October 29, 1997 in Idaho

Reno May Take Side Of Fbi Sharpshooter Attorney General Being Urged To Declare Horiuchi Acted In Necessary, Proper Way

Ronald J. Ostrow Los Angeles Times
 

Attorney General Janet Reno is considering whether to take the side of the FBI sharpshooter accused of involuntary manslaughter in the 1992 clash between federal agents and anti-government separatists in Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Reno is being urged by some advisers to declare that FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi acted in a necessary and proper way in the course of his federal employment when he fired the shot that killed Vicki Weaver, wife of anti-government figure Randy Weaver, according to government and nongovernment sources.

That argument could help provide grounds for moving the case out of Idaho state court and into federal court, where most observers predict Horiuchi would stand a better chance of acquittal.

It also could serve as a defense for Horiuchi.

FBI Director Louis Freeh, while calling Vicki Weaver’s death “a terrible tragedy,” has long maintained that Horiuchi was properly making a split-second decision when he fired the fatal shot.

A similar declaration by Reno, however, would draw criticism that she should not lend the weight of her office to the court debate, given that Horiuchi already is represented by government-paid lawyers led by Earl Silbert, a veteran prosecutor and defense attorney.

Some Reno advisers are urging her not to become involved, leaving the motion for removal from the Idaho court and the defense to Silbert.

Others are suggesting that she take a middle course - supporting the legal motion to remove the case from Idaho courts but not lending her support to a defense position that Horiuchi was acting in a necessary and proper way in the normal course of his federal employment.

Sources said those recommending that Reno not sign off on such a defense argument include Michael Stiles, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia who headed a two-year investigation into Ruby Ridge.

Stiles declined to confirm or deny his recommendation.

Whatever the outcome, Reno’s decision on the matter is sure to add to the controversy surrounding the Ruby Ridge incident.

Earlier this month, an Idaho magistrate threw out state murder and assault charges against Kevin Harris, a Weaver family friend, for allegedly killing a deputy U.S. marshal on the first day of the standoff.

Magistrate Quentin Harden ruled that the Boundary County, Idaho, prosecutor’s charges against Harris, filed the same day that Horiuchi was charged by the same authority, violated Idaho’s law against double jeopardy.

Harden cited Harris’ acquittal in July 1993 on federal charges of murder, conspiracy and assaulting a federal officer in the death of the deputy federal marshal.

The dismissal left only Horiuchi facing state charges over the Ruby Ridge incident.

Horiuchi is expected to be arraigned in the state case in about a month. The deadline for filing a removal petition under Idaho law is 30 days after arraignment.

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