Justice delayed

  • By Scott North
  • Sunday, October 16, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

A decade ago, somebody crept up to Tom Wales’ house in Seattle and repeatedly shot the federal prosecutor as he worked in his home office. The killer remains free.

As the 10th anniversary of the Oct. 11, 2001, homicide approached, the U.S. Justice Department launched a weeks-long campaign to rekindle attention for the killing. There’s a $1 million reward.

The FBI assembled a Web page with details about the crime. It also focuses on Wales, a decent man who used his job as an assistant U.S. attorney to accomplish much good — including here in Snohomish County.

The slain prosecutor “took his job extremely seriously, both in terms of the element of protecting the public and indeed helping the people who he prosecuted as well,” his adult son, Tom Wales, said in a video tribute. “He viewed them as people, too. He didn’t just think that his job was to put people in jail for the maximum amount of time. He believed in justice.”

Amy Wales can be heard here in a KPLU-FM report reading a letter to her father. “Dear Pops” is a eulogy, a plea for justice and an eloquent promise of courage.

In July 1999 The Herald published an investigative story exposing how Mickie Jarvill, then a lawyer in Smokey Point, joined with her husband, Michael, to create a bewildering skein of scams, thefts and fraud. The pair pilfered millions of dollars. The FBI, the state bar association and Snohomish County detectives investigated.

Wales, who specialized in prosecuting white-collar criminals, was the assistant U.S. attorney first assigned to the case. It was a surprise when one day he called the newsroom and asked if we could meet in Everett. His eyes were smiling as we strangers began our conversation with the ritual of making clear the ground rules: he the prosecutor, I the reporter, each with different masters. Wales asked good questions. He genuinely was interested in the financial hardship and embarrassment the Jarvills had brought their victims. Compassion clearly was a big part of his job.

He was close to bringing the Jarvills to justice. Then, incomprehensibly, he was killed. His unfinished business was completed by his colleagues. In 2002, the Jarvills were sentenced to five years apiece in federal prison.

Wales’ children now are speaking out, demonstrating in word and deed just how blessed they were to have him as their dad.

Investigators hope people take the time to learn more about the case.

“There are those who may not even know their information is important,” Greg Fowler, the FBI inspector who is leading the investigation, said in a press release. “Something seen, something heard, something out of place, something unusual — even the smallest clue may help.”

To share what you know about the case: 800-CALL FBI; email walestips@ic.fbi.gov; or send a letter to P.O. Box 2755, Seattle, WA 98111.

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