December 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Sniper To Appear In Court Randy Weaver, Kevin Harris Called As Witnesses Against Agent

By The Spokesman-Review

Two people who were in FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi’s rifle sights at Ruby Ridge are expected to finally face the sharpshooter today and testify against him.

Horiuchi is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly killing Vicki Weaver, wife of white separatist Randy Weaver. She was shot once in the head during the bloody Ruby Ridge standoff in 1992.

Weaver and his friend, Kevin Harris, were Horiuchi’s targets. The two men now are witnesses for Boundary County Prosecutor Denise Woodbury.

Horiuchi plans to appear in a Boundary County courtroom for the first time today, according to his attorneys.

The federal agent’s life has been threatened for his role in the standoff, an episode that’s still an open sore for many county residents.

The 11-day standoff between the Weavers and federal agents left three people dead. It began when Weaver refused to appear in court on a weapons charge. Along with Weaver’s wife, agents shot and killed Weaver’s 14-year-old son, Sam. Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan also died in the gunbattle.

Harris and Randy Weaver were acquitted of Degan’s murder by a federal jury in 1993.

Horiuchi had been posted outside the Weavers’ cabin with orders to shoot any armed adults. He testified in the 1993 trial that he was aiming at Harris, who was running back inside the cabin at Ruby Ridge. Vicki Weaver was behind the door, holding it open for her husband and Harris. Horiuchi’s shot passed through Vicki Weaver’s head, killing her and wounding Harris.

Horiuchi will be accompanied by bodyguards while in Bonners Ferry. A team of state and local law enforcement officials will keep a tight rein on access to the courthouse.

“I’ve been told he’s had numerous, ongoing threats on his life,” said Boundary County Sheriff Greg Sprungl. “I’m not anticipating any problems. I think those who would want to do him harm would rather see him go to trial, but we aren’t taking any chances, either.”

Federal agents were at the courthouse last week to make security arrangements. Horiuchi has stayed out of the public eye. Most people have only seen an artist’s sketch of his face.

Horiuchi wants his case moved out of the county to a federal court in Boise. A hearing to change the jurisdiction is slated for mid-January.

That hearing may not be needed. The judge will decide at today’s preliminary hearing if prosecutors have enough evidence to make the sharpshooter stand trial.

If Randy Weaver is called as a witness, it will be the first time he has testified during the five-year Ruby Ridge saga. “If the hearing goes as scheduled, Randy Weaver will be heard,” insisted a law enforcement official familiar with the case.

Weaver’s oldest daughter, Sarah, is also expected to testify.

Neither Harris, nor any of the Weavers, however, have seen Horiuchi. During the standoff, he was dressed in camouflage when he fired the shots.

Woodbury is expected to rely on other government agents to testify who fired the fatal shot at Vicki Weaver. But some of those witnesses never received subpoenas and others have filed legal challenges to keep from testifying.

Woodbury stunned the nation last August when she announced the charge against Horiuchi and filed a murder charge against Kevin Harris for killing Degan.

A judge dismissed the murder charge, saying Harris could not be tried twice for the same crime.

To help prosecute Horiuchi, Woodbury has teamed up with L.A. lawyer Stephen Yagman. He’s had a controversial career in California specializing in police brutality cases. He was sworn in as a special prosecutor last month, and the county is paying him $1 for his help.

, DataTimes

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