PORTLAND, Ore. — A judge has ruled that a 3D model can't be used as evidence in the upcoming trial of an FBI agent accused of lying about firing two shots at a key figure in the 2016 takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the model pinpoints where prosecutors believe W. Joseph Astarita was standing when he allegedly fired two errant shots at the truck driven by Robert "LaVoy" Finicum. Oregon State Police fatally shot Finicum at the same roadblock.
Finicum was a spokesman for the Ammon Bundy-led group that took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon for several weeks to oppose federal control of land in the Western U.S.
The shots came as Finicum emerged from his pickup at a roadblock when police arrested Bundy and other leaders of the armed takeover of the refuge.
One bullet went through the truck's roof and the other went astray, investigators said. Moments later, two state troopers fatally shot Finicum as he was reaching toward his jacket. Investigators said he had a loaded handgun in an inner pocket.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jones wrote Monday that the representation of Astarita's position is based on aerial FBI video of such poor quality that it can't be shown to jurors at the trial scheduled to begin July 24.
"The clear image of the model depicting defendant with his rifle shouldered and trained on Finicum's truck was not the product of a reliable methodology and involved excessive subjectivity," the judge wrote.
Defense attorney David Angeli declined comment, citing the upcoming trial date. Kevin Sonoff, spokesman for the Oregon U.S. Attorney's Office, also said prosecutors declined comment.
Astarita has pleaded not guilty to making a false statement and obstruction of justice.
Jones has authorized trial testimony from the government's audio-visual expert Frank Piazza, bullet trajectory experts, Oregon State Police forensic scientist Victoria Dickerson, Albuquerque forensic scientist Michael Haag and Deschutes County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Turpen, who made a diagram of the scene.
"Though imperfect," their work passed scientific muster, the judge said, and could be subject to "rigorous cross-examination" by the defense.