FBI Admits it Staged Some Photos After Idaho Shootout
BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ A jury learned Thursday that the FBI staged photographs from the scene of a deadly shootout with extremists at a mountaintop cabin.
Two FBI agents testified at the murder-conspiracy trial of white separatist Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris that investigators didn’t tell defense lawyers that some evidence from the area where a marshal was killed had been taken away, then returned and photographed.
Agent Greg Rampton did not disclose that the photographs of a bullet and other unspecified evidence were staged even when he testified earlier this month.
″You knew before the trial that the pictures I had were reconstructed when I cross-examined you the other day, isn’t that true?″ Weaver’s attorney, Gerry Spence, asked Rampton on Thursday.
″You never asked me about that, and I tried to stick with the questions you asked,″ Rampton replied.
Information kept from the defense became a major issue Tuesday when prosecutor Ronald Howen admitted while jurors were outside the courtroom that the photos were fabricated. On Wednesday, he admitted learning eight weeks ago that the photos were staged.
FBI agent Larry Wages told jurors he had spoken to Howen about the photos in early April, a week before the trial began.
The agents did not explain why the evidence was removed before being photographed. One or both of them faced cross-examination later.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge agreed Thursday to admit the photos as defense exhibits after an extended shouting match between Howen and Spence.
Weaver, 45, and Harris, 25, are charged with killing Deputy Marshal William Degan during the Aug. 21 gunfight near Weaver’s cabin in northern Idaho. Marshals were trying to find a way to arrest Weaver on a 1991 fugitive warrant when the shooting started.
Weaver’s 14-year-old son, Samuel, was killed and his wife, Vicki, 42, was felled by a sniper the next day. The two men surrendered 10 days later.
The defense has argued that the government concocted the case to cover up a botched operation.
Earlier, a state police captain denied telling defense attorneys that a federal marshal admitted firing first in a shootout.
″That is totally incorrect,″ Neal said Wednesday. ″My word was ’impression.‴ He has not yet been called to testify at the trial.
Neal said he arrived at Weaver’s remote cabin more than 12 hours after the gun battle. He said he got the impression that federal officers had fired first from ″a few seconds of a person whispering in my ear in the dark.″
As the leader of the Idaho State Police Crisis Response Team, his mission was to get Degan’s body safely off the mountain, not to investigate the shooting, he said.
Defense attorneys forced the abrupt adjournment of the trial Friday so they could interview Neal after alleging that prosecutors withheld for three weeks Neal’s statements about marshals firing first.
Prosecutors have said since the trial began that Harris fired first, and Howen argued last week that Neal had not contradicted that.
Neal, who now says he is not sure which version of the shooting is more accurate, declined to say specifically what Inspector Arthur Roderick told him. Roderick led the reconnaissance team involved in the shootout.