Justice Delayed, Justice Denied: Retired ATF Agent Makes Final Case Against Corrupt Supervisors

Posted: Dec 05, 2018 7:00 AM

It’s been 10 years since the home of retired ATF Agent [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] Agent Jay Dobyns burned down in the middle of the night. His wife and children were inside. Luckily, they survived.

For months prior to the arson Dobyns, who risked his life to work undercover in the infamous Hells Angels motorcycle gang, reported documented death threats against himself and his family. Here is a portion of the lengthy backstory

Jay Dobyns is a father, husband and 25-year highly respected and highly decorated Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent. He was the first law enforcement agent to ever successfully infiltrate multiple layers of the notoriously dangerous and violent Hells Angels motorcycle gang through "Operation Black Biscuit." He has described the Hells Angels as having their "PhDs in violence," and worked undercover in the gang for two years. Dobyns has dedicated his life to undercover service for ATF and took a bullet through the lung at one point for the agency. Luckily, he survived.

Dobyns has put a number of the nations’ most violent criminals behind bars, which naturally comes with threats from those criminals and their buddies in return. After he finished his work bringing down the Hells Angels, things were no different.

Approximately a year after Operation Black Biscuit concluded beginning in 2004 through 2008, Dobyns and ATF became aware of credible and substantial violent threats against him and his family. Those threats 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. Dobyns and ATF also learned contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats.

Dobyns reported these threats to Special Agent in Charge William Newell, asking for protection for his family. The threats were based in Arizona and Dobyns lived in Arizona at the time. Newell was in charge of investigating and handling all threats made against agents working out of the ATF Phoenix Field Office. The threats were ignored. When Dobyns essentially "blew the whistle" on Newell, pointing out his failures to address violent death threats against a federal agent, he was retaliated against. Newell dismissed the threats and then covered up his blatant dismissal of those threats within the Phoenix Field Office.

A DOJ Inspector General report concluded that management within the ATF Phoenix office, despite having the necessary resources, did not adequately address threats made against Dobyns and found "absence of any corrective measures proposed to address the failure to conduct timely and thorough investigations into the death threats made against Dobyns."

Not only did ATF supervisors ignore the threats against Dobyns and his family, they attempted to frame him as the individual who set his home on fire.

Today, his lengthy legal battle against the agency he once served may finally come to an end.

Dobyns will appear in U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. His attorney will make the argument, with evidence and an Inspector General report, that corrupt ATF bureaucrats ignored threats and then attempted to falsely convict him with arson.

"ATF's Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations (OPRSO) in ATF’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) issued a report of Case: 15-5020 Document: 68 investigation (ROI-2) of multiple complaints Dobyns made to ATF and to the Inspector General about ATF’s violations of ATF orders and policies regarding the agency’s response to the August 10, 2008 arson of his home," the appellate brief states in Jay Anthony Dobyns v. United States. "Dobyns alleged wrongdoing by then-ATF Phoenix Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William Newell, and ATF managers Marino Vidoli and Steven Pugmire. The report contains 641 pages of facts, evidence, sworn witness testimony, emails, memoranda, and ATF orders and policies."

Four years ago, United States Court of Federal Claims Judge Francis Allegra ruled in favor of Dobyns. 

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. 

"I filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Claims. Pre-trial, I was proposed a sizeable settlement, an amount that far exceeded what I ultimately won in court. I refused it. The government executives and lawyers who offered it did so not to let me walk away, but rather so they could issue a hush money payoff that would ensure their dirty deeds would go unexposed and hidden," Dobyns said about the case. "After a five-year litigation and trial, Judge Francis Allegra concluded that the government abandoned, betrayed and retaliated against me in the face of known, credible and verified murder contracts from a variety of international crime syndicates and their associates."

"The DOJ immediately appealed my winning verdict. Their threat to extend the fight and out-resource me wasn’t a bluff," Dobyns continued. "Even if you win against DOJ, you don’t really win.  At best you survive, or surrender. One of the most humiliating events of my life is the official title of my lawsuit: Dobyns v. U.S.A. I never have been, nor ever will be against the U.S.A. I spent my entire adult life, spilled my own blood, gallons of it, fighting for her."

Dobyns continues that fight today.

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