Thursday, August 09, 2018

Case of FBI agent accused of lying in Finicum shooting now in hands of jury

A prosecutor portrayed FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita as a rookie on the elite Hostage Rescue Team who panicked and fired twice as refuge occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum nearly ran over his teammate at a police roadblock. But Astarita lied to hide that he didn't hit his mark on Jan. 26, 2016, led by his ego and bravado as a "super agent'' - one who testified that he was trained to fire at a postage stamp 50 yards away, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney argued Thursday. One shot struck the roof of the truck and the other went astray as Finicum stepped out of his truck, his hands in the air, investigators said. Astarita in 2010 "Putting rounds down range and missing is a big deal,'' Maloney said. "He lied to his superiors and he had to make that lie stick.'' Defense lawyer David Angeli countered that the government presented no witness over 11 days of Astarita's trial who either saw or heard Astarita fire any shots the day that state police and FBI agents arrested leaders of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on U.S. 395 in eastern Oregon. Prosecutors provided no forensic evidence that proved Astarita discharged his Colt AR-15, Angeli said as both sides delivered closing arguments.Defense lawyers pointed to someone else who could have taken the shots: a state police SWAT officer, identified in court only as Officer 1 over concern for his safety. Officer 1's initial doubt that he may have fired the disputed shots when first told of the bullet strike to the roof of Finicum's truck should present enough reasonable doubt for jurors, Angeli said. Astarita, 41, is accused of two counts of making a false statement, alleging he lied to his immediate FBI supervisor "B.M.'' at the scene and days later to FBI supervisor Tim Swanson when he told them he hadn't shot his rifle. He also faces one count of obstruction of justice during his initial interview with two state police detectives...MORE

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