A Marysville woman who for the past two years has been in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors for allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating the 2001 murder of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge.
U.S. District Judge James Robart sentenced Shawna Reid to time served — a total of nine days in custody since she was indicted in 2019 — with no additional supervised release, plus a $25 fine. Robart took Reid’s plea at a Zoom court hearing announced just hours before it convened Monday morning.
The 2019 indictment of Reid on felony charges of lying to and obstructing a grand jury investigating Wales’ killing was seen as a potential break in the frustrating case, and offered a glimpse into a small group of Snohomish County individuals the FBI believes has information about the case — including the identity of a purported hit man. However, prosecutorial missteps and Reid’s shifting story, sketchy memory and troubled past combined to undermine the case.
The government appears to have gotten little out of the prosecution, although when Reid was indicted, members of the Seattle Prosecutor Murder FBI task force and the special prosecutors on the case hoped for more. Just before Reid testified before the grand jury on Feb. 26, 2018, the Department of Justice announced it was increasing the reward for information in Wales’ death to $1.5 million.
Reid was indicted on charges of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. A conviction could have sent her to prison for up to five years.
Reid, who said she is a stay-at-home mother for her two young children and living with her fiancé in Marysville, said she was grateful to the court and its pretrial supervision, which has helped her through drug treatment and enabled her to stay sober for six months.
“I’m doing amazing and I want to keep it that way,” Reid, 36, told the judge. “I’m just happy to move forward with my life.”
“She has been under the stress of this for four years and just wants to put it behind her and look to the future,” said her attorney, Michael Nance.
The plea agreement alleges Reid “willfully” attempted to obstruct the court order that she testify truthfully to the grand jury in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Nance said Reid never had anything more to offer the investigation. The plea agreement contains no cooperation clause. Her attorneys have insisted the government went hunting for a whale “but caught a minnow” and said Reid has nothing to offer the case, and that her shifting testimony and patchy memory make her worthless as a witness.
“Sometimes in these cases, the federal government gets tunnel vision,” Nance said. “That’s what we think happened here.”
Earlier this month, Robart reprimanded and chastised the special prosecutors out of Washington, D.C., brought in to handle the case, for “carelessness” by failing to turn over evidence to the defense. However, he said he would not dismiss the indictment against Reid, who was set to go to trial next month.
Telephone messages left with the case’s prosecutors, DOJ trial attorneys Matthew Hoff and Christina Taylor, both assigned to the Organized Crime and Gang Division in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned. A Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement that the Wales case “continues to be a high priority.”
The indictment alleged Reid lied to a Seattle federal grand jury about statements purportedly made to her by an individual identified in court papers as “Suspect #1” — a man federal agents say bragged to Reid about being involved in Wales’ death.
According to court documents and law enforcement sources, Suspect #1 is an acquaintance of the individual believed to have killed Wales on contract, and Suspect #1 is believed to have acted as a lookout while the job was done.
During her appearance before the grand jury on Feb. 28, 2018, Reid claimed the government lawyers laid a “perjury trap” — tricking her into telling a lie — so they could indict her, with the goal of pressuring her to give more information about Suspect #1 and others. Her attorney, Nance, has said it was a dry well and that Reid had no firsthand knowledge of the crime or those involved in it.
Wales, a white-collar prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, was shot to death in the basement of his Queen Anne Hill home on Oct. 11, 2001.
According to the FBI, Reid said in an interview with an agent and a Seattle police detective in August 2017 that Suspect #1 had bragged about having information about the death of a “judge or attorney who lived on top of a hill.” Reid was a teenager when Wales was killed, and began dating the man, who was older, after the killing.
In a plea agreement read during the hearing but not yet filed with the court, Reid reportedly told the agent and detective that Suspect #1 had driven her by the house, which she described as “ginormous” with a lawn out front.
However, Reid denied making those statements when she testified before the grand jury. Her attorneys say federal prosecutors misrepresented a grant of immunity Reid had been given in order to compel her testimony and then had her indicted by another grand jury for lying.
It was her response to an order compelling her testimony in exchange for the grant of immunity that forms the basis of the misdemeanor charge of “obstruction of court orders” that she pleaded guilty to Monday.
Reid’s indictment was the first issued in connection with the nearly 20-year-old investigation, which has been troubled from the start. Wales’ murder occurred a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, so there were delays in focusing FBI resources toward the killing. Officials have also acknowledged problems with evidence collection at the crime scene.
Even so, a task force of FBI agents and Seattle police detectives, which has been working the homicide full time now for nearly two decades, remains focused on an airline pilot whom Wales once prosecuted for fraud as the prime suspect. They believe he hired a hit man — an individual in Snohomish County and a friend of Reid’s — to sneak into Wales’ backyard and shoot him dead as he sat at a basement computer.
Wales, if he was killed as a result of his job, would be the first federal prosecutor in U.S. history to die in the line of duty. The Department of Justice has offered a $1.5 million reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Seattle Times special correspondent Steve Miletich contributed to this story.