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Wednesday, June 27, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Attorney general visits Seattle, meets with family of slain federal prosecutor Wales

Seattle Times staff reporters

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met privately with the family of slain Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales in Seattle this morning, 5 ½ years after Wales was shot to death in his Queen Anne home. Gonzales said the Justice Department will "work as long and hard as it takes to solve this crime and prosecute those responsible."

The meeting took place at the office of the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, where Gonzales was visiting with local prosecutors during a brief trip to Seattle.

Gonzales decided to meet with members of the Wales family earlier this week after getting an update on the murder investigation from the lead Justice Department attorney on the case, a department official said.

Gonzales met with Amy Wales, Tom Wales' 27-year-old daughter; Elizabeth Wales, his former wife who remained on good terms with him after their divorce; and Eric Redman, Tom Wales' brother-in-law.

"This was the first time the A.G. came out, sat down and looked at Amy Wales and said, 'I am committed to this case,' " said Elizabeth Wales. "This is a good thing. Tom deserves that — any employee of Justice deserves that."

"I was very glad the meeting took place," Amy Wales said. "It was much appreciated."

She said she was convinced "more so than ever before" that the attorney general and the Justice Department were committed to the case.

The meeting also allowed the family to let Gonzales know about the loss suffered by her family and that "the human element was still very real and raw and not to be forgotten."

Gonzales told the family that it was unacceptable to lose federal prosecutors to a killing, Elizabeth Wales said.

Also at the meeting were Jeff Sullivan, the interim U.S. Attorney in Seattle, and Roger Davidheiser, a King County deputy prosecutor involved in the investigation of the killing, Elizabeth Wales said.

Gonzales later made his first public comments on the case in a written statement.

"Tom Wales is remembered as an outstanding prosecutor and a beloved member of the Seattle U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice," Gonzales said. "Bringing those involved in his killing to justice is of the utmost importance to the department."

Wales was killed in his Queen Anne house on Oct. 11, 2001, while sitting at a computer in his basement. The assailant fired through a window from the backyard and fled in a vehicle parked nearby. No one has been arrested in the slaying, although authorities have questioned a suspect.

The suspect is a Bellevue airline pilot who had been prosecuted by Wales in a fraud case in 2000. He has been under investigation since shortly after Wales was killed. The Seattle Times is not naming him because he has not been charged in the case.

Earlier today, Gonzales spoke to a gathering of about 50 technology executives at the Westin Hotel about the Justice Department's efforts to combat intellectual property theft and cyber crime.

Gonzales told the group that protecting intellectual property rights "is a question of national security" and asked for help from the private sector in combating increasingly sophisticated Internet crimes.

"You are among the victims of these crimes, you suffer the economic consequences, and we need your help," Gonzales said. "We need your expertise."

Gonzales delivered his remarks to an invitation-only gathering of TechNet Northwest, a political and policy organization that represents the interests of technology companies.

Gonzales said intellectual-property theft is a major priority of his department in part because it is a relatively low-risk crime that generates large amounts of money that organizations can use for more dangerous pursuits, "perhaps to finance terrorism."

Other forms of intellectual-property theft can pose public health and safety risks, Gonzales said, such as criminals who manufacture and sell counterfeit medicines online.

Gonzales described several prominent prosecutions of intellectual-property crimes in recent months, including the indictment of Robert Alan Soloway, dubbed the "spam king," last month in Seattle. Soloway faces 35 counts of mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and fraud for sending millions of spam e-mails around the globe.

"In bringing cases like this one we recognize that spam is not just an annoyance," Gonzales said. "Such hostile uses of the Internet are a very real threat, and we take them seriously."

Gonzales made no mention of the controversy surrounding his firing last year of eight U.S. attorneys, including John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, either in his prepared remarks or in a short question-and-answer period.

Gonzales also did not discuss recent developments in the antitrust feud between Google and Microsoft.

While Gonzales was speaking at the Westin, 30 to 40 protesters gathered on the sidewalks outside, most carrying signs protesting the war in Iraq, but they did not disrupt the attorney general's remarks.

Later today he will travel to Spokane to participate in a roundtable discussion on gang violence.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or dbowermaster@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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