About the same time yesterday that National Public Radio was publishing an interview with B. Todd Jones, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal grand jury in Seattle handed down a 38-page indictment against a former ATF supervisor at the agency’s field office here that contains serious allegations of embezzlement and making false statements.
In the NPR interview, reporter Carrie Johnson noted, “By all accounts…Jones has cleaned house at the ATF.”
Jones’ reported “house cleaning” primarily has to do with his personnel changes involving ATF agents involved in Operation Fast & Furious, the scandal covered here for more than two years after National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea, working with independent blogger Mike Vanderboegh, first broke the story in late 2010. Many of those involved are no longer with the agency, and others were reassigned to different duties.
There is no indication that the case against former agent James Contreras, detailed here by the Seattle Times andhere by the Seattle P-I. com, has anything to do with a “house cleaning.” He left the agency more than a year ago. The Seattle Times reported at the time that he had resigned, but he insisted then that he had retired. Jones came aboard as acting ATF director in 2011.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco, which is handling the case, cautioned, “Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, James Contreras must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
An ATF spokesperson in Washington, D.C. said the agency will not comment on the case, and referred this column to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle. That office referred Examiner to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of California. The case is not being handled by the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s office under Jenny Durkan. The Times noted that prosecutors in the Seattle office recused themselves, and that was confirmed by Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the Seattle office.
Yesterday’s indictment, according to both newspapers, includes a single count alleging embezzlement and 30 counts alleging he made false statements. Allegations reportedly include taking money from a cash account under his supervision and falsifying documents.
MEANWHILE, yesterday’s delivery of an estimated 340,000 signatures by backers of Initiative 591 has become something of a line-drawing event, with public reaction showing two distinct sides and not much middle ground. That much is being demonstrated by comments to the Seattle Times and KOMO coverage.
This column yesterday quoted both Alan Gottlieb from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Phil Shave, executive director of the Washington Arms Collectors, but only provided a brief overview of remarks from Bill Burris, representing the Washington Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association.
Yet Burris may have made the most significant observation of all when he noted that not only is WSLEFIA supporting I-591, it will oppose the competing Initiative 594, the 15-page gun control measure sponsored by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
There might be some interesting discussion over the horizon about which group knows more about “gun responsibility,” a Seattle-based organization of gun control proponents or a coalition consisting of hunters, gun collectors…and law enforcement firearms instructors.
Question of the day: If John F. Kennedy, a life member of the National Rifle Association and a genuine WWII hero, had not been assassinated 50 years ago today, would there be such a bitter national debate today about firearms rights?