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Undocumented Immigrant Convicted of Assaulting Border Patrol Agent with Baton

By Steve Neavling

A jury convicted a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant of assaulting a Border Patrol agent during a traffic stop in Texas in October 2019. 

During the two-day trial, prosecutors said Ludwin Artemio Santizo-Escobedo, a Guatemalan national, was in the country illegally and refused to be arrested after he was pulled over on State Highway 349 near Sanderson. 

Santizo-Escobedo grabbed the agent’s baton and repeatedly beat him in the body and head. To subdue him, the agent shot Santizo-Escobedo in the left forearm and shoulder. 

“This case illustrates the dangers the brave men and women of the United States Border Patrol face day in and day out while protecting our country,” U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff said in a news release.  “Violent assaults on federal law enforcement cannot and will not be tolerated.”

The FBI investigated the assault. 

“Every day Border Patrol Agents honorably serve our nation by securing the border. Too frequently, they endure physical assaults for carrying out their sworn duties,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the San Antonio Division said. “Thanks to the exemplary work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI agents assigned to the Del Rio Resident Agency Office (RA) and El Paso FBI/Midland RA, Santizo-Escobedo will be held accountable for his violent assault.”

Santizo-Escobedo faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 10. 

Biden’s Pick to Lead ATF Faces Criticism Over Position on Gun Control

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling

David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, faced strong criticism from Senate Republicans during a confirmation hearing Wednesday over his position on gun control. 

Chipman, a gun owner and former ATF agent, has advocated for firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. 

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chipman said he supports a ban on AR-15s, an assault rifle used in many mass shootings. 

“I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president. The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF’s swat team and it’s a particularly lethal weapon and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons, I have advocated for,” Chipman said, The Hill reports.

“As ATF director, if I’m confirmed, I would simply enforce the laws in the books and right now, there is no such ban on those guns,” he added.

At the beginning of the hearing, committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill, warned Chipman that he would face criticism from Republicans. 

“Buckle your seat belt. You want to be the head of the ATF. Hang on tight. They’re coming after you, buddy,” Durbin said. “It’s going to be rough at times.”

And at times, it was. 

Chipman was questioned about an interview last year in which he compared the rampant increase in gun ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic to a zombie apocalypse. 

“Many see putting a committed gun control proponent like David Chipman in charge of A.T.F. is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, or antifa in charge of the Portland Police Department,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

During the hearing, lawmakers began getting news alerts about a mass shooting in San Jose, Calif. 

“It is not lost on me that there is another mass shooting,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. 

In April, the NRA announced its plans to oppose Chipman’s nomination as part of a $2 million campaign to fight gun-control measures. https://www.ticklethewire.com/2021/04/22/conservative-republicans-nra-wage-battle-against-bidens-nominee-to-head-atf/

President Biden has faced pressure by gun control groups to pick someone to head the ATF, which has been without a permanent director since 2015 as the nation continues to grapple with mass shootings. 

As vice president, Biden recommended in 2013 that President Obama pick a Senate-confirmed ATF director. Obama followed through with the confirmation of B. Todd Jones in 2013, but Jones resigned in 2015, and the agency has been without a permanent director since. 

Whether Biden can muster the 51 votes required to confirm a permanent leader is an open question. Republicans have blocked ATF candidates who were far friendlier to the pro-gun base. 

Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Albany Field Office Retires After 25 Years with Bureau

Special Agent Thomas Relford.

By Steve Neavling

Thomas Relford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office, retired Wednesday after 25 years with the bureau. 

Relford, who was appointed to head the field office in May 2020, plans to return to his home state of Missouri “to enjoy some long overdue family time,” Relford said in a statement.

“I’m incredibly proud of my 25-year career with the FBI, and especially lucky to end it on such a high note as head of the Albany field office,” Relford said.

Relford joined the bureau as a special agent in 1996 at the New Orleans Field Office, investigating criminal and counterterrorism cases. In 2005, he was promoted to supervisor of the Baton Rouge Resident Agency in Louisiana, overseeing investigative programs.

In 2008, Relford became the legal attaché in Dakar, Senegal, where he oversaw investigations in 11 Western and Central African countries and served as FBI liaison to local law enforcement and government agencies. In 2010, he went to Nairobi, Kenya, to serve as legal attaché for three years. Relford was responsible for the oversight and investigative programs in five countries, including the probe into the 2010 World Cup bombing in Kampala, Uganda.

In 2013, Relford was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Kansas City Field Office, where he was in charge of the National Security Branch. In 2015, he led the Criminal and Administrative Branch. He was promoted in 2018 to inspector in the Inspector Division at headquarters, where he inspected investigative and administrative programs of the bureau nationwide.

Before the FBI, Relford served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for four years and earned a bachelor of science from the University of Missouri and a masters of public administration from Troy University.

