Attorneys for an Everett woman heading to trial this month on charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the 2001 shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales are accusing the government of withholding key evidence and asking that the indictment against her be dismissed.
In a motion filed late Friday in U.S. District Court, lawyers for Shawna Reid say the Department of Justice has “egregiously breached its discovery obligations” by failing to inform them for nearly a year and a half that an audio recording exists of the 2018 grand jury testimony that led to her being charged.
“In a blatant violation of its obligations under [local criminal trial] rules the government failed to provide the defense with the best evidence of the most important evidence in the case, despite an early request to do so,” wrote Bainbridge Island attorney Michael Nance, one of Reid’s attorneys.
“The effect of the violation is deeply prejudicial,” he wrote.
Prosecutors allege Reid, while under oath, perjured herself when she denied statements she had purportedly made earlier to FBI agents about her knowledge of an individual identified in court papers only as “Suspect #1,” a person federal agents say bragged to Reid about being involved in Wales’ death.
The indictment alleges that Reid had told the agents that this individual, whom she dated more than a decade previously, had bragged about having information about the death of a “judge or attorney who lived on top of a hill.”
Wales lived on Queen Anne hill in Seattle.
However, Reid denied making those statements when she testified under oath before the grand jury, leading to an indictment accusing her of felony obstruction and lying to a grand jury.
The defense has maintained that Reid was confused and intimidated by federal prosecutors, but have had to rely on what Nance described as the “cold” written transcript.
Nance said local rules and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals precedent make it clear that an audio recording is best evidence and require them to be turned over when they exist.
Nance said he had litigated the case for nearly 18 months when government attorneys contacted him Thursday and told him that an audio recording of Reid’s testimony existed and that they would provide him a copy on July 7, a week before Reid’s trial is set to begin.
The motion says the defense, in keeping with local rules, asked for any existing recordings when Reid was arraigned Aug. 19, 2019.
Nance said he has been given no explanation about why the recording is only being produced now.
“The government’s shockingly dismissive attitude, ineptitude and recklessness toward its basic discovery obligation to provide key evidence mandated by the rules — indeed, evidence that lies at the heart of this case — has created an untenable situation that merits dismissal,” Nance wrote.
The defense has maintained that Reid, who has struggled with substance abuse and a tragic past, was confused and bullied by prosecutors and the victim of a “perjury trap,” where she was compelled to give self-incriminating evidence.
U.S. District Judge James Robart, in denying an earlier motion by Reid’s lawyers to dismiss the charge, had found that Reid could not, based on the transcript, demonstrate that she was confused or mistaken about the questions she was being asked.
“An audio recording of her testimony may well have manifested the very confusion or mistake the court found lacking in the transcript,” Nance wrote.
Christina Taylor, one of the prosecutors in the case, declined to comment when reached Friday night at her desk at the DOJ’s Organized Crime and Gang Section in New York.
Prosecutors have already been reprimanded by Robart, who found they improperly solicited testimony from Reid while she was before the grand jury.
He did, however, allow the defense the rare opportunity to subpoena the two DOJ trial attorneys, who will be called by Reid’s attorneys to testify about their questioning of the 36-year-old Reid before the grand jury.
Reid has pleaded not guilty to the charges in what is the first indictment to be filed in the case and the first outward sign of progress in a frustrating investigation that has remained a DOJ priority for going on 20 years.
According to sources who have spoken about the investigation anonymously because they aren’t authorized to discuss it publicly, “Suspect #1” is believed to have been the lookout for a hit man who sneaked into Wales’ backyard the night of Oct. 11, 2001, and shot him through a window as he sat writing at a computer.
The FBI has long focused its investigation on a commercial airline pilot, who lived in Beaux Arts Village, south of Bellevue, at the time of the shooting. He had been prosecuted by Wales and, according to sources, is suspected of arranging Wales’ death with the help of someone who served as an intermediary with the hit man.
If Wales was killed as a result of his job, he would be the first federal prosecutor killed in the line of duty in U.S. history.