February 15, 1995 in Idaho

Resident Appeals Weaver Inquiry Boundary County Man Says Local Investigation Of ‘92 Standoff A Waste Of Taxpayers’ Money

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Boundary County man has challenged a county decision to spend $100,000 for an ongoing investigation of the 1992 standoff between Randy Weaver and federal agents.

Longtime resident Vernon Mace says the local investigation is a waste of taxpayers’ money. He has filed a letter of appeal at the courthouse and wants a District Court judge to overturn the county commissioners’ decision.

“I oppose any spending on the Weaver case - period,” said the 62-year-old Mace. “I don’t think it’s productive, and I don’t think it’s valuable for a small county like this to spend those kind of bucks.”

Mace began his crusade last week. Since then, he has received about 25 calls of support and nearly 300 residents have signed his petition calling on a judge to deny the funds. He is waiting for a court date to argue his case.

“Taxpayers have already put millions into prosecuting the Randy Weaver case. (U.S. Attorney General) Janet Reno has already disciplined her staff. I can’t see where any conviction in Boundary County will produce any benefit to the taxpayers,” Mace said.

County Prosecutor Randall Day and Sheriff Greg Sprungl convinced commissioners to set aside the $100,000 last month. They said the county was required by state law to investigate the three deaths during the Ruby Ridge standoff.

Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and 14-yearold son, Sam, were killed. So was deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan.

Despite the objections, Sprungl said his investigation will continue with help from the Idaho Bureau of Investigations. Federal agents and nearly everyone involved in the standoff will be interviewed, he said.

The FBI has arranged for agents to be flown to a single location, at the expense of the federal government, for the interviews.

Sprungl said he is still trying to arrange interviews with Weaver, Weaver’s children and family friend Kevin Harris, who was wounded in the standoff.

“This office is very interested in hearing all sides of this incident,” the sheriff said. “I would like to ask the citizens of Boundary County to support the prosecutor and sheriff in their statutory duties.”

If the county doesn’t investigate, Sprungl said Idaho Gov. Phil Batt could determine the county shirked its legal responsibility. He could then order the Department of Law Enforcement to take over.

“I’m not trying to be popular. I’m just trying to do my job,” Sprungl said. “The ethics of this office require a criminal investigation to be conducted objectively and without a predetermined end, seeking only to expose the truth of the incident.”

That means the county could spend the $100,000 and end up not filing any charges in the Weaver case.

“We have to answer some questions and we may end up prosecuting or we may not,” Sprungl said.

Last year, the county set aside $500,000 for the Weaver case, but spent only $6,510. The latest allotment is just an estimate that may be used in part or in full.

Commission Chairman Bob Graham said many residents have called his office, most complaining about setting aside the money.

“They are concerned and so are we, but there has to be an investigation to see if state laws were broken,” he said. “In a community such as this it is an awful lot of money and they want to make sure it’s not a blank check or will be frivolously spent.”

Mace insists there is nothing left to investigate in Boundary County. Weaver and his friend Harris already stood trial, a trial that cost taxpayers about $1 million. The U.S. Attorney General conducted and closed her investigation and disciplined federal agents, Mace argued.

“What in the world are we going to discover or change about this investigation from Boundary County?” he asked.

Even if the county reviews the case, charges someone and wins in court, Mace said it won’t be worth it.

“What will happen is the case will be appealed for about 20 years and we will be into it for about $5 million. They will eventually slap someone’s hand and they will walk away.”

Mace said his appeal is not an attack on Day or Sprungl, both friends of his. It’s about spending money that won’t benefit the community or further justice, he said.

“There is no guarantee $100,000 is where it will end,” said Mace. “Commissioners say it will be paid back with property taxes, but how do we pay for the things property taxes would have normally covered? I just don’t see any way this can help my community.”

xxxx


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email