A large photo of slain federal prosecutor Thomas C. Wales is seen between his son Tom Wales (left) and daughter Amy Wales as they talk after a ceremony in a courtroom at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle on Oct. 11, 2006, held to observe the fifth anniversary of his slaying. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, file)

A large photo of slain federal prosecutor Thomas C. Wales is seen between his son Tom Wales (left) and daughter Amy Wales as they talk after a ceremony in a courtroom at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle on Oct. 11, 2006, held to observe the fifth anniversary of his slaying. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, file)

DOJ to testify about improper questioning of Everett witness

Shawna Reid reportedly has knowledge about the shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales.

By Mike Carter / The Seattle Times

In a rare move, a federal judge has ordered a pair of high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors to testify about how they improperly solicited incriminating testimony from a key witness in the 20-year-old investigation into the shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales.

U.S. District Judge James Robart, who has already reprimanded the government for being careless, now says jurors in the trial of Shawna Reid will be allowed to hear how federal prosecutors improperly instructed her to incriminate herself. The judge granted a motion by Reid’s attorneys to subpoena the two Washington, D.C.-based prosecutors to testify at her trial.

Reid, 35, is not a suspect in Wales’ death, but is believed by prosecutors to have information about a purported hitman hired to carry out the killing.

Indeed, Robart seemed skeptical about the future of the prosecution — the only charges brought so far in an investigation that began in 2001 — given the problems with the government’s case, a pandemic-delayed court schedule and the relative severity of the charges Reid is facing. No trial date has been set and all federal jury trials are currently postponed due to COVID-19.

“I don’t understand why this case is still pending,” Robart said during a telephonic hearing Thursday, while acknowledging the depth of emotions that surround the case, which has been unsolved and under investigation by an FBI task force for two decades.

Robart said that, by the time the case will be heard, Reid — who has been jailed twice but is currently on supervised release — will have “served most of her sentence” if she’s convicted.

“This is a very favorable ruling,” said attorney Michael Nance, one of Reid’s lawyers. “Shawna Reid has next to nothing to contribute to this investigation.”

The case is under the supervision of a special prosecutor, Steven Clymer in New York, who has acknowledged in court filings that his trial attorneys made a “single, imprecise remark” when warning Reid in front of the grand jury that she must tell the truth, even if it involves incriminating herself.

Reid’s attorneys argue that remark, and the questioning that followed, were meant to intimidate Reid, violated her rights and amount to misconduct.

Clymer did not return a telephone message left at his office.

In an order reprimanding the Department of Justice in August, Robart said he was “thoroughly unimpressed with the carelessness exhibited by the government in this case” but declined to dismiss the indictment. Now, however, Robart will allow Reid to put the prosecutors on the stand and walk them through their mistake as part of her defense.

Matthew Hoff, a trial attorney with the DOJ’s Organized Crime and Gang Section in Washington, D.C., said the prosecutors’ testimony is unnecessary and won’t help Reid prove her assertion that she was confused and intimidated during her testimony, since they wouldn’t be able to testify to her state of mind.

Hoff did not respond to a telephone call made to his office at DOJ headquarters.

The indictment of Reid, of Everett, in August 2019 by a Seattle grand jury was seen as a possible break in the frustrating case. Wales was fatally shot in his Queen Anne home the night of Oct. 11, 2001, while sitting at a computer in what federal agents believe was an assassination.

Reid is believed to have information about an individual identified as “Suspect #1” in court documents. Reid reportedly told FBI agents in an interview in August 2017 that the man had bragged about being involved in the murder of a “judge or attorney that lives on top of a hill.”

However, during her grand jury testimony in February 2018, Reid denied she had made those statements. Reid’s attorneys claim that the two veteran DOJ trial attorneys who were conducting the grand jury set up an improper “perjury trap” and misled Reid about a grant of immunity for her testimony and her right not to incriminate herself.

They then charged her with obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury in hopes of forcing her to cooperate, according to defense pleadings.

Since early in the case, the FBI focused its investigation on an airline pilot whom Wales had prosecuted before he was killed.

No charge has been brought against the pilot, despite a reward of up to $1.5 million. Over the past 20 years, agents have conducted searches of homes where the pilot lived in the Bellevue area and Snohomish; conducted a nationwide effort to trace a unique gun barrel used to kill Wales; and an exploration into every corner of the pilot’s life. The investigation has involved extensive use of wiretaps and other surreptitious surveillance, according to sources.

If Wales was killed as a result of his job, he would be the first federal prosecutor killed in the line of duty in U.S. history.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

FILE - Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks during a news conference the vote to codify Roe v. Wade, in this May 5, 2022 file photo on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murray is one of the U.S. Senate's most powerful members and seeking a sixth term. She is being challenged by Tiffany Smiley, a Republican from Pasco, Wash. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Providence continues to face questions about hospital debt collection

The hospital group has pushed back against the notion that Providence “intentionally takes advantage of those who are vulnerable.”

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
5 more bodies recovered from floatplane crash off Whidbey

About 80% of the plane, including the engine, was recovered using remotely operated vessels.

FILE - The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, July 13, 2021.  Boeing is behind schedule in submitting documentation for new versions of its 737 Max jetliner, and it's asking Congress for more time. Federal officials say Boeing has completed little of the work necessary to certify the new Max versions by a Dec. 31, 2022 deadline. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
With 2 Max models at risk, Congress moves to give Boeing a break

Political action has begun in Congress to grant Boeing the extension it will need to get both the Renton-built Max 7 and Max 10 certified without any further design changes.

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, a female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Bainbridge Island, Wash., as seen from a federally permitted research vessel. The National Marine Fisheries Service has finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca's critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, Calif., adding 15,910 square miles, (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Endangered southern resident orca numbers drop from 74 to 73

Since July 1, 2021, three whales died while two were born, officials said.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Floatplane wreckage recovery in Puget Sound begins

The U.S. Navy will use a remotely operated vehicle Deep Drone 8,000, a barge and a crane in recovery efforts.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
COVID, monkeypox levels down

State says prevention efforts will continue.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
State employees likely to get 1K bonuses for COVID booster

Under a tentative deal state employees would get $1,000 bonuses for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot.

FILE - Then-Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz addresses a news conference in Seattle, on Sept. 2, 2020. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Diaz as his pick for permanent chief of the Seattle department. Harrell on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022,  announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Seattle mayor appoints Adrian Diaz as city’s police chief

Diaz has served as interim police chief since September 2020.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Human remains wash ashore, possibly from floatplane crash

A female torso found near Sequim could be connected to a floatplane crash near Whidbey Island.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle teachers approve new contract following strike

Teachers in Seattle have approved a new, three-year contract following a strike.

X
West Seattle Bridge reopened Saturday night

After 908 days without a high-rise bridge, the drivers and passengers of West Seattle regained seven road lanes.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Monkeypox cases declining in WA, outbreak trajectory unclear

The drop in infections statewide is directly linked to the drop in cases in King County.