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September 2014


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Ex-ATF Agent Jay Dobyns on His Court VIctory: ‘I Hope It Helps the Many Other Abused Employees Who Never Had a Voice’

Jay Dobyns/his website

The following was written after ex-ATF Agent Jay Dobyns’ won his lawsuit against ATF. A federal judge awarded him $173,000 and lambasted ATF. Dobyns, who had gone undercover with the Hells Angels, claimed that the department didn’t do enough to protect his life after getting death threats and having his house catch on fire. The following is from his blog. 

By Jay Dobyns

Today the Honorable Francis M. Allegra of the United States Court of Federal Claims made public his judicial opinion/ruling/findings in the case of Jay Anthony Dobyns v. United States.

I have been vindicated.

First, I must thank God who provided me with strength and faith during these events.

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

– Joshua 1:9

I thank those who have supported me; family, friends, peers and strangers but mostly my wife and kids – they have been the true victims here and been forced to suffer to needlessly.

My legal counsel lead by James Reed proved to be extraordinary and brilliant. Jim and his team took on a fight that no else dared. With Jeff Elder and Carson Emmons together they played out a courtroom version of David and Goliath challenging the most well-resourced and powerful law firm in the history of the planet, the United States Department of Justice. Armed with the equivalent of a stone and a slingshot, they won.

Attorney Mark Gidley and the law firm of White and Case in Washington, D.C., invited us into their home and showed us the hospitality and a base of operations that only a firm of that stature could provide.

I thank Judge Allegra for upholding his duty, responsibility and ethics in reaching a fair opinion. He is the type of judge who brings honor and respect to the bench. I was fortunate to argue before such a fine man.

I thank the select few of my ATF peers who displayed the courage to publicly stand by me when doing so put their own careers and reputations at risk. Friends I thought I had vanished while friends I never knew I had arrived. There is nothing comparable to “pressure” in a time of need to find out who truly believes in you.

Two ATF Agents in particular showed themselves to have integrity that rose above the fray. Thomas Atteberry took great professional risk when he pressed for a fair investigation of the crimes against me and was placed under duress for doing so. Christopher Trainor conducted an internal investigation that serves as an example of a diligent quest for the truth. For every lawman who truly seeks unbiased fairness in their work, he set a very high standard to strive for.

Doing the right thing is not always easy but, it is always right.

Those at the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund proved to be extraordinary in their support. Without them I could not have survived this battle or been able to continue it. They showed faith in me when very few others did and their assistance kept me in the fight when I was on the verge of a knockout.

I thank certain members of the media for their accurate coverage of these events. Without their reporting ATF and DOJ would have gotten away with all of this. The leadership of those agencies take an attitude of “battening down the hatches and allowing the storm to blow over” until they are placed under the microscope of the public’s eye.  Forced transparency. The power of the press and the pen is enormous.

As with anything worth accomplishing in life, none of us can ever do it alone.

It is also most appropriate here to honor the sacrifice of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry whose passing shed light on the conduct of ATF and allowed the events I suffered to find credibility and attention. Prior to Brian’s death the facts and evidence contained in this opinion had been swept under ATF’s dirty rug. It is shameful that the loss of Brian’s life is what it took for the truths of my situation to be exposed.

For Brian, much of the information surrounding his murder is still covered up.

This opinion is not just a victory for me. I hope it helps the many other abused employees who never had a voice or were never able to make it this far. Brian has been instrumental in that and continues to serve his nation even in death.


Today, Judge Allegra’s opinion speaks louder on my behalf than any of my own words ever could or did. He is a fair and honorable man grounded in justice. His opinion reflects those standards.

I will not seize upon this opportunity to gloat or celebrate. From my view there is nothing to rejoice in. This is a sad day for my beloved ATF, the Department of Justice and all who believe in and support America’s law enforcement officers.

The title of the lawsuit alone – Dobyns v. USA – is humiliating for me. I never stood against the USA; only the corruption and abuse that infect parts of ATF and DOJ in leadership. I blew the whistle on that corruption. For that I was severely punished and left undefended.

I dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. I came to work every day intent on standing between the violent predators in our society and the good and innocent people who can’t or won’t do that for themselves. Some days I succeeded, some days I failed but, I always tried my best. It has been my supreme honor and privilege to do so.

