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Tag: oregon wildlife refuge

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges Against FBI Agent Over Oregon Refuge Standoff

LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed during the standoff at an Oregon Wildlife Refuge. Photo via YouTube.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI agent charged with repeatedly lying to state and federal investigators about firing two shots at leading Oregon standoff protester Robert “LeVoy” Tinicum’s truck in 2016 will face trial after a judge refused to dismiss any of the criminal counts.

Attorneys for FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita tried to get some of the charges dismissed, arguing the three counts of making a false statement and two counts of obstruction of justice are prejudicial and unnecessarily repetitive, the Oregonian reports

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones dismissed those claims, calling the defense motion premature.

The agent’s attorney, Meghan Ferguson, argued the indictment was an “impermissible five-count pileup” related to one alleged lie that should amount to no more than one charge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, defended the charges, saying Astarita liked to three supervisory FBI agents and in two interviews with Oregon State Police detectives.

“Defendant told different lies at different times to three different FBI supervisors with different roles and responsibilities,” Sussman argued.

Updated: FBI Agent Indicted for Allegedly Lying about Oregon Refuge Standoff

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was the spokesman of the occupation. Via YouTube.

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was the spokesman of the occupation. Via YouTube.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Update: 10:15 a.m. Thursday —  FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) based in Quantico, Va., was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland on three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Astarita was one of a number of FBI agents assigned to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was present during the shooting of Robert LaVoy Finicum on Jan. 26, 2016, in Harney County, Oregon.

Finicum was stopped by a roadblock, where he allegedly challenged officers to shoot him. He was shot and killed by state troopers while moving his hands toward his pocket, where he had a loaded weapon.

The indictment alleges, according to a Justice Department press release, that Astarita knowingly and willfully made false statements to FBI supervisory special agents, knowing that the statements were false and material to the FBI’s decision not to investigate the propriety of an agent-involved shooting.

Specifically, Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of Mr. Finicum when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon. Astarita also knowingly engaged in misleading conduct toward Oregon State Police officers by failing to disclose that he had fired two rounds during the attempted arrest. Neither round hit Finicum.

___________________________

Posted on Wednesday.

An FBI agent accused of lying about shooting at a rancher during the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has been indicted.

Sources familiar with the case told the Oregonian that prosecutors allege the agent made a false statement with intent to obstruct justice.   

The agent, who has not yet been identified, was the subject of a yearlong investigation by the Justice Department inspector general. He will be identified in federal court on Wednesday.

As local, county and federal authorities moved in on the occupiers, the Deschutes County sheriff said an FBI agent shot twice at the spokesman of the occupiers, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona ranger. 

The bullets missed, but in the chaos that ensued, state police troopers fatally shot Finicum as he reached in his pocket, where he had a loaded handgun.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the FBI agent is on leave or has been fired.

FBI Defends ‘Deliberate And Measured’ Response to Occupation of Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

Burns, Oregon

Burns, Oregon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A day after Oregon’s governor criticized federal authorities for their handling of the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, the FBI defended what it called a “deliberate and measured” response, NBC News reports. 

“The FBI recognizes that many in the community have questions about why we are here and our role in helping to end the occupation of the wildlife refuge,” the FBI said Thursday.

“This occupation has caused tremendous disruption and hardship for the people of Harney County, and our response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution,” the FBI said.

The armed militia has occupied the refuge since Jan 2. to protest a prison sentence for a pair of local ranchers convicted of setting fire to public land.

Since then, the group has destroyed camera surveillance and paved roads at the expense of archaeological sites important to the Burns Paiute Tribe.

“There are any range of cultural artifacts that might have been impacted by this illegal construction,” Federal Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Miel Corbett said.

Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday said “federal authorities must move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable.”