After a long six year court battle with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Special Agent and whistleblower Jay Dobyns says he as been vindicated after Federal Judge Francis Allegra ruled in his favor late Tuesday. Dobyns, who infiltrated the dangerous and deadly Hells Angels gang as an undercover agent years ago, brought a lawsuit against the Bureau after supervisors ignored death threats to his family, which included plans to murder him either with a bullet or by injecting him with the AIDS virus, kidnapping and torturing his then 15-year-old daughter and kidnapping his wife in order to videotape a gang rape of her. Contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats, which were laid out in prison letters and confirmed through FBI and ATF interviews of confidential informants inside numerous detention centers. In 2008, his Tucson home was burned to the ground. When the fire was started, his wife and children were inside. Luckily, they escaped. Instead of investigating, ATF supervisors accused Dobyns of being the arsonist.
"I have been vindicated. First, I must thank God who provided me with strength and faith during these events. I thank those who have supported me; family, friends, peers and strangers but mostly my wife and kids – they have been the true victims here and been forced to suffer too needlessly," Dobyns wrote about the ruling on his website, where he released the news. "An agency I spilled my own blood for and enthusiastically accepted every dirty assignment on behalf of for twenty-seven years, knowingly and intentionally accused me of a crime I did not commit; being a person who would murder his own wife and children by fire."
In his opinion, Allegra said ATF exhibited "organizational weaknesses," in handling the threats against Dobyns and described ATF officials as demonstrating misfeasance in the case "rooted in the sorry failure of some ATF officials."
“The violations occurred because of the way officials like ASAC Gillett and RAC Higman functioned – and were allowed to function – after the arson, especially in terms of how Agent Dobyns was treated”; “In the courts view, the evidence showed that ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman knew that Agent Dobyns was not responsible for the fire, and still allowed him to be treated as a suspect as a form of payback. Moreover, ATF officials knew, or should have known, that individuals like ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman should not have been allowed to participate in the investigation – as it turned out their conduct was not only reprehensible, but predictably so. In donning blinders in this regard, ATF officials compounded potential harm that might have befallen the Dobyns family,” the opinion states.
In his writing about the ruling, Dobyns stressed that the abuses toward him occurred prior to Operation Fast and Furious and were carried out by many of the same players (ASAC Gillett being one of them) ultimately responsible for the bloody project that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.
During Operation Black Biscuit, Dobyns operated as a special field agent under ATF Phoenix Field Office management. At the time of the threats, that management team included Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Division William Newell, Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Gillett and ATF Deputy Assistant Director William McMahon, who served as Newell’s direct supervisor at the time. All were intimately involved in Operation Fast and Furious. Newell and McMahon have both testified before the House Oversight Committee regarding their roles in the lethal gun trafficking operation that deliberately put over 2,000 high powered weapons into the hands of ruthless Mexican drug cartels and allowed those weapons to be lost south of the border.
Dobyns warned ATF about corrupt, power hungry supervisors for years and was ignored.
"Why is that important? Because in 2007 and 2008 I warned ATF of the dangers of these people well in advance of Fast and Furious providing them ample time to prevent what was coming. The asleep-at-the-wheel malfeasance of Michael Sullivan, Ronnie Carter, Billy Hoover and Ken Melson empowered them. Once the corruption was exposed they all questioned, 'How did this happen?'" Dobyns wrote. "It happened while I was being buried and tormented by ATF for speaking out and the ringleaders of Fast and Furious remained un-touched, un-investigated, un-disciplined at a time when they were just beginning to orchestrate the greatest law enforcement scandal of the modern era."
Dobyns will be rewarded damages from ATF. In the lawsuit ATF argued the Bureau is entitled to book royalties from Dobyns' New York Times Bestseller No Angel. That argument was denied.
"I thank the select few of my ATF peers who displayed the courage to publicly stand by me when doing so put their own careers and reputations at risk. Friends I thought I had vanished while friends I never knew I had arrived. There is nothing comparable to “pressure” in a time of need to find out who truly believes in you...Doing the right thing is not always easy but, it is always right," Dobyns wrote.
“Jay Dobyns spent two years as an undercover agent infiltrating the Hells Angels. His bravery resulted in 16 indictments against the group, including charges of racketeering and murder. After this period, he and his family were utterly terrorized by this organization and received virtually no protection from the federal government he spent 27 years serving. The family even survived arson while his wife and children were asleep in their home. Instead of supporting Mr. Dobyns, the federal government turned its back on him, accusing this celebrated law enforcement agent of committing the crimes himself," Chairman Alfred Regnery of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, the organization representing Dobyns in the case, said in a statement. “Judge Allegra’s decision is just one step in restoring Mr. Dobyns’ reputation. It is also an unfortunate reminder of the deplorable treatment of law enforcement agents are under the Obama Administration. That is why the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is proud to have supported Mr. Dobyns and will continue to fight for justice for those who serve our country.”
Editor's note I: I've had the honor and pleasure of getting to know Jay Dobyns over the past few years. He is a good man who has been through hell. Jay has become a friend, has given me valuable insight into ATF and was gracious enough to write the intro to my book about Operation Fast and Furious. He has done this country a great service through his more than 25 years of law enforcement work and through his brave stance as a whistleblower. Although ATF hasn't changed and still refuses to prosecute corrupt supervisors, I am grateful to see the court system deliver justice. Thank you Jay for all that you have done and congratulations.
Editor's note II: This post has been updated with a statement from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, the organization representing Dobyns in his case against the government.