An agency I spilled my own blood for and enthusiastically accepted every dirty assignment on behalf of for twenty-seven years, knowingly and intentionally accused me of a crime I did not commit; being a person who would murder his own wife and children by fire.

Some shotcallers in ATF who knew the allegations were false sat silent and watched the attacks heaped on me. Others proactively joined in the attack to gain favor with their superiors. Such is a means to advancement at ATF. Those are also the characteristics of cowards and an agency of abysmal leaders.

Prior to the attack on us ATF incompetently dismissed years of death and violence threats against me and my family. With a combination of negligence, incompetence and payback ATF executives removed from me all of the safety counter-measures I had in place for our protection.

At closing arguments in this lawsuit (February 2014) DOJ’s lead attorney David Harrington characterized my allegations as “flimsy”, and that, “Mr. Dobyns account of events are self-serving”. He argued that responsibility for the issues before the court, “Lie at the feet of Jay Dobyns”.

At that same hearing Judge Allegra stated that ATF’s treatment of me was “wretched”, their acts were “purposeful”, derived out of “professional jealousy” and were “simply spiteful”.

ATF and DOJ didn’t get it then and they won’t get it now.

Today, Judge Allegra describes ATF as an agency with, “organizational weaknesses, the inability of agency officials to supervise and control, and of demonstrated misfeasance – all rooted in the sorry failure of some ATF officials”. Further he wrote, “the story of how Agent Dobyns was treated is neither entertaining nor an easy read.”

Judge Allegra wrote in his opinion that Marino Vidoli, Steve Pugmire and Bill Newell, “ignored information about threats to Agent Dobyns and his family”, that, “the removal of the fictitious identification put Agent Dobyns and his family at risk”, that there was “no valid reason” for ATF’s failure to support us. The court wrote that the conduct of Vidoli was “unprecedented as the only instance in which Vidoli ever withdrew backstopping issued to an ATF employee.”

Four months later my home was burned to the ground by an arsonist(s) with my family asleep inside. Their own calm courage saved their lives. By removing my protections, ATF forced me to place all of my personal information in open source databases easily queried by the public.

Interestingly (but normal for ATF’s self-protecting cover-up and smooth-over executives) the day after Vidoli testified in this lawsuit ATF and DOJ announced that he and his counterparts had been internally cleared of any wrongdoing.

Following the arson persons at ATF like Bill Newell, George Gillett and Charles Higman, at the FBI like Brian Nowak, and at the United States Attorney’s Office like Beverly Anderson knowingly and intentionally pursued me “for several years” under false and fabricated pretense. They did so consciously with zero evidence and while ignoring expert investigators and a credible alibi that proved I could not have possibly been involved.

Although they each were/are employed under the banner of justice, they did not seek it. They exerted no effort to find the truth and even less interest in finding out who really attacked me and my family. That person(s) – the arsonist(s) – remain free and un-investigated. They chose to waste their effort and, during a time of government sequestration and shut down, your money chasing me.

Behind ATF and DOJ I faced a zealousness I had never seen in my entire experience as a law enforcement officer, not even towards the vilest of predators. When I complained, I was buried under ATF’s internal slander machine as a malcontent.

In his opinion Judge Allegra documents the government’s defense of perjury, obstruction of justice and retaliation.

In describing the failed courtroom testimony and credibility of some government witnesses the Court characterized them as “unworthy of belief”“lacking candor”, or simply stating, “he lied”.

Judge Allegra describes some of the testimony he heard as, “a remarkable tapestry of fiction”. These are the type of witnesses DOJ called to the stand to testify against me. Not one lying witness or a single attorney who sponsored them has been held to task.

For the last six years I have fought to clear my name and reputation. I couldn’t live with myself if I hadn’t. Even more importantly, I would not have been able to look my family in the eye.

Eric Holder’s DOJ fought me every single step of the way. Our nation’s lawmakers watched it all take place from the sidelines. My plight did not fit the agendas of Congress.

I found some personal satisfaction as witness after government witness was called to the stand but could not look or even glance in my direction while testifying. They knew that what they’d done was dead wrong.

