Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Friday, August 10, 2018
Jury acquits FBI agent accused of lying in Finicum shooting case
A federal jury Friday returned not guilty verdicts in the trial of FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, accused of lying to conceal that he fired two shots at the truck of refuge occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum" in January 2016.
The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about six hours over two days after a three-week trial in Portland before U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones. They acquitted Astarita on two counts of making a false statement and one count of obstruction of justice.
Astarita, 41, a member of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team, looked straight ahead but squeezed the hands of defense lawyers Robert Cary and Meghan Ferguson sitting on either side of him as the court clerk read the verdicts about 2:45 p.m.
Once the jury left, Astarita's attorneys took turns enveloping him in strong hugs.
The team of prosecutors quietly filed out of the courtroom.
The verdict marks the latest in a series of daunting losses for prosecutors trying people involved in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, though this case targeted a federal agent who had been working on the government's side of the confrontation.
Astarita had been on the Hostage Rescue Team for only eight months at the time of the Jan. 26, 2016, shooting at a highway roadblock in eastern Oregon. He spent hours on the witness stand over two days and testified that he's never fired his weapon in the line of duty during his 13 years with the FBI. He said he didn't independently recall where he was standing at the time of the disputed shots and said he heard no gunshots that day, though investigators found eight were fired at the roadblock. He said he was wearing a hearing-protection headset attached to his helmet.
"I had no indication I had fired. I didn't hear it, feel it, see it that day,'' he told jurors this week.
With Astarita's acquittal, the mystery remains as to who fired twice after Finicum swerved into a snowbank at the roadblock on U.S. 395 in Harney County, stepped from his truck with his hands in the air and shouted, "Go ahead and shoot me.''
One shot hit the roof of the truck's cab and shattered the rear driver's side window and the other missed entirely - both distinctly audible on the video captured by rear seat passenger Shawna Cox...MORE