The appearance of U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a Wednesday news conference underscores the high priority the Justice Department has placed on the 16-year-old case.
Standing in a conference room in the U.S. District Courthouse in Seattle that bears her father’s name, Amy Wales said she and her brother wanted to share what wisdom they’ve been able to garner from his unsolved killing nearly 17 years ago. She summed it up in two words:
“Patience and perseverance.”
Wales shared her message Wednesday while flanked by federal agents and prosecutors who have embodied those traits — the men and women of a task force that has been chasing the killer of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales for going on two decades without an arrest. Amy Wales, who was 22 when her father was killed, is 38 and a mother of two today.
They gathered alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 man in the Justice Department, who came to Seattle to reiterate the DOJ’s commitment to the case and preside over the announcement that a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction is now $1.525 million, up by $525,000 donated by the National Association of Former United States Attorneys. (NAFUSA)
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The hope is that the additional money will tempt someone with information about the slaying to break ranks from what a senior FBI source has described as a “very small group” of conspirators the task force believes were involved in the slaying and know who pulled the trigger.
“Any attack on a law-enforcement officer is an attack on the entire justice system,” said Rosenstein during a news conference in the Thomas C. Wales Conference Room in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His appearance was made to highlight the importance the case continues to have in the office.
“I intend to leave no stone unturned in the search for the killer who murdered Tom Wales,” Rosenstein said. “We will continue to pursue this case for as long as it takes to achieve justice.”
Over the years, the DOJ and local law enforcement have held several news conferences to highlight details or bring attention to the case. Wales, 49, a respected white-collar-crime prosecutor in the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office, was shot through a window while sitting at a computer in the basement of his Queen Anne home on Oct. 11, 2001. A senior FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Seattle Times that they have developed information indicating a small group of people conspired to kill Wales.
They are reviewing possible ties between the group and a commercial airline pilot and former Beaux Arts Village resident who was once targeted by Wales in a flawed federal fraud investigation, and who has been a focus of the murder investigation since the 0utset, the official said.
Rosenstein and top law-enforcement leaders Wednesday called for people to come forward with information in the unsolved slaying. Tips can be phoned into the Seattle FBI at 206-622-0460, or sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can also be sent by mail to the FBI at 1110 Third Ave., Seattle, WA., 98101.
Speakers included Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, and former Seattle U.S. attorneys Mike McKay and John McKay. Mike McKay is president of a foundation operated by the NAFUSA that raised money for the reward from local and national law firms.
The unsolved slaying of Thomas WalesHe was a father, a federal prosecutor and a vocal gun-control activist. On an October evening 15 years ago, when Wales was alone in his Queen Anne home, a gunman took his life. See a timeline of the case since the 2001 slaying.
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“The smallest thing could matter,” Durkan said in urging anyone with information about the slaying to come forward.
If Wales was killed because of his work, he would be the first federal prosecutor in the nation’s history to be slain in the line of duty in what some have described as an attack on the rule of law.
The Seattle Times, quoting an FBI official familiar with the investigation, reported Tuesday that the FBI has found evidence strongly suggesting the shooting involved a conspiracy and a hired gunman.
Agents had pursued a single-shooter theory in the case and focused on the airline pilot who had been prosecuted by Wales and has long been a leading suspect in the shooting.
While agents continue to look at all leads, they are reviewing possible ties between the pilot and a small circle of people who agents suspect were involved in the killing, the FBI official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.
The official said there is a “very small group” of people who know what happened, and “They never talk about it.”
The pilot, whom Wales had prosecuted in a bitterly fought fraud case, has maintained his innocence throughout the long-running investigation.
The Times is not naming the 57-year-old pilot because he hasn’t been charged in the case. He couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, and his attorney declined to comment.
Amy Wales appeared to appeal for the public’s cooperation, but also to thank the DOJ and the FBI for its tireless pursuit of her father’s killer despite the bureau’s changing priorities and strained resources in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism attacks just one month earlier. That resolve has never let up, she said, no matter who was in the White House, Republican or Democrat. It was not the first time she’s made such an appeal.
“They have made considerable progress,” she said, pointing out that some members of the task force have “devoted what is, in effect, the balance of their careers to this case.”
Her father, Wales said, dedicated his life to public service after leaving a prestigious New York law firm to be a prosecutor in Seattle. Others in the room had made similar sacrifices, she said, and paused to thank them and their decision at a time when “the Justice Department and the FBI are constantly maligned for partisan or self-interested reason” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the agencies in the wake of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
“Truth is the first casualty, of course, in such theatrics of lies,” she said. “My brother and I stand on the side of truth — not least because we have a good understanding of how much hard work has gone into progressing our father’s case.
“Today, we ask the public to continue to support the investigation, and for people with information to please share it,” she said.