U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones is President Obama's nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, but his nomination may have hit a snag.
FOX 9 News has learned the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has received a letter from Donald E. Oswald, the former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's office in Minnesota.
In the letter, Oswald says Jones has an "atrocious professional reputation," and was motivated by "personal political gain." Oswald wrote that federal prosecutors repeatedly turned down cases involving gangs, drugs, and guns under Jones.
Among the cases cited by Oswald is that of the "Beat Down Posse." Detectives built a drug and racketeering case against Joe Gustafson Sr. and his son, Joe Gustafson Jr., alleging the two ran a protection racket and burned down homes to collect insurance; however, federal prosecutors wouldn't touch the case because the lead detective worked for the problem-plagued Metro Gang Strike Force. The Hennepin County Attorney successfully prosecuted the case instead.
Oswald also cited a case involving a methamphetamine king pin, Pedro Ayala-Leyva, associated with the La Familia Mexican drug cartel. Federal prosecutors declined the case, but the Hennepin County Attorney got a conviction and a 30-year sentence.
Law enforcement sources tell FOX 9 Jones told them he didn't want to waste limited federal resources on "street level" drug dealers. He said he was focused on international terrorism and complex, white-collar cases, like those of Trevor Cook and Tom Petters.
"The world's changed, and we have different priorities," Jones told the Star Tribune in December. "If some elements in law enforcement disagree with that prosecutorial decision … then I'm sorry."
Under Jones most recent predecessors, drug cases accounted for 60 percent of federal prosecutions, but have since fallen to 36 percent during Jones' tenure. On the other hand, those convicted are doing more prison time. Under his predecessors, only 50 percent of those convicted on gun charges and violent crimes did five years or more in prison. Under Jones, that conviction rate has climbed to 75 percent.
Yet, while federal and local law enforcement officials have complained privately about the priorities of the U.S. Attorney's Office under Todd Jones, none have been willing to go on the record -- until Oswald, that is. Oswald only worked in the Minneapolis FBI office for one year, retiring in May of 2012. He's now an attorney in private practice in Florida.
In other developments with Jones' nomination, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is investigating whether Jones engaged in a "quid pro quo" exchange with the City of St. Paul.
Grassley alleges the Department of Justice asked St. Paul to drop a Supreme Court case that would limit the ability of the federal government to collect large financial settlements from banks it may sue for housing discrimination. In exchange, Grassley alleges the Department of Justice agreed to drop a lawsuit claiming St. Paul was misusing federal funds for low-income job opportunities. According to the newspaper The Hill, if the Department of Justice had won their case, the government could have recouped $180 million from the City of St. Paul.
In a statement, Grassley says Jones was aware of this arrangement. Grassley is asking for 1,200 pages of emails that the Justice Department refuses to release.