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Both sides decry new Ruby Ridge charges

Ruby Ridge/FBI graphic

White separatist and FBI sniper charged

August 21, 1997
Web posted at: 9:31 p.m. EDT (0131 GMT)

BONNER'S FERRY, Idaho (CNN) -- New charges lodged Thursday in the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident -- including a charge of manslaughter filed against an FBI agent -- brought quick protests from both sides of the shootout.

FBI director Louis Freeh said he was "deeply disappointed" at the involuntary manslaughter charge leveled against FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi. Horiuchi's attorney added that the 13-year FBI veteran is "profoundly distressed and troubled" by the charge.

Boundary County prosecutor Denise Woodbury announced the charge against Horiuchi Thursday, as well as a charge of first-degree murder filed against Kevin Harris.

Harris is charged with killing U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan. Horiuchi is charged with killing Vicki Weaver, wife of white separatist Randy Weaver, during an 11-day siege at the Weavers' mountain cabin.

The Weavers' 14-year-old son, Sam, was also killed, but Woodbury said investigators concluded his death occurred as a participant in the shooting.

Freeh said that Horiuchi's role in the siege "has been exhaustively and independently examined, involving hundreds of witnesses and interviews." He said that while the FBI had cooperated with the investigators in Idaho, the agency will do "everything in its power to ensure that (Horiuchi) is defended to the full extent ..."

He said Horiuchi is "an outstanding agent and continues to have my total support and confidence."

Harris' attorney claims double jeopardy

Weaver's house

Harris' attorney, David Nevin, said his client is "extremely dismayed by this, just as I have been, but he knows he's not guilty of these charges."

Nevin pointed out that "we went through a long, long criminal trial in which we had the immense power of the federal government against us. (It was) a long, exhaustive examination. The idea that we're going to go back through this wringer, it's just horrifying to me."

Weaver and Harris were tried in federal court in 1993 on murder, conspiracy and other charges. They were found innocent of the most serious charges, including murder, but Weaver was convicted of failing to appear for trial on the firearms charge.

Harris, now a welder in Republic, Washington, is also being charged with aggravated assault for allegedly firing at another officer. The new murder charge carries a death penalty because a law enforcement officer was the victim.

Prosecutor Woodbury said that charging Harris with murder again does not violate his protection from double jeopardy because the United States and the state of Idaho are legally independent governments.

But Nevin disputed that interpretation.

"It's absolutely a case of double jeopardy," he said. "When the United States government prosecutes a person for the same act, they can't again be prosecuted in the courts of that state."

Weaver got $3.1 million settlement


The August 1992 standoff at the Weavers' remote cabin near Naples began after federal agents tried to arrest Randy Weaver for failing to appear in court to face charges of selling two illegal sawed-off shotguns.

Weaver refused to leave his family's cabin, and a shootout began when the Weavers spotted agents doing surveillance nearby. Degan and Weaver's son were killed in the initial exchange. Vicki Weaver was killed the next day.

After being surrounded by agents for 11 days, Weaver surrendered.

Weaver later filed a civil suit against the government over the deaths of his wife and son, and in August 1996, received a $3.1 million settlement.

He lives now in Montana with his three daughters and did not return a call Thursday asking for comment.

In the aftermath of the siege, an FBI executive pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for destroying an internal report that criticized the bureau's handling of the siege.

U.S. declined to charge FBI officials

Last Friday, federal prosecutors ended a two-year investigation of several FBI officials for their role in the Ruby Ridge standoff.

The probe concluded there was insufficient evidence to press criminal charges against Larry Potts, once the FBI's No. 2 official, or his chief aide, Danny Coulson. They were accused of destroying records to cover up the identity of who approved a change of rules that allowed agents to shoot at anyone seen outside the Weaver cabin. A Senate subcommittee concluded that the FBI gave its sharpshooters rules of engagement that violated the Constitution and that some agents violated orders.

Two other officials at FBI headquarters, Gale R. Evans and Michael Baird, also will not be prosecuted, the department said. And the department reaffirmed a 1994 decision against prosecuting Horiuchi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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