The second biggest mistake the government made after trying to frame me was that they attacked someone who was not afraid to fight back. A playground bully won’t come for your lunch money once he’s been punched in the mouth. He’ll just find someone weaker to pick on. If you are mild they will prey on you. That is what I am fearful of. Who is next and will anyone help them?

Agent Trainor conducted an internal investigation of ATF’s misconduct and whom the court took time to praise in his opinion as “impressive”. Layers of ATF’s senior most executives internally approved and signed-off on the Internal Affairs Division’s conclusions of wrongdoing and crimes.

I contacted the United States Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo to advise that ATF Director B. Todd Jones and his Deputy Director Tom Brandon took it upon themselves to override their entire inner-circle of trusted advisers and not pursue punishment or prosecution for those cited in the Internal Affairs report. Leonardo responded that his office was not interested.

Their failure here was extreme and deserves added attention outside the courtroom. Some people, regardless of how they ascend to power, simply do not deserve the authority we grant them. ATF is presently lead by a counterfeit management – imposters with a gold badge.

To be subjected to ATF’s dirty attacks and then to learn that the truth was ignored behind one of management’s secret, back-alley, handshakes was sickening. It caused me to question everything I ever stood for as a federal agent. In essence Jones and Brandon have executed a quo of ATF by shutting out, disciplining and /or terminating anyone who fails to agree with them.

Of recent, ATF has been led by a group of executive misfits masquerading as lawmen. A favorite phrase of ATF street agents about leadership – “they can’t even do the wrong thing right” – is much deserved.

Will our legislators react to this with effectiveness or simply allow themselves to be lied to at yet another hearing and meet for happy hour afterwards?

DOJ’s team of civil defense attorneys lead by David Harrington, Corrinne Niosi and Kent Kiffner assisted by ATF Attorneys Rachael Bouman and Valerie Bacon hid and withheld critical documents and evidence from me. They engaged in judicial misconduct, attempting to deceive the court with false statements and mischaracterizations. They attempted to illicit testimony through their questioning that they knew would produce false answers. They protected known perjurous testimony and tampered with witnesses, encouraging some to lie under oath. They ignored the obstruction of justice tactics of their clients and defended it as simply, “the cost of doing business with us”.

This is not one man’s rant. I possess steadfast, undeniable and documented proof of that. It is an absolute truth, supported by the tampered witnesses themselves, that demonstrates the lengths that our DOJ will go to win at all costs.

ATF’s Bouman went so far as to proclaim herself as a hero and crusader having her fictitious account of the events published in her church’s newsletter.

ATF’s Attorney Bacon attempted to scuttle a proper criminal investigation for fear the results would damage DOJ’s improper defense of my civil allegations.  This is jaw-dropping and blatant misconduct that nothing has been done about.

All for what? To insure that Jay Dobyns or someone like me, like you, would not find justice? That is nauseating. It represents everything that good American’s despise and has done nothing but increase the mistrust of authority.

ATF and DOJ are simply not capable of admitting fault or error until it is written down for them by those in oversight. I promise you that even now they still won’t. They simply can’t. It is not a part of who they are individually or collectively.  They are out of control and your rights as citizens are not safe.

But, on the bright side, today’s ruling demonstrates that even the worst conduct by ATF and DOJ cannot overcome an independent judiciary. A fair courtroom has proven to be more powerful than the President, the Congress or our Attorney General.

Any federal employee who believes that their bad behavior and the abuse of their subordinates can be successfully defended by government attorneys to avoid accountability should read this opinion – this proves that it cannot. But only if we take a stand against it.

This case should never have seen a courtroom. The facts and evidence presented were of no surprise to anyone at ATF or DOJ. In fact, ATF’s Internal Affairs concluded the same as Judge Allegra; only they did so two years earlier. With the facts in hand but refusing to provide me the reports, I was mocked and taunted into the courtroom by government attorneys who lead ATF’s executives around by a pinched ear.

To “chill” and intimidate me the government filed a malicious counter-suit against me for authoring my book, No Angel and agreeing to a film production.  They did so only days after my lawsuit was accepted by the court but, nearly three years after ATF was aware of my book and movie having taken no corrective action or making no to attempt to contact with me about it.  DOJ sought damages from me in excess of three-quarters of a million dollars.  Judge Allegra denied their claim – “The court concludes that the defendant is entitled to  – nothing”.

