Monday, August 22, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious XLVII

Alleged Convicted Felon and Recruited Straw Purchasers of Firearms Charged with Lying to Buy Firearms

HOUSTON – A seven-month investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has resulted in the return of a nine-count indictment charging the alleged ring leader and two of his recruits with conspiracy to lie to buy firearms and aiding and abetting the unlawful purchase of 15 firearms, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with ATF Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb. The alleged leader of the group, William Simmons, an alleged convicted felon who is prohibited by law from purchasing firearms, is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

Simmons, 32, along with alleged straw purchasers, Austin Cress, 28, and Marissa Jones, 22, all of Houston, were arrested on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, by ATF special agents with warrants which issued following the return of a sealed indictment on Aug. 11, 2011. Cress made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson the same day, has been ordered released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond and is set for arraignment on Monday, Aug. 22. Simmons and Jones made their initial appearance before Judge Johnson yesterday and were ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing on Monday.

With the arrest of the defendants, the indictment is now unsealed. According to allegations in the indictment, Simmons recruited straw purchasers, including Cress and Jones, and organized the purchases made by Cress and Jones at various federally licensed firearms stores between November 2009 and August 2010. Cress and Jones allegedly lied when they purchased a total of 15 firearms by claiming they were the actual purchasers of the firearm. The serial numbers of the purchased firearms, according to the indictment, were obliterated and in some instances these altered firearms where being shipped out of state as well as out of the country.

Simmons is charged along with Cress in five substantive counts of aiding and abetting one another to lie to buy a total of ten pistols between December 2009 and May 2010 including four .45 caliber pistols, four 9 mm pistols, one .40 caliber pistol and one .380 caliber pistol. Simmons and Jones are charged with two additional substantive counts of aiding and abetting the lying to buy a total of five 9 mm pistols on two separate occasions in June and August 2010. A conviction for the conspiracy charge or any of the substantive offenses carries a maximum statutory punishment of five years in prison without parole and a $250,000 fine. 

Simmons, who has allegedly been previously convicted of a felony offense and is prohibited by law from possessing firearms, is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Paulson is prosecuting the case.


Gunwalker and the Foundation of Liberty

by Mike McDaniel

It all comes down to this: Is there an inalienable right to self-defense? If there is, each man has indisputable, inestimable value, value that he may rightly preserve even if the life of another man is forfeit. A man may kill another in lawful self-defense even if the policy preferences of the state would prefer his death. If a right to self-defense actually exists, it is in a very real sense the highest law of the land and all lesser laws must pay it deference. It fundamentally defines the social contract, the nature of the relationship between man and the state.
But if there is no such inalienable right, the entire nature of the social contract is changed. Each man’s worth is measured solely by his utility to the state, and as such the value of his life rides a roller coaster not unlike the stock market: dependent not only upon the preferences of the party in power but upon the whims of its political leaders and the permanent bureaucratic class. The proof of this analysis surrounds us.
Irony abounds in that England, the cradle of the common law and of our doctrine of self-defense, has utterly done away with even a government-condescended privilege to self-preservation. Not only have the English allowed themselves to be virtually stripped of firearms, British politicians have made attempts with varying degrees of success to ban knives. Attempting to protect the self or others from brutal criminal attack can and will lead to lengthy jail sentences in jolly old England — for the victims. Attacking criminals often go free, and often successfully sue their victims for daring to harm them in the process of depriving them of property or their very lives.
In the recent riots in Britain, we see America not far into the future if the progressive worldview is much further advanced. Contemporary England is a nation that spends a great deal of time and energy ostensibly caring for “the people,” yet cares not a whit for the life of any individual, particularly when that life is threatened or taken by a member of a favored political class or victim group, criminals included. This attitude and practice is a foundation of socialism.
At an earlier stage of glorious socialist evolution, we find the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, murdered by cartel gunmen wielding rifles walked across the border in the gunwalker scandal. As reported by Fox News, the family of Terry requested crime victim status in the case of Jamie Avila, charged with purchasing the guns that reportedly killed Terry. Victims with such an obvious and compelling connection to a criminal case are routinely granted this status by prosecutors, but not in a government fundamentally changing itself into a socialist state.
U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke has opposed the family, claiming that the victim of Avila’s crime was “society in general” rather than any particular persons. It should be prominently noted that it is Burke’s office which has been intimately involved with Operation Fast and Furious and the gunwalking scandal which flourished under that larger operation. At stake is the right of the Terry family, under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, to work with prosecutors and to be heard at Avila’s sentencing.
The Obama administration is, to put it mildly, in a panic over the fallout and potential damage to Mr. Obama of Gunwalker. As my co-blogger Bob Owens recently reported, the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation are planning lawsuits against the Justice Department’s administrative mandate that border gun dealers report the sale of two or more long guns within a five-day period, primarily on the grounds that Congress has expressly forbidden the ATF (or the DOJ through the ATF) such power. Continuing revelations such as former Phoenix ATF Agent in Charge William Newell’s repeated discussions of the gunwalking case with a White House National Security functionary, and a multitude of embarrassing e-mails which clearly indicate that the basis for gun walking was a political desire for restrictive gun control policies unattainable through the legislative process, are also very much a thorn in the Obama administration’s collective posteriors.
The Terry case adds a very large and painful additional thorn. Avila is one of only 20 arrests made in the entire case, a case which the DOJ and high-ranking federal law enforcement officials foolishly may have thought would lead to the downfall of drug cartel kingpins. No doubt the Holder Justice Department is furiously struggling to make these 20 arrests of bottom-of-the-criminal-barrel straw purchasers appear as significant as possible. If Burke is attempting any kind of a deal or anticipating any kind of political spin, having the Terry family making contrary demands or statements at an emotional sentencing would be clumsy at best for the Holder DOJ. This would be particularly so if the Terry family files a wrongful death action against the government, as expected. It is not outside the realm of possibility that prosecutor Burke could find himself in a very uncomfortable position in that sort of case.
Kendall Coffey, former Florida U.S. attorney, is unimpressed by Burke’s arguments against the Terry family and by his potential conflict of interest:
The government apparently is saying they’re not victims, even though it was a federal crime that put the murder weapon in the hands of the killer of Brian Terry. They are simply rights of respect, rights of communication and the right to be heard.
The government leaders responsible for the tragic mistakes of Operation Fast and Furious have a lot of explaining to do before Congress. But at the same time, they still have a duty under federal law to give answers, to consult and extend respect to the family.
The government’s already been put on notice that they might be facing a wrongful death action by the family. And you have to wonder if the government’s efforts to deny the family the status of “crime victims” is part of a strategy to avoid legal responsibility for some of the tragic mistakes of Operation Fast and Furious.
Indeed. And it is here that we return to the fundamental inalienable right: the right to self-defense. Those who acknowledge no such right also universally oppose the implementation of that right or the means by which it might be implemented. In short, they do not recognize the Second Amendment and oppose private ownership of firearms. The only legitimate use of force they recognize is that of the state, and that wielded by groups of “the people” acting in support of their policies, groups who will fill campaign coffers or at least reliably vote for them, groups such as unions or even criminals.
The anti-gun beliefs of Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder are well-known and extensively documented. And as Hans A. von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams have recently documented, the Holder DOJ is feverishly working to pack the Justice Department with lawyers who certainly share their beliefs in this and every other transformational socialist endeavor.
The lives of the individuals harmed by Gunwalker mean nothing to statists, for they recognize no right to self-defense, inalienable or man-bestowed. If they recognize no such right, each human life has only that value the state is willing to recognize at any given moment. The lives of the Mexican law enforcement officers and civilians are worth nothing to the Obama administration, which hid Gunwalker not only from Mexican authorities but from ATF agents in Mexico.
And now the Obama administration has revealed its assessment of the value of the life of a Border Patrol officer: Zero. Agent Terry is of no value, for the crime was committed not against him, but the state, which in its wisdom and mercy is far more concerned with protecting feckless bureaucrats and politicians than American citizens.
England has seen riots because the English allowed those who rule them to place what value they choose on the lives of Englishmen. They chose the indolent, the parasites, the criminals, the barbarians over honest, productive Englishmen and denied them their very right to exist when attacked by members of the parasitical class, the class established by the state and the class which perpetuates the state lest its very nourishment be cut off.
Gunwalker is the fruit of that soil transplanted to America. All of the economic, foreign policy, and other debacles foisted on the American public by past progressives and Barack Obama have grown from it. What remains to be seen is whether their policies will reach their full expression in flame, as in England, or whether Americans can reclaim the very foundation of liberty, the foundation without which no other right or privilege matters.


