s impossible to say what all the expenses are going to be, and I have no idea how long this is going to take,” Sheriff Greg Sprungl said. “I can’t say what all will be done and what won’t because I don’t know, and don’t want my investigation in the newspaper. I can say we are working on it and it’s going to cost money.”

Prosecutor Randall Day and Sprungl together asked commissioners for money. Sprungl said he expects both criticism and praise from the public for requesting the money.

“Some will say, `Why don’t we just rat-hole the investigation?’ and others will say, `Why haven’t we arrested anyone yet?”’

Efforts to reach Day for comment were unsuccessful.

Graham said the costs could be a significant burden on this county of about 8,000 people. But so far no residents have called the commissioner’s office to comment on the plan to go into debt.

“The incident has to be investigated and I don’t see any way around it,” Graham said. “We are not happy about getting stuck with the extra cost of government, but the justice system sometimes has unpredictable costs.”

The Sheriff’s Department has been investigating the Ruby Ridge standoff since it ended 2-1/2 years ago. During the first days of the 10-day standoff, U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan was killed. So was Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and his 14-year-old son, Sam.

“We had three homicides and we are still investigating all three deaths,” said Sprungl.

He said his investigation was delayed until the trial of Weaver and his family friend, Kevin Harris, was over. The two were acquitted on murder and conspiracy charges 18 months ago. Weaver served an 18-month sentence for failing to appear in court.

Sprungl’s investigation was again put on hold last year while the U.S. Justice Department reviewed federal agents’ actions during the standoff.

The report said federal charges would not be filed against the FBI sharpshooter who killed Vicki Weaver. Twelve FBI agents were disciplined, however, with some receiving official reprimands and others 15-day suspensions.

The complete Justice Department report has not been made public. Nor will it be until Boundary County finishes its investigation, officials have said. But Boundary County authorities have a copy to help their inquiry.

“Everyone is aware the report has been released to us,” Sprungl said. “It opens up a large area for us to explore. And obviously there were a lot of question left open after the trial.”

Sprungl plans to interview some FBI agents in Boise next week. He said virtually all those involved in the standoff will be interviewed.

Weaver was accused of selling two sawed-off shotguns to a federal informer.

When Weaver failed to show for a court appearance in 1991, U.S. marshals began surveillance on his remote cabin near Naples, Idaho.

A gunfight broke out on Aug. 21, 1992, between marshals, Weaver’s family and Harris, who was living with the Weavers.

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