The government knew their case was unwinnable and decided that their best chance to defend it would be to withhold evidence, extend the litigation process, break me financially and extort me into an economic forfeit. Over six years later, battered and beaten, albeit financially ruined, I am here, victorious.

If DOJ’s ultimate satisfaction comes from knowing they broke my bank, I concede to them their shallow victory. Money will come and money will go but the truth will stand the test of time. On the first page of the opinion Judge Allegra quotes Shakespeare in essence stating that a man’s wallet is trash, but his good name is everything.

Do not concern yourselves with the amount of damages awarded. From the beginning I stated that this was never about money. Many doubted that, calling me a selfish, greedy, attention-seeking, narcissist.

The truth be told, I rejected the government’s “hush-money” settlement offers knowing it would very likely exceed my final award. ATF executives and DOJ attorneys told me face-to-face, “Even if you win you are going to lose”, insinuating that the “go away” money they were offering was of higher value to me than the truth. I was never going to allow them to purchase my silence. I had hoped for a higher damages award from the court but that was not to be. I will not shed a tear or be ungrateful.

This was never about a cash-out to leverage me into silence. This always was, has been, and will continue to be about the restoration of dignity that the federal government stole from me. I permit no one to put a price tag on the value of that. No one. Brandon, DOJ Assistant Director Donald Kinner and Bouman, maybe now you finally understand me.

DOJ’s lack of control created an utter waste of America’s money. Millions and millions of dollars of it.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery and Director Jeanne Davidson, you are responsible and I will say that to your faces when and if I’m ever given the chance.  You named on this opinion for a reason.

I repeat here what I said about you on nationally broadcast interviews regarding Operation Fast and Furious – the same standard applies: Each of you knew that you sanctioning the defense of criminal conduct and did nothing to correct it, OR, you didn’t know what was taking place right under you own noses in your department – either way you are incompetent and an embarrassment to this country.

Mr. Delery, during your confirmation hearing seated next to ATF’s future Director you spoke of the importance of your family in the rise and success of your career. Does anyone else’s family matter? You are shameless in how you administer the nation’s business and your boss is where it all begins. America would be well served to force you both into training on servant leadership.

The court’s opinion documents despicable truths that no one can defend.

But, There is a critical element to the timeline of my story that should not be missed and is actually more important than the content of the opinion itself. It reinforces the court’s opinion on the dangerous incompetence of ATF’s leadership.

The abuses I was subjected to pre-date those of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious. The cast of corrupt characters in my story is nearly identical with those from Fast and Furious.

Why is that important?

Because in 2007 and 2008 I warned ATF of the dangers of these people well in advance of Fast and Furious providing them ample time to prevent what was coming. The asleep-at-the-wheel malfeasance of Michael Sullivan, Ronnie Carter, Billy Hoover and Ken Melson empowered them.

Once the corruption was exposed they all questioned, “How did this happen?”

It happened while I was being buried and tormented by ATF for speaking out and the ringleaders of Fast and Furious remained un-touched, un-investigated, un-disciplined at a time when they were just beginning to orchestrate the greatest law enforcement scandal of the modern era.

Hundreds of Mexican citizens and police officers were murdered, thousands of lives were torn apart and United States lawmen were ambushed because those we trusted to administer ATF put their heads in the sand.  Those at DOJ tasked to monitor them did the same. Criminals in possession of those weapons will continue to maim and murder until the end of time. There is no end-life to an AK-47.

I had armed ATF with the real information they needed to prevent Fast and Furious before it started.

My national commentary on Fast and Furious was never about the mechanics of how the operation took place. I had no direct knowledge. My statements targeted those who built it and allowed it to happen and who were attempting to hide behind the lie that they didn’t know. They did.

