ARMED AND DANGEROUS? Man, 60, killed by in bedroom shootout with feds as they searched for riflegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
Government to unveil new details of fatal ATF raid
CATHY FRYE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
The federal government has agreed to release a more detailed account of the events leading to an Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau raid that left a man dead in his bedroom. Carl Wilson, 60, was killed in a shootout with federal authorities when they arrived before dawn on Jan. 12 at his rural Faulkner County home. They were searching for an old Winchester rifle. The documents explaining why the ATF wanted the gun have remained sealed in federal court. The Democrat-Gazette filed a motion Feb. 15, asking that the case file be made public. The government initially objected to the newspaper's request. But at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate J. Thomas Ray on Friday, prosecutors agreed to unseal the documents. However, they want to redact, or "black out," portions of the file beforehand, saying witnesses and informants need to be protected. The judge's ruling, expected next week, will likely challenge the constitutionality of the way in which search-and-seizure warrants are handled in the Eastern District of Arkansas. It could eliminate the automatic sealing of all warrants and accompanying documents, and instead require a specific request from prosecutors to keep the paperwork from public view. At Friday's hearing, attorneys haggled not only over the Wilson case but also the First Amendment versus search warrants -- namely, how much information should remain secret and why. "We are an open society," said lawyer Jess Askew, who is representing the Democrat-Gazette. "As Justice [Warren] Burger has said, 'People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing.'" U.S. prosecutor Michael Johnson, citing concerns about the names of witnesses that appear in some of the sealed documents, countered the newspaper's argument: "The First Amendment is not the sole societal interest at stake here." The current debate over the secretive manner in which search warrants are obtained and filed in court emerged from what happened in the early morning darkness when ATF agents carried out a surprise raid at Wilson's home. They were looking for a .30-.30 Winchester rifle, model 94, serial number NRA 8315. Wilson's widow, Tammy, wants to know why her husband was being investigated. And how, she asks, did the raid turn deadly? Much to her anger, the answers have remained secret. Until Friday, the only items that had been unsealed were the search warrant and an inventory of what was seized at the Wilson home. Both of those documents had been given to the family at the time of the raid. Friday, the court unsealed two more documents -- the Jan. 10 application for the search warrant and an exhibit, which was an aerial photograph of Wilson's isolated home. Still sealed, however, is the probable-cause affidavit, which would explain what kind of investigation the ATF was conducting and why a no-knock raid was necessary. No-knock raids allow officers to enter a home without announcing themselves. The Wilson raid was to occur "in the daytime," according to the warrant. Federal law defines "daytime" as between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. ATF agents raided Wilson's home at 6:30 a.m. Sunrise that day was around 7:15 a.m. In documents filed with the court, the Democrat-Gazette argues: "A man was shot and killed in his own bedroom by state and federal authorities with a federal search warrant, and the press wants to know why the authorities were there. The government seeks to conceal this information. In doing so, the government seeks to avoid accounting to the people for its conduct in this most unfortunate episode. "By failing to account, the government engenders dark suspicions about its conduct." In its initial response to the newspaper's motion, the government argued that unsealing the case file would compromise confidential information related to the investigation and make public the names of witnesses involved in the ATF investigation. They also cited an ongoing investigation into the shootout by state police, arguing that this unfinished inquiry should be grounds for keeping the documents sealed. The judge said Friday, however, that the state police investigation has no bearing on whether the case file should be made public. Although prosecutors are withdrawing their objections to unseal the file, they want the names of witnesses and any information that would identify those witnesses blacked out before the documents are made public. The importance of these witnesses is unclear. Authorities have said their investigation of Wilson ended with his death and that no one else will be charged in the case. Prosecutors' reasons for requesting that portions of the documents be censored aren't known because the government's response to the Democrat-Gazette's motion also has been sealed in federal court. This situation made arguments at Friday's hearing vague but sharply worded nonetheless. The judge opened the proceedings by saying he took issue with the wording in one particular sentence of the newspaper's motion. It reads: "What's at stake here is not the fate of a federal investigation into Carl Ray Wilson's hunting rifle, but the people's understanding and acceptance of the exercise of judicial power that permitted these authorities to break down Mr. Wilson's door in darkness and shoot him." Judicial power didn't kill Wilson -- a shootout with police did, the judge said, adding that he was "personally shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Mr. Wilson's death." But what happened after the warrant was granted "is something that is outside ... the power of this court," Ray said. "Absolutely nothing in the search warrant could be blamed for what happened." Johnson also was indignant, saying he thought the newspaper had accused the government of "trying to conceal untoward motives." "I consider that salacious, and I consider that unjustified, to make such an accusation." Johnson argued that when authorities ask a judge for a search warrant, they have to be candid about why they want one. But not all of the reasons cited should be made public, he said. Askew disagreed, arguing that once a case is closed, there's no reason to keep anything a secret. Wilson is dead, so there will be no trial, Askew said. Why then, he asked, do witnesses need to be protected? Askew also asked if witnesses had requested or been promised confidentiality. "People who get involved in giving information to the government ought to know they may one day be identified or end up on the witness stand," he said. The attorneys also debated the constitutionality of General Order No. 22, which stipulates that all documents pertaining to a search or seizure be kept in a "miscellaneous" confidential file -- unless someone showing "good cause" files a motion with the court to unseal the documents. Good cause is presumed when a request is made by someone directly affected by the execution of the warrant. Ray told the lawyers that he sees several problems with General Order No. 22. "I'm going to be candid," the judge said. "I think [the order] is overbroad in every case. There are aspects of General Order 22 that trouble me greatly from a constitutional aspect." Information for this article was contributed by Amy Upshaw and Jim Brooks of the Democrat-Gazette.
This article was published on Saturday, March 3, 2001
ARMED AND DANGEROUS? Man, 60, killed in bedroom shootout with feds as they searched for rifle
-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here Not@ever.com), March 07, 2001
Hey Ain't, when you post a piece, if the paragraphs only look like they're one space apart, just add another space for easier reading.
You're pretty bad with tags too.
-- (email@example.com), March 07, 2001.
Yeah and how about gargle once in a while too.
-- yuk (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2001.
I second all this. Why post a link, and then paste in the contents AT that link? Waste of space. And if you ARE going to paste it in, why not format it so it's readable? I'm not going to bother reading a block like that. And why paste it in boldface and forget to turn it off?
May I suggest you post the link, and then give your viewpoint, in your own words, on this forum?
-- Flint (email@example.com), March 07, 2001.
Flint, do you know how long (in time) that links to mags and newspapers typically stay active?
-- Lars (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2001.
No, I don't. I know that threads here rarely stay active for more than 2 days. Do links last less than that?
If so, then the material should be formatted. It only takes a few seconds.
-- Flint (email@example.com), March 07, 2001.
Seems like the format issue is at hand...again.
I did state on another thread that IF it is formatted like the above I wont bother.
If you really want someone to read and care, take a lil bit of effort and time, thats all.
-- sumer (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 08, 2001.