The Ruby Ridge saga continues. Five years to the day after 14-year-old Samuel Weaver and United States Marshal William Degan were killed in the initial confrontation at Randy Weaver’s residence, prosecutors in Boundary County, Idaho, indicted Weaver’s friend Kevin Harris on charges of first-degree murder. Weaver’s supporters were rightly outraged, with some claiming that the charges represent double jeopardy (Harris was cleared of similar charges at the federal level), and others pointing out that Harris deserves a medal for defending his friends against an assault by federal marshals, dressed in black, who had killed Weaver’s dog and opened fire on Weaver’s house without even identifying themselves. But instead of a medal, Harris could face the death penalty if convicted.

While Boundary County prosecutors claim to have new evidence that will show that Degan was killed while retreating (and may even have been off of Weaver’s property when he was shot), the possibility of a conviction in Harris’s case seems “fairly slim (as the extremely low bail—10,000—attests). Far more interesting is the decision of Boundary County prosecutor Denise Woodbury to indict FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi on manslaughter charges. Horiuchi, who killed Vicki Weaver as she held her baby in her arms, has become a symbol of an arrogant federal government that refuses to hold its agents accountable. Less than a week before, the Justice Department had declined to prosecute Horiuchi or any of the FBI officials involved in drawing up the “shoot on sight” rules of engagement. That decision seems to have spurred Woodbury to action. In fact, the Boundary County indictments were handed down August 21 in order to beat Idaho’s 5-year statute of limitations on manslaughter charges.

A county prosecuting a federal agent is a rare—perhaps unprecedented— event, but Woodbury’s decision to go after Horiuchi could not have come at a better time. With good reason, the public perceives federal law enforcement agencies as running amok. Everyone knows about Ruby Ridge and Waco; but there are an increasing number of local and regional cases that haven’t made the New York Times or the nightly news.

In a recent case, profiled in the Vancouver Columbian and the Portland Oregonian, 20 agents of the IRS, the FBI, and the BATF—with guns drawn—burst into the home of Jim Bell of Vancouver, Washington. The agents converged on the house in a dozen armored vehicles, confiscated Bell’s computer, and told the news media he was “armed and dangerous.” His crime: he had posted an essay on the Internet which discussed a libertarian- style scheme to dismantle government and to handle issues of security and justice through private means.

As the number of federal law enforcement officers increases (approximately ten percent of all law enforcement officers are federal agents) and the number of crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction rises, such cases become more common. Across the country, the DEA, the BATF, and the FBI, with or without the assistance of local authorities, all too frequently burst into private residences on the basis of incorrect or incomplete information supplied by paid informants. former business partners, or neighbors with a grudge. Federal agents occasionally issue an apology when an innocent person’s home is invaded, but apologies don’t repair property that has been damaged or bring back people who have been killed. As in the Ruby Ridge case, the FBI, BATF, and DEA refuse to discipline those responsible, and Janet Reno’s Justice Department declines to prosecute.

The Justice Department responded to Horiuchi’s indictment by saying that federal prosecutors and the prosecutors in Boundary County “enforce different criminal laws, using different legal standards.” That’s why this case is so important. At the state and local level, the presumption of innocence still applies to citizens, and willful misconduct by law enforcement officers is something to be punished, not rewarded. Unlike FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose main concern is that Horiuchi’s “rights as a federal law enforcement officer are fully protected,” Boundary County prosecutor Woodbury realizes that federal agents don’t have a right to do wrong. If other local and state prosecutors follow in her footsteps and indict federal agents for misdeeds in their jurisdictions, perhaps the emerging federal police state can be stifled in its infancy.