Shooting at Robert Lavoy Finicum and Lying About It is Business as Usual for the Feds

Shooting at Robert Lavoy Finicum and Lying About It is Business as Usual for the Feds
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Last week saw the indictment of FBI Special Agent W. Joseph Astarita for lying about shots he’d fired during the January 26, 2016 killing of Robert Lavoy Finicum. The Oregonian noted that the prosecution of FBI agents for their official conduct is almost unheard of. The unusual charges were “devastating” to the FBI, commented Danny Coulson, a former head of the bureau’s Oregon office.

Well, maybe the indictment is so devastating because federal agents are rarely punished for brutal and dishonest behavior.

Interestingly, Coulson created and led the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team—the elite force to which Astarita belongs—during the bloody 1992 Ruby Ridge fiasco. He escaped prosecution for his conduct during that mess—for which the federal government paid out over $3 million in damages to survivors—though he spent two years on paid leave (read: vacation). Several other agents were disciplined, though the only official criminally punished for Ruby Ridge was E. Michael Kahoe, who destroyed an internal FBI report critical of the agents’ conduct during the high-profile standoff. Anybody further up the food chain, Coulson included, was protected by a review process intended “to create scapegoats and false impressions,” according to Eugene F. Glenn, the FBI commander at the scene, who publicly broke rank with his colleagues when he believed he was being set up to take a fall. So Coulson knows well that the rarity of prosecutions of federal agents can’t be taken as an endorsement of their behavior—arguably, it could be interpreted as quite the opposite……


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