Charles E. "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) is a U.S. Senator and, at the time of this writing, the ranking Republican on the Sentate Judiciary Committee. As a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley has spearheaded many probes into the misuse and accountability of federal money.

After the "Project Gunrunner/Operation Fast & Furious" scandal was first exposed, and it became known that U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry may have been murdered by ATF-"tracked" weapons, Senator Grassley has relentlessy fought to properly investigate and remedy one of the most inexcusable breaches of public trust and sane law enforcement techniques in American history. Sen. Grassley carried the fight to those responsible, early and often.

In the face of coordinated cover-up efforts, wilful obstruction and unlawful stonewalling activities by ATF, DOJ and Obama Administration officials, and shameful grandstanding interference from House and Senate Democrats, Senator Grassley has resolutely refused to back down from his duty to ensure proper Congressional oversight and accountability for the shockingly ill-advised and in many cases, illegal acts that led to the scandals breaking on this website.

Moreover, Sen. Grassley defended Whistleblowers from ATF and other agencies, early on and well before it was "cool" to do so. His January 31, 2011 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, citing federal laws and the United States Constitution, both of which allow citizens such as ATF Agents to communicate with Congress and prohibit retaliators from being paid with public funds, put DOJ and ATF on notice that "business as usual" (i.e., retaliating againts lawful Whistleblowers to cover the Department and Bureau's managerial behinds) would not be tolerated.

This has special significance for the members of, since ATF management was, at the time, telling its employees that Congress "has no investigative authority" and overtly threatening any would-be Whistleblowers with draconian disciplinary action if so much as thought about speaking with Congressional members.

The tireless efforts of Sen. Grassley and his staff to determine the actual facts, and their refusal to be cowed by vicious media and partisan smear campaigns, are worthy of significant praise and esteem.

As additional revelations continue to surface about "Fast & Furious" et al, and despite desperate ongoing efforts by DOJ and ATF officials to make it all just "go away", we are confident that Chuck Grassley has his eye on the ball and will not permit these charlatans to escape unscathed. We trust that he will insist upon final justice for Whistleblowers such asVince CefaluJay Dobyns and others, and hold justly accountable those that have unlawfully and maliciously retaliated against them, and violated their oaths of service to the American public.

Sen. Chuck Grassley should be honored as a tireless patriot and exceptional lawmaker by every American citizen. salutes Sen. Grassley and his staff for the excellence of their ongoing efforts to hold ATF management, DOJ officials and the Administration to the same basic standards of competence, integrity, lawfulness and sanity that the average street Agent is expected to adhere to on a daily basis.

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