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Entries in DOJ (2)

Tuesday
Apr032012

DOJ Breaks Off Negotiations With Defiant Sheriff Joe Arpaio

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department has cut off negotiations with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and officials with the Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office in its effort to install an independent monitor to rein in the unconstitutional tactics used by officers there.

Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” defied the Justice Department suggestion that it could sue the county and the sheriff’s office to force the issue.

“I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected Sheriff and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government,” he said in a letter the Justice Department Tuesday. “And so to the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say, ‘This will not happen, not on my watch!’”

In December, the Justice Department released findings in its investigation of Arpaio’s office, noting there were significant civil rights violations, including the use of excessive force, and other systemic problems.

The Justice Department said in a letter to Arpaio’s attorney Friday that despite the sheriff’s office acknowledging the need for an independent judicial monitor to oversee reforms, “MCSO has now walked back from its agreement.”

“DOJ considers the oversight of an independent monitor to be an absolute necessity for meaningful and sustainable reform of MCSO,” Roy Austin, the Civil Rights Division’s deputy assistant attorney general, wrote to Arpaio’s attorney.

“It was disappointing, to say the least, for you to contact us 24 hours before our negotiations were scheduled to continue and raise for the first time, a precondition that you understood would result in the cancellation of negotiations,” he wrote.

“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” he wrote. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources. The violations of the Constitution and federal law identified in our December 15 letter have not been meaningfully addressed and continue to negatively impact the lives of all Maricopa County residents.”

According to the letter, representatives from the MCSO also canceled a meeting at the last minute on Feb. 27 and took more than two weeks to reschedule the meeting with the Justice Department.

In recent weeks, the sheriff’s office has apparently been claiming it needs additional information from the Justice Department in order to reach a settlement.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating Arpaio’s office since June 2008.  There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into officials at the sheriff’s office.

In the letter sent Tuesday, the Justice Department said it is moving closer to suing the county and sheriff’s office in federal court, in an effort to implement the federal monitor.

The sheriff’s office said in response that appointing an outside monitor “usurps the powers and duties of an elected sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government … nullifying the authority of the elected Sheriff and eviscerating the will of the citizens of Maricopa County.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec082011

Fast and Furious Scandal: DOJ Official Faces Heat, Eric Holder to Testify

Sen. Charles Grassley. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded on Wednesday that the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division resign over the controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' gun trafficking program known as Fast and Furious.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has provided inaccurate statements and information to Congress on Fast and Furious, which allowed thousands of weapons to flow into Mexico.

ATF officials say they hoped to track the guns to their ultimate destination, and then make arrests.  Instead, many of the guns were used in crimes, including one that was used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

In recent months, ongoing Congressional investigations have focused on what senior Justice Department officials knew about the program. Attorney General Eric Holder -- who some accuse of misleading Congress about his involvement in the scandal -- is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to testify again about it. Emails prove Holder was far more involved -- and for far longer -- than he previously admitted.

Last Friday, the Justice Department withdrew a Feb. 4, 2011 letter that was sent to Sen. Grassley that asserted that ATF did not let guns walk into Mexico.

Breuer has said that he was not involved in the review or drafting of the letter sent to Grassley’s office --despite emails showing that he was aware of the initial inquiry from Sen. Grassley and sending drafts of the letter to his personal non-government email account.

“So imagine my surprise when I discover from documents provided Friday night that Mr. Breuer was far more informed during the drafting of that letter than he admitted before the Judiciary Committee.  In fact, Mr. Breuer got frequent updates on the status of the letter while he was in Mexico.” Grassley said on the Senate floor.  “If you can’t be straight with Congress, you don’t need to be running the Criminal Division.  It’s time to stop spinning and start taking responsibility.  I have long said that the highest-ranking official who knew about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious needs to be held accountable.”

In a statement, Justice Department Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler said, “Assistant Attorney General Breuer has acknowledged his mistake in not making -- and therefore not alerting Department leadership to -- a connection between the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious and the unacceptable tactics used years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver.  He has acknowledged that mistake to Congress and to the Attorney General, who continues to have confidence in Assistant Attorney General Breuer’s ability to lead the Criminal Division.”

According to a CBS News report, documents show ATF authorities sought to use U.S. weapons found in Mexico -- guns it allowed to flow over the border -- as justification to stiffen gun laws in the U.S.







ABC News Radio