In yet another in a long line of examples of malfeasance by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) continues to fight a former agent in court after leaving him and his family unprotected following the conclusion of a lengthy undercover operation.
And the latest action by the court is nothing but bad news for the agency. Among other things, Court of Federal Claims Judge Francis Allegra angrily accused seven DOJ attorneys of “fraud upon the court” by intimidating a witness in the case of former ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns.
Now, Judge Allegra has banned those attorneys from further filing documents in his court, has ordered additional hearings to investigate the attorneys’ actions and even directly notified Holder of the misconduct.
The judge had previously ruled in Dobyns’ favor, but withdrew his own decision after learning about the ATF attorneys’ misconduct.
To understand the significance of the judge’s actions, some background on the case is necessary.
Dobyns has taken on the worst of the worst in his career. But he never dreamed he would be taking on his own government. Dobyns claims that after risking his life and his family’s, he was betrayed by the very agency he was proud to serve for 27 years.
In 2001, Dobyns was tasked to go undercover to infiltrate the notorious biker gang the Hells Angels, which he did quite successfully. But when the Hells Angels operation ended and Dobyns’ role in the investigation was revealed, death threats started coming.
“Years and years of death and violence threats against me and my family have been ignored by the ATF,” Dobyns said. “There was [sic] threats to kidnap and gang rape my wife on videotape that ATF disregarded—never reacted to. There was evidence of threats, of murder contracts on me, being solicited amongst various criminal groups—the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood, the MS-13—that ATF did not want to pay any mind to.”
The last straw was when Dobyns’ home was burned to the ground while his wife and children were at home (thankfully, they escaped unharmed). According to Dobyns’ attorney, James Reed, rather than investigate the crime to see who actually committed it, ATF instead claimed Dobyns had burned down his own house and pursued him as a suspect.
That spurred Dobyns to take the agency to court to prove the ATF corruption he was left to fight after his abandonment following the Hells Angels operation.
“This has been what is characterized as an American law enforcement horror story,” Dobyns said. “And at this point, I can’t differentiate between the conduct of ATF executives and the Hells Angels.”
In fact, Dobyns let ATF know early on that he wouldn’t be backing down—he refused to be bullied. But the agency, not always fettered by truth and honesty, wasn’t about to retreat.“We have a dangerous job that assumes risk. But our job is to protect the American people, to handle America’s business for violent crime. I’m not afraid. I will stand up to the bully.”
“I told ATF’s executives face to face, ‘I will see this through, or I will die trying. But you will not break me, you will not get me to quit,’” Dobyns said. “We have a dangerous job that assumes risk. But our job is to protect the American people, to handle America’s business for violent crime. I’m not afraid. I will stand up to the bully.”
Yet what Dobyns quickly found was a Justice Department that, as in other cases like Fast and Furious, will do anything it can to hide the truth, twist the truth, and protect itself, no matter how dishonest. In the Fast and Furious scandal, ATF intentionally put more than 2,000 firearms into the hands of Mexican drug gangs and other criminals. Yet stonewalling of the truth by the DOJ continues to this day, even resulting in Holder becoming the first attorney general held in contempt of Congress.
Similarly in this case, even after an internal ATF investigation determined Dobyns was correct, DOJ continued in its quest to discredit him.
“This is how Eric Holder’s DOJ, with the word ‘justice’ in its title, handles America’s business and treats our law enforcement officers,” Dobyns said. “It happens because people become power-corrupt. The ATF internal affairs report found the agency guilty of what they had done, and they stood by and allowed DOJ to continue to attack me—even though they had a hard, cold document in their hands, internally produced, that told them that everything DOJ was denying and arguing against was actually true, and it was accurate.
“They have each other’s back, and that’s it. Everybody else is left to fend for themselves. The DOJ strategy was to deny the truth, to morph the truth and to hope to out-resource me.”
That’s exactly what the judge found in an earlier hearing, where Dobyns was victorious in the ruling.
“Today in court, U.S. Federal Judge Francis Allegra stated that the government’s treatment of me was wretched,” Dobyns said on Feb. 18, 2014, following closing arguments. “He said that the misconduct that was impacted on me was purposeful, it was based on professional jealousy, or nothing else than spite.”
Now, in the recently unsealed court documents, Allegra’s newest statements indicate even more treachery and dishonesty on the part of the Department of Justice.
The unsealed documents indicate, among other things, that:
- An ATF attorney attempted to thwart an investigation into arson at Dobyns’ house, and fellow ATF attorneys failed to report the incident to the court. Those actions put the integrity of the trial at risk, according to the judge.
- Reed, Dobyns’ attorney, has been under surveillance for months by several unidentified people.
Earlier the court found that two now-retired ATF executives, George Gillett and Charles Higman, allowed Dobyns to be treated as a suspect in the 2008 fire as a form of payback for a previous settlement he had received against ATF for largely ignoring earlier death threats against him.
That, in fact, coincided with the results of an ATF internal investigation, which was completely disregarded by the DOJ.
“Nobody cared about what the OIG [Office of Inspector General] found,” Dobyns said. “They sent that report to President [Barack] Obama. They sent it to Eric Holder. They ignored it. And they left those people in place, knowing that the allegations were true.
“And what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and ultimately, [Border Patrol Agent] Brian Terry’s death, should be no surprise to them. They were corrupt, they were dirty, they were criminals. And they chose to believe, ultimately, the people that ran Fast and Furious instead of me.”
Last August 25, Allegra ruled that ATF violated good faith and fair dealing related to a prior agreement the agency had with Dobyns. The judge awarded Dobyns $173,000, which was a fraction of what he sought, and rejected ATF’s claim to a slice of the royalties from Dobyns’ bestselling autobiography, “No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels.”
ATF appealed and Dobyns cross-appealed. That’s when the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals gave the case back to Allegra to reconsider.
Dobyns’ attorney is currently awaiting further instructions from Allegra on how the trial will move forward. As for Dobyns, he doesn’t plan to back down—ever.
“I think that as agents, we hope to leave some kind of legacy behind,” he said. “And I never believed that my legacy would be someone that was fighting against my government for justice.
“What DOJ and ATF never understood was that this lawsuit was never about money. You cannot repay me for what they’ve done to my reputation, my career, what they’ve done to harm my family—the exposure they have left us under. There is no amount of money that will make that right.”