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Prosecutor says she would have tried sniper

By Daily Herald - | Jun 15, 2001

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho (AP) — Denise Woodbury has stood on the porch where Vicki Weaver was shot in the head. She has sat on the spot where FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi fired the bullet.

Though her successor has decided not to prosecute Horiuchi for manslaughter, the former Boundary County prosecutor has no doubt she would have pressed ahead with the case.

“A citizen of Boundary County was killed at her home and there’s no opportunity to try the killer,” Woodbury said Thursday.

County Prosecutor Brett Benson on Friday filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Boise asking a judge to dismiss a second-degree manslaughter charge against Horiuchi. That would end the last legal battle connected to the 1992 shootings at Ruby Ridge.

Ruby Ridge became a rallying cry for people who argued against government intrusion, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The federal government declined to prosecute Horiuchi, so the county had pursued the case in federal court.

Benson’s decision angered former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who had worked for the county without pay as a special prosecutor to reinstate the charges.

Clark, who served under President Lyndon Johnson, said Benson did not consult with him before making the decision.

“It’s unfortunate because it appears (Benson) has reacted to pressure to dismiss charges before he had the opportunity to know whether he can prosecute,” Clark said from his home in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Clark worked with Los Angeles attorney Stephen Yagman on the case and believed it could have advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s a very important issue for our safety and our liberty,” Clark said. “Obviously, if police and federal investigative agents can commit violent crimes with impunity, where’s the rule of law? Who protects the people from their own government?”

Benson has not returned phone calls seeking comments.

Woodbury — who lost to Benson in a primary election last year that hinged in part on her zeal for prosecuting Horiuchi — had pushed the case despite numerous court losses. Last week’s decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that cleared the way for the prosecution has effectively set a precedent, Woodbury said.

Merle Dinning, a former Boundary County commissioner, agreed with Woodbury that federal agents should not be “exempt from the law.”

But he added: “Financially, it may be the best thing for the community and the country.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A7.

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