Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chided Attorney General Eric Holder today at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the force the Justice Department used during a high-profile raid earlier this month on people who allegedly took American Indian artifacts from government lands in Utah.
Hatch said the use of more than a 100 armed agents to arrest a dozen alleged perpetrators for non-violent crimes was “unnecessary and brutal.” He said the DOJ’s actions led to the apparent suicide of James Redd, who was indicted in the raid.
“They came in there like they were the worst criminals in the world,” Hatch said.
Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said in a statement to the Associated Press that the agents were professional and efficient when they used handcuffs and drawn guns in the raid. Holder said federal agents followed standard policies during the arrests, but expressed his sympathy for Redd’s family.
“That is a very sad thing,” Holder said. “And if it was related to this operation, it is something that saddens me. It is certainly not something that we intended to have happen.”
Hatch said the raid was a “a dog and pony show.” The Justice Department issued a big news release and held a June 10 press conference in Utah with Tolman, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
“I am questioning the motives of some of the higher-ups at Justice and at Interior,” Hatch said.
We previously reported that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also questioned the intentions of the Justice Department in Utah before he met with Tolman to reconcile their differences.
Shurtleff wrote a letter to Holder that Tolman was not working with state officials on law enforcement activities in the state. He told Salt Lake City CBS affiliate KUTV that the raid was a recent example of non-cooperation. But after their meeting this week, a spokesperson for Shurtleff said the Utah AG would support Tolman as he continues to serve as U.S. Attorney.