by Conrad Wilson
The FBI agent indicted for allegedly lying about a pivotal moment during the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation has hired a high-profile Washington D.C.-based attorney to defend him.
Indicted FBI Hostage Rescue Team member W. Joseph Astarita has retained Robert Cary, who is well known in the nation’s capital for his defense of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.
In 2008, the Department of Justice indicted the Republican senator on corruption charges. Years later, the case was dismissed and found to be an example of gross prosecutorial misconduct.
“If what happened to Sen. Ted Stevens, a powerful Senator … a few blocks from the Supreme Court of the United States, a few blocks from the United States Capitol – if it can happen to him, it can happen to anybody,” Cary said in a 2015 speech to an American Bar Association gathering.
Cary will serve as co-counsel in the Astarita case with Portland based attorneys David Angeli and Tyler Francis, according to Angeli.
Federal prosecutors have accused Astarita of lying to investigators about firing his gun during a traffic stop that left Malhuer occupation leader Robert “LaVoy” Finicum dead.
Though neither of Astarita’s shots hit Finicum, prosecutors have charged the FBI agent with several felonies for allegedly failing to disclose them. Those charges include making false statements and obstruction of justice.
The FBI said Astarita is in working an “administrative capacity” with the agency, but has declined to discuss any additional details about the case.
In the Stevens case, Cary initially lost at trial.
Stevens was indicted on corruption charges less than 100 days before the 2008 election, and a jury found him guilty on all seven counts.
“The real work,” Cary said during the 2015 ABA speech, “began after the trial was over.”
It was during the appeals process that prosecutors began to disclose information that ultimately resulted in then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dismissing the case before sentencing.
Stevens and other attorneys successfully argued that crucial facts of the case — such as the timing of testimony and inconsistent statements from a key witness — were hidden from the defense team during trial.
The American Lawyer, a monthly law journal, said the work Cary’s firm — Williams & Connolly’s — did on the Stevens case was “one of the best criminal defense performances in memory, resulting in a heightened scrutiny of prosecutors that will affect the Justice Department for years to come.”