“My work has taken me all over the world, but I truly believe I was meant to spend this last year serving the amazing people of the Capital Region, Central New York, Upstate New York, the Souther Tier and Vermont,” Relford said. “Now, especially with the birth of our first grandchild, it’s time to head back home to Kansas City to enjoy some long overdue family time and start our next chapter. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to lead this office and for the partnership I experienced here in Albany.”

Senate Confirms Kristen Clarke As First Black Woman to Lead DOJ’s Civil Rights Division

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney for the the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Photo: Twitter

By Steve Neavling

Kristen Clarke on Tuesday became the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, overcoming strong opposition from Republicans.

The Senate voted 51-48 to confirm Clarke, a longtime civil rights attorney and Justice Department veteran. Sen. Susan Collins was the lone Republican to vote for Clarke’s confirmation. 

As assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, Clarke will play a prominent role in cracking down on police brutality and enforcing voting rights laws and federal discrimination laws.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, received her law degree from Columbia University. She later prosecuted civil rights cases for the Justice Department before running the New York State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. In 2016, she became president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. 

Clarke often criticized President Trump’s administration for failing to enforce civil rights laws. 

Republicans opposed Clarke, saying she was too political and previously supported defunding the police.

Border Patrol Agent Charged with Helping Smuggle Undocumented Immigrants

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

A Border Patrol agent has been indicted on charges of helping smuggle illegal immigrants by letting them pass through a checkpoint

Prosecutors allege Rodney Tolson Jr. received payments in exchange for allowing cars with undocumented immigrants to pass through a checkpoint he was manning near Laredo, Texas, The Washington Times reports. The scheme occurred in early 2019, according to the indictment.

Tolson, who has been suspended from his duties, was arrested last week. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission and expects officers and agents to adhere to the oath they take to uphold and enforce the laws of this country,” CBP said.

Earlier this month, a former CBP officer admitted smuggling her undocumented housekeeper into Texas from Mexico as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Rhonda Lee Walker, who was stationed at the Laredo Point of Entry, agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to bring her housekeeper into the U.S. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dismissed felony counts of illegally transporting the woman into the country and lying to

FBI Investigates Suspicious Package Delivered to Sen. Rand Paul’s Home

Sen. Rand Paul

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is investigating a suspicious package filled with white powder that was delivered to Sen. Rand Paul’s home in Kentucky. 

The bureau is inspecting the large envelope in hopes of identifying the substance, CBS WLKY reports

“I take these threats immensely seriously,” Paul tweeted Monday. “As a repeated target of violence, it is reprehensible that Twitter allows C-list celebrities to encourage violence against me and my family.”

Paul appears to be referring to musician Richard Marx, who tweeted Sunday, “If I ever meet Rand Paul’s neighbor I’m going to hug him and buy him as many drinks as he consume.”

In 2017, Paul was assaulted by his neighbor, Rene Boucher. Paul sustained broken ribs and bruised lungs. 

Michael Nordwall Tapped to Serve As Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Pittsburgh Office

Special Agent Michael D. Nordwall

By Steve Neavling

Michael D. Nordwall, a section chief in the Criminal Division of the FBI, has been named special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh Field Office. 

Nordwall’s career as a special agent began in 2002, when he was first assigned to the Phoenix Field Office working on counterterrorism, violent crime, crimes in Indian Country, and organized crime. 

Nordwall was promoted in 2009 to supervisory special agent in the Operations Unit of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate at headquarters.

In 2011, Nordwall transferred to the Tampa Field Office in Florida, where he oversaw an organized crime drug enforcement strike force known as Panama Express. 

In 2014, Nordwall was tapped to serve as an associate director in the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Executive Office, where he was the primary representative for federal law enforcement. Nordwall also oversaw the attorney general’s Consolidated Priority Organization Target program, which focused government efforts on disrupting and dismantling the most significant criminal organizations.

In 2016, Nordwall returned to the Tampa Field Office to oversee the Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

In June 2018, he was transferred to the Denver Field Office to serve as assistant special agent in charge of the Criminal Branch and all Colorado resident agencies.

In 2019, he was promoted to chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Global Section in the Criminal Investigative Division at headquarters. 

Nordwall received a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Auburn University in Alabama. Before joining the FBI, he worked in the petrochemical industry.

Trump Bills Secret Service $40,000+ to Use Single Room at Mar-a-Lago

By Steve Neavling

Former President Trump billed the Secret Service more than $40,000 for agents this spring to use a room at Mar-a-Lago resort to protect him. 

The Secret Service was charged $396.15 each night to use a single room as a workspace for agents, The Washington Post reports.

The charges continued until at least April 30, when he moved to his club in Bedminster, N.J. for the summer. 

The daily room rate is the same amount Trump charged the Secret Service during his presidency. 

While former presidents get protection for life, the rate Trump, a billionaire, is billing is unprecedented. 

“It’s tacky,” Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, told The Washington Post. “Just because you can make a buck doesn’t mean you should make a buck. And especially when you have a situation where you’re an ex-president. You’re not going to starve.”