MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former head of the Minneapolis FBI office sent federal lawmakers a letter Thursday sharply criticizing President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, calling B. Todd Jones an ineffective leader who consistently declined to prosecute violent gang, drug and gun crimes.
Donald Oswald, a former special agent in charge in Minneapolis, said in the letter mailed to Senate Judiciary Committee members that he felt morally compelled to share what he called Jones' "atrocious professional reputation" among Minnesota law enforcement. Oswald said he felt he could speak out because he has retired, while active law enforcement authorities might fear retaliation.
"When I learned on TV that Todd Jones had been nominated by the president for ATF director, I reacted physically ill to it and it bothered me for several days until I decided I had to do something, and I had to put this letter forward to reveal exactly what kind of a leader he is," Oswald said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Jones, currently acting director of the ATF, was unable to comment on Oswald's claims because his confirmation is pending before the Senate. But several people who have worked with Jones called him an outstanding leader who takes violent crime seriously.
A former Marine, Jones has been U.S. attorney for Minnesota since 2009. Obama announced in mid-January that he would nominate Jones to lead the ATF, an agency that hasn't had a permanent director for six years.
Oswald's letter, which he provided to AP, accuses Jones of impeding federal prosecutions of gang, drug and gun laws. Oswald said Jones was instead "substantially motivated by personal political gain and not by doing what's in the best interest of the citizens he is sworn to protect."
Oswald ran the Minneapolis FBI office from spring 2011 to spring 2012 before retiring to practice law in south Florida. During that time, he wrote, agents and others believed Jones did not support violent cases. Oswald said when complaints were raised, Jones "reacted defensively and often spoke to us disrespectfully, and occasionally with disdain." Federal agencies contacted by the AP declined to comment for this story. The Minneapolis FBI office noted Oswald is now a private citizen and his views do not reflect the views of the bureau.
Sen. Charles Grassley, the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, issued a statement calling Oswald's allegations "very disturbing" and said they would be examined closely.
Oswald said Department of Justice statistics show Jones' office charged 329 defendants in fiscal year 2012, down 40 percent from the 546 people charged in fiscal year 2011. In violent crime and gun cases, 80 people were charged last year compared with 125 in fiscal year 2011.
Jeanne Cooney, the U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman, said the office has shifted focus because crime has shifted.
"This office takes fewer gun and violent crime cases than it had previously because we now take the worst of the worst offenders, leaving the others to be prosecuted at the state level," she said. "And they are very effectively prosecuted there."
Cooney said that allows the federal prosecutor's office to use resources on larger cases. For example, she said, violent crime prosecutions have indeed fallen in number, but sentences are higher. For fiscal year 2012, almost three-quarters of all offenders sentenced to prison for gun or other violent crimes were ordered to serve five years or more, compared to about half of offenders before Jones.
Ralph Boelter, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis office from 2007 through 2011, said he had a good relationship with Jones. Continued...