A federal judge has postponed the trial of Shawna Reid, the first prosecution to stem from the nearly 20-year-old investigation into the unsolved shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales.
Reid, 37, of Everett, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury investigating the Wales homicide in 2018.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Robart set a new trial date for Sept. 16. Last week, Robart abruptly canceled a trial that was set to begin Tuesday in order to more fully explore allegations by Reid’s lawyers that the government withheld an audio recording of Reid’s grand jury testimony in violation of federal discovery rules.
“I direct the government to provide an explanation about what they knew about the recording and when they knew it,” the judge said, pointing out that the rules usually require that the government turn over audio recordings if they exist.
While the defense was given a transcript of the proceedings, Reid’s attorneys say they weren’t told of the existence of the audio recording until two weeks ago. They believe that, as a result, the indictment should be dismissed.
They also claim the timing of Reid’s recantation of significant parts of her testimony before the grand jury should prevent the government from prosecuting her for making false statements. Because she took back the statements during the same hearing in which she made them, the defense claims she can’t be indicted for lying unless prosecutors can prove it.
Robart said the burden faced by the defense to dismiss the case over a discovery violation is high, but said “That does not mean I have decided to deny the motion to dismiss.
“But I want you to continue to prepare for trial,” the judge said.
By all accounts, Reid had nothing to do with Wales’ death — she was a teenager when Wales was killed — a fact that has done nothing to dampen the vigor with which the Department of Justice has pursued her and her testimony.
The FBI believes Reid’s story provides a key link in what investigators have called a “continuum” of circumstances and evidence agents hope, after nearly two decades, will lead them both to the man who pulled the trigger and, eventually, to the individual they think wanted it pulled — an airline pilot who has been a suspect almost since the day Wales died.
However, Reid, a troubled woman with a tragic past, has recanted and muddled her testimony, claiming she was confused, intimidated and tricked into committing perjury. Her lawyers insist she can offer nothing useful to the case.
The investigation into Wales’ death has turned into one of the most extensive and long-lasting criminal investigations ever undertaken by the FBI, involving a task force of FBI agents and Seattle Police homicide investigators who have worked the case continuously since Wales was shot to death through a window as he worked at a computer in the basement of his Queen Anne home the night of Oct. 11, 2001.
According to court documents and interviews with investigators involved in the case, after Wales was killed Reid became involved with an older man, identified in court papers as “Suspect #1,” who purportedly bragged to her about being involved in the murder of a “judge or attorney that lives on top of a hill.” According to the indictment, Reid later told the agents the victim was “someone of importance, like a judge or attorney general.”
FBI officials have said they were looking at a “small group of people,” including a 50-year-old Snohomish County man thought to be the hit-man, when Reid was interviewed and subpoenaed to testify before a Seattle grand jury investigating the killed.
Six days before she testified, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the No. 2 at the Department of Justice — appeared in Seattle alongside the Wales family to “bring continued and deserved attention” to the Wales investigation, and to announce that a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction had been increased to $1.5 million.
Jay Tabb, then-special agent in charge of the Seattle FBI office, said at the news conference: “We know that there are people out there with pertinent information and we are pleading to you to come forward and provide that information, no matter how small it is.”
Seattle Times contributor Steve Miletich assisted in this report.