The special prosecutor assigned to oversee the 19-year-old investigation into the shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales in his Queen Anne home is denying misconduct alleged by a witness who wants a perjury indictment thrown out.
However, in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the office of Special Prosecutor Steven Clymer in New York acknowledges that an unnamed attorney made a “single, imprecise remark” when warning witness Shawna Reid in front of the grand jury that she must tell the truth, even if it involves incriminating herself.
Reid’s attorneys argue that remark, and the questioning that followed, amounted to misconduct and they urged U.S. District Judge James Robart to dismiss charges of lying to a grand jury filed against Reid last year.
Reid, 35, of Everett, is the first individual indicted in connection with the Wales investigation in almost two decades. Prosecutors believe she has information about an individuals identified in court papers as “Suspect #1,” an individual whom the FBI believes has knowledge of an alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting Wales.
Wales was a 49-year-old white-collar prosecutor in the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office when he was shot several times the night of Oct. 11, 2001, by someone who slipped into his backyard and fired at him through a basement window while he sat writing emails at a computer.
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.
The FBI has long focused its investigation on a commercial airline pilot who lived near Bellevue at the time, and whom Wales had targeted in an unsuccessful federal fraud prosecution in the 1990s.
Reid purportedly had a relationship with someone identified as “Suspect #1” when she was a teenager, and according to court documents she told members of an FBI task force assigned to the Wales case during an August 2017 interview that “Suspect #1” bragged to her that he had been involved “in the murder of a quote, judge or attorney that lives on top of a hill, end quote.”
But when Reid testified before a grand jury in February 2018, she denied making those statements, according to the two-count indictment handed up in August.
The motion alleges Reid had been promised immunity from prosecution if she provided information to the grand jury about “Suspect #1,” who is identified by the defense as “Chris G.”
Reid claims in the motion she was improperly told she had to incriminate herself because she had been given immunity for testimony against “Suspect #1.”
Reid’s testimony before the grand jury was equivocal, and at one point she denied she had ever told the agents “Suspect #1” had said anything about killing a judge or lawyer on a hill, and then she denied that statement as well. She also denied that he had once driven her past the home where it happened, when she purportedly had told agents otherwise.
According to the motion, Reid said she may have told detectives that information at one point “but didn’t mean it.”
Reid’s attorneys argued she was presented with an “impossible dilemma” in which she couldn’t acknowledge a previous lie without violating her immunity agreement and exposing herself to obstruction charges, which were eventually filed.
Robert Gombiner, one of her Seattle attorneys, said Wednesday he could not comment on the government’s most recent filings. He said the defense will file a response with the court.
In defending the indictment, federal prosecutors acknowledge that verbal instructions presented to Reid by the prosecutor in front of the grand jury — where she was not allowed to have her attorney present — were “imprecise” and included a “mistaken description” of the immunity order, but that the error does not rise to misconduct or require the indictment to be dismissed.
The government denies it was trying to set a “perjury trap” for Reid to ensure an indictment, which could be used to pressure her cooperation.
Moreover, they say Reid was able to consult with her attorney during a break and had been given a copy of the full immunity document, which also was read to her verbatim at one point.
“There is no reason to believe that the prosecutor’s arguable misstep was an intention or reckless effort to deceive, or that it had any effect on the Defendant’s testimony, especially the false denials that resulted in her indictment,” wrote Matthew Hoff, a Department of Justice trial attorney with the Organized Crime and Gang Section in Washington, D.C., who has been assigned to Clymer’s team.
The government is also rejecting the defense’s request to review all the grand jury testimony leading to Reid’s indictment, and has notified the court that it plans to turn over as discovery to Reid a series of previously sealed recorded conversations between her and her father when he was in jail.
The judge had given the prosecution the right to withhold the evidence until a month before trial. The case was set to go to trial earlier this month, but the courthouse closures because of COVID-19 forced a continuance. No new trial date has been set, pending the outcome of the motion to dismiss.
The content of those recordings was not revealed, and Gombiner said he could not discuss it.