For Finicum Supporters, FBI Indictment Only A Partial Win

Jun 30, 2017, 00:43
For Finicum Supporters, FBI Indictment Only A Partial Win

An FBI agent is facing federal charges for allegedly lying about his role in the deadly shooting of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum in OR, an Arizona rancher killed at a wildlife refuge during an armed standoff with authorities in 2016.

An FBI agent has been charged with lying when he told investigators he did not fire his weapon at a protester killed by police during a 2016 standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in OR, according to court documents unsealed on Wednesday.

He faces three counts of making false statements to federal and state investigators, and two counts of obstruction of justice, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday.

During a court appearance on June 28, Astarita entered not guilty pleas on all counts.

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The shots fired by Mr. Astarita did not strike Mr. Finicum, according to the US attorney's office.

Thornton praised Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, who led the local investigation.

At the height of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which stretched on for weeks at the bird sanctuary in southeastern OR, authorities pulled over some of the group's leaders as they traveled on a snowy highway toward a meeting on January 26, 2016.

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. That same day, OR officials and the Justice Department's inspector general announced that they were investigating the actions of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents during the encounter.

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It is not immediately certain if the indicted federal agent is on leave or was sacked. Finicum's family members have accused law enforcement of covering up the circumstances surrounding his death.

Both bullets missed Finicum, one of the bullets hitting the roof of the truck. Stewart scheduled a one-week trial to begin August 29 in front of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones.

Leaders of the occupation - Bundy, his brother Ammon and five other defendants - were acquitted of conspiracy and weapons charges in a highly publicized trial last fall. Plowing into a snowbank, Finicum climbed out of the truck with his hands raised. As he yelled at officers to shoot him, drone footage from above captured Finicum appearing to gesture toward his coat before he was killed.

An obstruction of justice conviction for Astarita could carry up to 20 years in prison, and a conviction for making false statements can mean a sentence of up to five years.

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On Wednesday, a federal indictment against FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita was unsealed, in which he is accused of lying about firing his gun twice during the OR operation. With their leaders imprisoned, the occupation dwindled to a small, well-armed group of four who called Finicum's death an assassination and remained at the refuge until early February.

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