FBI Agent Under Investigation-Convicts and Suspects Released
Washington, D.C. The Justice Department’s Inspector General’s Office is leading an investigation of an FBI agent for misconduct. The investigation has led to authorities quietly releasing at least a dozen convicts serving prison sentences in addition to several others awaiting trial, and still yet, several others awaiting sentencing. Allegations of the agent’s misconduct first surfaced the week of September 29th. On Friday, the FBI agent was suspended indefinitely. The agent’s name has not been released.
“During the week of September 29, 2014, the Washington Field Office became aware of possible misconduct by a Special Agent. The Field Office took immediate steps address the incident, to include notification to the appropriate U.S. Attorney’s Offices,” read a statement from Lindsay Ram with the FBI.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. released a statement saying it “is conducting a case-by-case review of matters in which the FBI agent at issue played some role. We have already begun taking steps to address this issue and are committed to doing everything that is necessary to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice process. Because our review is ongoing, the office has no further comment at this time.”
All of the cases in which the FBI agent played a role involve drug charges. One case involves 21 defendants. None of those released who were convicted have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned. Some are on home detention as what is described as a “holding pattern”, waiting on the outcome of the investigation.
Defense lawyers involved in the cases describe the mass freeing of convicted felons as virtually unprecedented.
In one case, eight convicts and one defendant who plead not guilty, were released to home detention. One man who had served nine months of a 10-year sentence was released from a federal prison in North Carolina.
“I’ve never, ever seen something like this before,” said Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., a lawyer from Alexandria who is representing Anthony McDuffie, 50, who plead guilty to a drug conspiracy charge and has been released pending sentencing. “It suggests to me that whatever is going on is very significant.”
Said another defense lawyer, Gregory English, whose client was released as he awaits trial: “This is stunning.”
Among the cases was one that the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office highlighted in a news release last year as the culmination of a year-long investigation that police said traced heroin and cocaine from suppliers in California to street dealers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In all, 11 pounds of the drugs were seized in the searches of 26 homes and storage facilities, along with five guns. Police affidavits filed in the case show that they listened in on cell phone calls during money drops, and state that cash totaling $85,000 was exchanged.
Last year after the arrests were made, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. hailed the indictments saying that the police were “able to remove guns, drugs and dangerous people from the streets and take another step toward making our community safer.” Now however, all 13 of those people indicted, including five who plead guilty, are free from jail or prison. The alleged ringleader, 63-year old Lester Pryor Jr., is awaiting trial.
A defense attorney who is a former federal prosecutor, and who is representing 58-year old Brandon Beale, said that he was planning to fight the charges, stating that Beale was an addict; not a drug distributor.
In another case in which the FBI agent was involved, concerns alleged drug kingpin Angel Costello and 11 others indicted with him on drug charges. Eight people convicted in the case were freed Monday. Costello has plead not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Defense lawyer Ron Earnest, who is representing 59-year old James “Sweet Baby James” Burkley, said he readily recommended that his client accept a seven-year prison sentence for his alleged role in the Pryor drug case. Burkley plead guilty Sept. 23, a week before the FBI said the alleged misconduct became known. Attorney Earnest was summoned to court where the judge told him and other defense lawyers that “something was wrong with the investigation” and “everybody would be released, including the people who pleaded guilty.”
It’s not the first time this year that an FBI agent has been placed under investigation. In August, one of the lead undercover FBI agents who assembled the political corruption case against California state Senator Leland Yee and others was removed from the investigation because of his own financial improprieties.