FBI sharpshooter pleads not guilty in Idaho shooting

January 13, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BOISE, Idaho -- FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter after winning his bid to be tried in federal court on charges that he illegally fired the shot that killed Vicki Weaver in the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge.

Horiuchi, the first member of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team ever to face criminal charges in connection with a bureau operation, had sought to move the case out of state court in rural northern Idaho in order to assert claims he was acting within the scope of his duties as a federal law enforcement officer.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge granted the removal after a brief evidentiary hearing, concluding there was a "probable connection" between Horiuchi's job and the shot he fired that killed Vicki Weaver, wife of white separatist Randy Weaver, as she stood holding her infant daughter near the doorway of the family's remote mountaintop cabin.

A state court judge in Idaho ruled last week that there was sufficient evidence to hold the FBI agent for trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, a statute that requires the state to prove he was careless or negligent when he fired the shot that he says was intended for Kevin Harris, an armed friend of the Weaver family who was also holed up in the cabin.

The transfer to federal court moves the case hundreds of miles from the scene of the 11-day standoff, a key incident in the rise of the American militia movement. The judge postponed ruling on whether a federal jury would be drawn from northern Idaho or from Boise, the state capital in the south.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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