John Dingell III writes:
While Peter Strzok is getting all the current attention as the archetypical lying FBI agent, an Obama era case of FBI lying is finally going to trial in Oregon. A conviction might put pause to the trigger-happy behavior of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team when they are dealing with politically incorrect protesters.
FBI Special Agent W. Joseph Astarita is now on trial in the U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, Portland Division before Senior District Judge Robert E. Jones for shooting at Robert LaVoy Finicum and then lying about the two shots he fired. Finicum was stopped at a joint federal/state roadblock as he was leaving the site of the Bundy siege/standoff at the the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
Finicum was shot in the back multiple times by two Oregon State Police troopers on January 26, 2016. While the two OSP troopers weren’t charged, evidence collected at the scene by Deschutes County Sheriff’s deputies indicated that at least two shots were fired from positions occupied by the FBI HRT.
Multiple FBI agents were caught on video searching for and then removing spent casings from the two shots, which missed Finicum, but hit another member of his party. Astarita was later indicted in 2017 for lying about firing those two shots and obstruction of justice. No one else in the FBI has been indicted for removing those cartridge cases.
An investigation by local officials into the death of Finicum deemed the fatal shooting by an Oregon State Police officer as “justified,” as NPR reported, even as it suggested possible misconduct by the FBI team.
Earlier this month, the federal judge threw out two of the original five counts against Astarita — one each of making a false statement and obstruction of justice.
Two of the remaining counts are tied to statements Astarita allegedly made to FBI supervisory special agents that he had not fired his weapon, which the indictment states were “material” to the FBI’s decision at the time not to launch an investigation into an agent-involved shooting. Finally, he is charged with obstruction of justice because he allegedly failed to disclose to Oregon State Police that he had fired his weapon.
The evidence is working against Astarita’s claim.
Tuesday morning’s testimony came from two forensics experts who worked to determine where the gunshots came from. Prosecutors said Astarita is the only person who could have fired those two specific shots at Lavoy Finicum. While neither shot hit Finicum, Astarita is accused of lying to investigators five different times about firing his weapon.
The testimony went over the methods by an Oregon State Police forensic analyst to deduce the angles the bullets were fired from based off of their entry points into the roof and hood of Finicum’s truck.
One of Astarita’s defense attorneys questioned that analyst on her use of different techniques in determining the bullet path as well as her margin for error of plus or minus five degrees.
Michael Haag — a forensic science consultant — was also called to the stand Tuesday.
He was hired by the government to further examine those entry points and testified that his margin for error was the same as the work of the OSP analyst — despite the use of different methods.
I am still angry about Lon Horiuchi killing Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge and the acceptance of this murder by the justice system. This time, it looks as if an FBI agent may be held accountable.