A man named as a witness in the murders of two Navajo police officers recanted his earlier statement Monday in U.S. District Court, saying he had been coerced by a Navajo tribal officer and the FBI.
Boyd Grey, 17, said he was interviewed by the FBI three times concerning the deaths of Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay, who were shot and burned in the Monument Valley area of the Navajo reservation Dec. 5, 1987.Trial had been scheduled to begin Monday for defendants Thomas Cly, Marques Atene, Vinton Bedonie and Ben Atene Jr. But U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene put off the trial and instead held a hearing on defense allegations that false testimony had been induced by threats against witnesses.
Grey, speaking through a translator, said he told the FBI two different versions. "First, I said we didn't go to the bonfire (where the shootings happened); that's what I said. The second one, that's when I said we went over there."
He said he made the latter statement on April 22 and that it was written by FBI agent Tim Healy.
He said a Navajo tribal officer, Everett Grayeyes, had told him, "If you get a lawyer, he's going to go ahead and go to jail with you anyway."
During the second FBI interview, which lasted 2-3 hours, agents "kept telling me I was lying," Grey said.
He quoted an agent as saying, "We're going to just sit here until you change your statement." He said the agents didn't believe his earlier denial that he was present. He said he was instructed to name men who supposedly killed the officers. It was not clear from his testimony who gave these instructions.
"Were you at the bonfire?" asked defense lawyer Walter Bugden.
"No," Grey replied.
He said on April 26 he informed the FBI that the April 22 statement had been false. When he tried to recant, Agent Healy "kept getting mad at me and he took us down to the county jail. . . . We were told we were going to be put in jail if we had changed our statement." He also said Healy slammed down a telephone in an angry or violent way during the conversation.
That was the day before he and another witness appeared the federal grand jury investigating the murders.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Walz asked Grey where Grayeyes had made the threat. "At my cousin's brother's residence," he responded, which is near Promised Rock.
Walz pressed him, asking whether the April 22 statement, which carries a signature swearing it is true, was actually lie. "Yes. Just the bonfire" was a lie, Grey responded.
Bugden's first witness, Boyd Atene, was a complete failure for the defense, as he said the FBI did not threaten him and the statement about witnessing events was true, while his first statement - that he didn't see anything - was the lie. He said he was charged with perjury after he recanted a statement that he had seen events at the bonfire, so now he was telling the truth.
He said he lied to the grand jury and defense lawyers because he wanted to get out of being a witness. His perjury charge is going to be dropped, Atene said.