Ruby Ridge Informant Denies Entrapping Weaver : Probe: Kenneth Fadeley tells Senate panel that the white separatist took the initiative in sale of illegal shotguns. However, he offers no corroboration.
An undercover informer for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms told a Senate subcommittee Friday that white separatist Randy Weaver took the initiative in selling him two illegal sawed-off shotguns, starting a series of events that led to the bloody 1992 shootout and siege at Weaver’s cabin in which three people were killed.
Kenneth Fadeley, testifying behind a partition to avoid being photographed, strongly denied Weaver’s claim, made earlier this week before the Senate panel, that he had been entrapped and had only sold the unregistered weapons after Fadely had pleaded with him for three years.
Fadeley insisted that Weaver told him during their conversations in 1989 that “he could supply me with four or five [guns] a week” and that he could “supply me with shotguns all day long.”
But members of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, which is examining the siege as a case of overreaction and miscalculation by federal law enforcement officials, expressed skepticism upon learning that Fadeley had no corroboration that Weaver had made such incriminating statements. Fadely said he began wearing a concealed tape recorder only at a later date.
He also quoted Weaver as saying: “I would really like to go to work for you, Gus.” (Fadeley used that pseudonym as a supposed trafficker in illegal weapons.)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the subcommittee chairman and a GOP presidential hopeful, noted that Fadeley had testified in federal court two years ago that he “assumed” his informant payments from the ATF would be greater if Weaver were convicted for selling illegal weapons. Specter said that suggested it was in Fadeley’s interest to entrap Weaver.
Fadeley, however, said he had misspoken in court. But he never corrected that testimony, he said, because he could not locate the prosecutor. Because of lack of corroboration, a jury cleared Weaver of the original charge against him--selling illegal shotguns.
Jurors convicted him only of failing to appear voluntarily in court. It was Weaver’s failure to appear for a 1991 court hearing on the gun charges that led to the 11-day confrontation on northern Idaho’s Ruby Ridge in August, 1992. Weaver’s wife, his 14-year-old son and a federal marshal were killed in that clash.
Asked by senators to characterize Weaver as he came to know him, Fadeley called him “a proponent of racism and hate toward minorities--an individual who, if he had the opportunity and if he had the means, would be very violent toward those individuals and toward the United States of America.”
He said that while Weaver was never an official member of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group that Fadeley had infiltrated, “he was very involved, he participated quite actively.”
ATF Director John W. Magaw, who followed Fadeley as a subcommittee witness, said the informant was paid more than $5,000 for his work on Weaver’s case. But Magaw insisted that no informer ever gets a bonus if the information leads to a conviction.
Specter and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out that, under guidelines adopted by the ATF in the late 1970s, informant fees may be based partly on “results of any judicial action taken.” Magaw said that never has been the case, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted that newer rules adopted in the 1980s contain no such phrase.
“We ought not to be in a situation where an informant is rewarded only if there is a conviction,” Specter said, observing that such a provision could lead to false testimony.
While insisting that the conduct of ATF agents in developing the case against Weaver was “lawful and proper in every respect,” Magaw said the ill-fated siege by federal marshals and FBI agents demonstrates that “we have to handle those incidents better in the future.”
Magaw later qualified his total endorsement of his agents’ conduct when Specter pointed out that ATF agent Herb Byerly, before Weaver was tried for the firearms violation, might have unduly influenced prosecutors by telling them erroneously that Weaver had previous convictions and that he was suspected of robbing banks in Montana. Neither was true, Magaw acknowledged.
“We should never be trading information with other law enforcement agencies that someone is a suspect without corroboration--unless they are truly a suspect,” Magaw said.
“Those things are inexcusable. We should not have drawn that conclusion.”
Feinstein, who has led efforts in Congress to control dangerous weapons, commended Magaw and the ATF for their overall work.
“In a society that is somewhat gun-happy, your agency has an enormously difficult time,” she said. “With 40,000 deaths a year from guns, we need to do everything we can to control illegal weapons.”
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