By Steve Neavling
The fate of FBI Agent Joseph Astarita is now in the hands of a jury.
Astarita is accused of obstruction and making false statements after denying to federal authorities that he fired two shots at a militia elder involved in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge. The 41-year-old defendant also is accused of removing the shell casings from the scene to hide evidence that he was the shooter.
During the trial, he repeated his denials, saying he did not fire his weapon at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum because he was worried about crossfire.
The FBI was told to hold fire while local and state law enforcement handled Finicum, who led police on a chase in his pickup and was then shot by state police after he appeared to reach for his gun.
The jury is focused on who fired the two errant shots, not who killed Finicum because the deadly force was deemed justified.
“It is with a heavy heart that the United States government asks you to look at one of its own,” Paul T. Maloney, an assistant United States attorney, said Thursday in his final statement to the jury, the New York Times reports. “This case is about integrity; this case is about honesty; this case is about accountability and owning your shots.”
Astarita’s lawyers argued that alleged evidence against the agent was the result of lies from the “reckless” actions of one Oregon State Police trooper who fired most of the shots and later changed his story
Astarita is 13-year veteran of the FBI and is a firearms instructor.
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