W. Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, was cleared of lying to conceal that he fired two shots at the truck of Oregon refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum in 2016. It was the latest prosecution loss in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
A federal jury returned not guilty verdicts for FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, accused of lying to conceal that he fired two shots at the truck of Oregon refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum in 2016, The Oregonian reports. The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about six hours over two days after a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Portland. Astarita was acquitted on Friday on two counts of making a false statement and one count of obstruction of justice. Astarita, 41, is a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team.
The verdict marks the latest in a series of daunting losses for prosecutors trying people involved in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Astarita had been on the Hostage Rescue Team for only eight months at the time of the shooting at a highway roadblock. He spent hours on the witness stand over two days and testified that he’s never fired his weapon in the line of duty during his 13 years with the FBI. He said he heard no gunshots that day, though investigators found eight were fired at the roadblock. With Astarita’s acquittal, the mystery remains as to who fired twice after Finicum swerved into a snowbank at the roadblock, stepped from his truck with his hands in the air and shouted, “Go ahead and shoot me.” Later, two state police SWAT officers shot and killed Finicum after he had walked away from his truck and was seen reaching into his inner left jacket pocket, where police said he had a loaded 9mm Ruger pistol.