As sensitive as these people are to their embellished public images, when the national media prints stories with titles like – Once its Star, Agent Assails ATF (Arizona Republic); Federal agent penetrated Hells Angels, fears for his life (CNN/Anderson Cooper); The Good Guy, Death threats be damned, undercover cop Jay Dobyns isn’t running anymore (Tucson Weekly);Undercover With Hells Angels, In his new book, “No Angel,” ATF agent Jay Dobyns writes about his undercover mission with the Hells Angels — and the subsequent fallout (Wall Street Journal); A Very Hellish Journey (Newsweek Magazine); Still Catching Hell: Undercover No More, Jay Dobyns Revs Up for a New Fight (Washington Post); ATF Ignored Death Threats, Tried to Frame Whistleblower Agent to Cover Corruption and An Update on Jay Dobyns’ ATF “Horror Story”(Townhall Magazine) – they sure as hell knew.

Unfortunately at ATF and DOJ, executives are deaf and dumb to the voices in the field and are “deer in the headlights” when it comes to making any type of meaningful or real-time critical decision. Inaction is their specialty. Without an attorney to hold their hand or a focus group to fall back on for blame they lack the testicular fortitude to do their jobs.

No one knew who Newell, Gillett and Higman were at that time, but I did. I was personally experiencing the dangers of their corruption. Everyone ignored me. No one cared. Until it was too late. America was insulted and embarrassed by ATF’s executive nonchalance.

Still no one of influence cares. I have the letters from the FBI, DOJ’s OIG and the United States Attorney in Arizona to prove it. They have written to me stating they intend to take no action.

I am not without blame. Had I been more resilient, more courageous, demanded more, fought harder or screamed louder, I may have been able to disrupt Operation Fast and Furious before it began. That is a burden that weighs heavy on me. I thought I was better than that but I grew too quiet, too soon. I was unsuccessful in trying to fight the beast of reprisal and the beast won that day.

I hold myself accountable for falling short but, many others much more powerful and influential than I had a clear opportunity to intervene as well. I tried my best and failed. Others never tried at all.

For all of us, but especially my friends the Terry family, I am sorry. Please know that the spirit of your son and brother’s memory provided me inspiration to continue fighting on the days I wanted to give up.

For what has been done to me and my family and to those whom did it, I have forgiven you. Although I am angry, God has granted me a spirit of compassion and I will honor it as He would have me do. I am not without flaw or mistake and I will not cast that stone. To forgive does not mean to forget.

For those who blame me for “rocking the boat” or airing ATF’s “dirty laundry” in public, you’re just going to have to find a way to get over it. I don’t take it back and I wouldn’t if I could.

For those who pre-judged me behind ATF’s spin-doctored slander, at least now you can know the real truth before you decide how you feel about it.

Many others at ATF have been, and are currently being treated similarly to me. There is nothing to be said for those who came before me who “took it”, got scared, gave up, went silent, resigned or retired without pushing back. I can understand why but that is not a part of who I am or how I was raised. I was never going to go down meekly.

For those who continue to fight the wrongs, like ATF Agent Vince Cefalu, fight on my brothers and sisters. Win or lose yours is a just cause.

I hope that I have created some pause in the minds of the malicious executives who might consider treating the next agent like they did me. Maybe it’s an agent not yet on the job. Maybe he or she is in high school or college. Maybe they are at a police department building a resume of experience. Maybe it’s a current agent with a bright future and career ahead of them. Somewhere down the line someone else will benefit from not having to live with abuse on the job based on what was accomplished in this lawsuit. Maybe.

Certain individuals should be prosecuted. Others should be forced to resign.  If this does not happen then ultimately I have accomplished nothing for the greater good.

Did I change anything for the better now? Did I improve anyone’s current lives or careers? Did I make anyone more safe or secure today? No, I did not.

When people think more of me than I deserve, that is their fault.  If I begin to believe it, that is my fault.  I am not as good, or as bad, as people believe. I am not a leader or a follower or a hero or a scoundrel.  I am just me.

I only sought justice. I am one man. One citizen. Armed with the truth and refusing to be afraid of, or intimidated by our Department of Justice. I have now done all that I can.

Our only hope for a true difference in the future is powerful oversight and meaningful reform implemented by legislators courageous enough to make it real, not the weak-kneed who can only debate about it in myth and theory.

I beg our countries leadership to do your jobs so that no American, law enforcement or not, will ever again have to experience what I have.

During this journey I found a quote that I now hold close,

“The truth is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend it.

Turn it loose and it will defend itself.”

Thank you.

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