LAS VEGAS – After threats of legislation by Nevada's senators, the Agriculture Department has abandoned attempts to get a videotape of the tiger attack on illusionist Roy Horn (search) in Las Vegas last year.
The USDA (search) had sought the tape as part of its investigation into the incident, but reluctantly agreed instead to just view the footage, a USDA official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"The USDA is no longer seeking possession of the tape," the official said.
Horn was mauled by a 380-pound tiger during a live performance Oct. 3 at The Mirage (search) hotel-casino. He survived but remains partially paralyzed.
USDA spokesman Jim Rogers declined to talk about the case but did say the USDA will "pursue every piece of evidence we can."
A spokewoman for Sen. Harry Reid (search), Tessa Hafen, confirmed Tuesday that the USDA had agreed to only view the view.
Reid had drafted an amendment that would have prohibited USDA investigators from forcing Feld Entertainment Inc., producer of the Siegfried & Roy (search) show, to turn over the video.
A copy of the proposed amendment obtained by The Associated Press would prohibit the use of federal money to obtain the videotape "through a subpoena ... or any other means."
Reid drafted the amendment after a friend of the illusionist contacted him. The senator said the USDA was being unreasonable, and he wanted to protect Horn's privacy.
The USDA subpoenaed Feld Entertainment in April, but the company refused to hand over the footage. It offered to show investigators the tape. The USDA refused, not wanting the Vienna, Va.-based company dictating how the agency should run its probe.
Feld Entertainment said it didn't want the footage to fall into the hands of the media. Horn and his partner, Siegfried Fischbacher (search), also said they didn't want the images of the attack being replayed repeatedly on television.
A spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Darin Johnson, said Tuesday that his company was scheduling a joint viewing with USDA investigators.
Campaign finance records show the two performers, along with their longtime manager, Bernie Yuman, and Kenneth Feld, president and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, have given more than $30,000 since 1982 to the campaigns and political action committees of Reid, a Democrat, and Sen. John Ensign, a Republican.
Larry Noble, head of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics (search) in Washington, said the proposed amendment crossed the line of appropriate conduct.
Noble called the move egregious, saying "it was an attempt to interfere with a law enforcement and regulatory effort by a federal agency. The USDA is the expert in the field."
"Sen. Reid has not interfered with the investigation," she said. "He has in fact helped it go forward while respecting laws that protect an individual's privacy."