Department Assigns Outside Investigator to Review Reno Cases
By Elizabeth Murphy | December 12, 2012 3:01 pm

The Justice Department has assigned an independent prosecutor to review firearms cases that the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office allegedly threw to the wayside while feuding with the Reno office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to a report by the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The department has assigned a prosecutor and agent to determine whether further action should be taken in those cases, said Judith Appelbaum, acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs, in a letter to three lawmakers inquiring about the matter. She did not identify the prosecutor and agent, but did say the statute of limitations shouldn’t be an issue in any of the cases.

Judith Appelbaum

“We can inform you, however, that the cases at issue that were submitted by ATF to (the U.S. Attorneys) for a decision on federal prosecution are being independently reviewed by an experienced prosecutor and agent from outside the District of Nevada,” Appelbaum wrote.“Determinations will be made as to whether further law enforcement action should be undertaken regarding any of these matters.”

The probe began when the Reno Gazette-Journal published an investigation in October of what it called a year-long feud between ATF and the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office, headed by Dan Bogden. Federal prosecutors in Nevada had refused to prosecute a number of offenders ATF caught illegally buying or selling firearms and drugs, the article said.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the newspaper that the department needs to open up about the alleged breakdown between the federal offices in Nevada.

Charles Grassley

“The Justice Department put itself and the residents of Reno in a bad position by allowing the problems to fester between the Reno U.S. Attorney’s office and the ATF,” Grassley said in an email to the Reno Journal Gazette. “Their attempt to correct the mistakes of the past is a step in the right direction, but we still need to know how the problem ever reached such a crescendo and the impact on the people of the Reno area and the American taxpayer.”

Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, said the department’s response on Friday was “completely inadequate.”

“Senator Heller will continue to work with Senator Grassley and [Rep. Mark] Amodei [R-Nev.] to find out why this breakdown within the Department of Justice occurred and how they plan to resolve it,” Chandler Smith, spokeswoman for Heller, told the newspaper.

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