Boundary County Prosecutor Randall Day said lack of access to federal agents is hampering his investigation of the deadly 1992 siege at white separatist Randy Weaver’s North Idaho cabin.
Day has been investigating the confrontation that left a deputy U.S. marshal and Weaver’s wife and teenage son dead. He must decide if enough evidence exists to prosecute federal officers, Weaver or others involved.
Day had predicted a June 1 decision whether to prosecute but has delayed that indefinitely. He was scheduled to interview FBI agents in May, but said federal officials withdrew from an agreement that agents could decide for themselves whether to be interviewed.
“If the government says, ‘No, we’re not going to have these people available to talk to,’ that’s their choice,” Day said. “Whether that’s a responsible position to take is in the eyes of the people.”
The prosecutor said he may have to travel to each agent’s location.
“It may get very expensive,” Day said. “We’re trying to do a methodical, thorough job, but also be aware of the cost.”
In February, the county budgeted $100,000 to complete its Ruby Ridge investigation. After five months, Day has only spent $1,602 of that. The money paid for a laptop computer, post-it notes, a notebook and some travel expenses.
This is the second time Day’s investigation has stalled. He was ready to start interviewing federal agents just before the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Some federal agents Day planned to talk to were busy with that case and unavailable.
Day also hasn’t landed interviews with Randy Weaver or Kevin Harris, a family friend who was at the cabin during the standoff.
Day said Monday that how long it takes for him to decide whether state charges will be filed “depends on the position that is going to be taken by the federal government,” either FBI Director Louis Freeh or Attorney General Janet Reno.
“The Fifth Amendment can’t blanket the whole agency,” Day said. “It’s got to be in the FBI’s best interest to let all of these facts come to light, and let it be done in a manner that the facts will be believable.”
An FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C., Carlos Fernandez, said he couldn’t discuss Day’s allegations that the agency is being uncooperative. “It’s an ongoing matter, and I can’t comment on it one way or another,” he said.
Day said he asked the government to reconsider its position on interviews of the witnesses, and he has asked Idaho Attorney General Alan Lance for help.
Impending congressional hearings, last Friday’s removal of Larry Potts as the FBI’s deputy director because of controversy over his role in the Weaver case, and the revelation that a senior FBI official admitted destroying the after-action report on the case offer a new chance for the government to clear the way for his investigation, the prosecutor said.
“It’s my hope that the federal government will take this as an opportunity to pick up the ball and run with it,” Day said. “I’m relieved they reopened the case, and I hope they do (the investigation) in a manner that they will get a complete impartial conclusion.”
Sam Weaver, 14, was killed on Aug. 21, 1992, during a gunfight with U.S. marshals checking the lay of the land around the family’s remote Ruby Ridge cabin in preparation for a scheme to arrest Randy Weaver for failing to appear in court on a federal weapons charge. Marshal William Degan was also killed in the initial exchange of gunfire.
An FBI sniper shot and killed Mrs. Weaver, who was unarmed, the next day as she stood behind the cabin door. The government says the sniper was aiming at an armed associate of Weaver’s who was running into the cabin.