The investigation into the Gunwalker scandal code-named “Fast & Furious”has passed the one-year mark. During that time Congressional investigators have put barely a chip in the stone wall established by Eric Holder and his Justice Department. So far, fewer than 20 percent of the documents requested by congressional investigators have been produced by the DOJ. There have been a couple of resignations and a few reassignments, and one Justice Department official has refused to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds, but so far there hasn’t been the slightest indication that anyone involved is going to spend a single day in jail.
In contrast, a family in New Mexico has now been languishing in jail for almost six months. They have been denied bail, and all of their assets have been seized.
I’ve written previously of Rick Reese, his wife Terri, and their two sons, Ryin and Remington. They were arrested without incident last August in Las Cruces, N.M., on charges that they had knowingly sold guns and ammunition to traffickers funneling the equipment to Mexico for drug gangs.
While I don’t personally know the Reese family, I have spoken with a number of people who do, and the reports are almost universally supportive. The Reeses are by all accounts well respected and liked within the Deming-Las Cruces area where they had lived for over 20 years, running a successful gun store for the past 17.
Rick Reese had planned to retire from the business and close the store at the end of 2011 in order to make a run for sheriff of Luna County. Son Ryin was in the process of opening a store of his own in Las Cruces when the family was arrested. In fact, the ploy used by the ATF to effect their arrests was to call Rick and ask him to bring Ryin and the family down to the ATF offices to discuss Ryin’s application for a Federal Firearms License. The ATF office presumably has metal-detectors at the entrances, so it would be an easy way to ensure that the Reeses were unarmed at the time of their arrests.
Since late August the family, all of whom have plead not guilty and insist they will prove their innocence, has been incarcerated in separate facilities around the state. Ryin, 24, has been held in solitary confinement since he was assaulted by other prisoners shortly after his arrest. Remington, 19, was initially ordered to be released into the custody of his grandparents, but a judge reversed that order when prosecutors argued that the health-plagued youth was a flight risk.
Plans to have the entire family represented by one attorney were blocked by the court on the grounds that an attorney representing all of the Reeses would not be able to advise one or more to cut a deal in exchange for testimony against the others. That decision meant that private attorneys for each family member would incur an initial cost of about $100,000 – money the Reeses don’t have since all of their assets, from the inventory of the stores, to cash, bank accounts, vehicles, land and the coin collection Rick Reese has been building since he was a child, were all seized by the feds and are being sought in a civil forfeiture suit by the government.
Terri Reese recently had a new bail hearing in which prosecutors showed a video of an informant purchasing several hundred rounds of ammunition. At the close of the sale Terri tore a mailing label off of a box with a comment about not wanting it to be traced back to them. The prosecutor insisted that this was proof that Terri knew the ammo was destined for Mexico. Terri contended that the store has had problems with shooters leaving trash with the store’s labels on it at informal shooting areas on private property and had property owners blaming the Reeses for the trash.
Something else that came out in this hearing is the fact that Terri contacted the ATF about someone she suspected of engaging in straw purchases. It turned out the person she was reporting was working for the feds. The prosecutor dismissed the report as being a cover move by Terri after she learned that the family was being investigated.
Another point the prosecutor used to try and keep Terri in jail is what he claims to be a precedent set in a “similar” case in Columbus, N.M. In that case, in which the mayor and other prominent citizens – all Mexican-Americans with close ties to Mexico – were actively working directly with Mexican drug gangs in a trafficking scheme. Those defendants were held without bail as flight risks. The Reeses are accused of, at worst, turning a blind eye to questionable buyers and have no connections with Mexico, but I guess treating them differently would suggest some sort of ethnic profiling against the defendants in Columbus.
I had hoped to hear about Terri’s bail request, but the judge has so far not released a decision. At least she has now been moved to the same facility where Remington is being held and has been allowed to visit with him. I’m sure that has been some comfort to both of them.
Meanwhile Eric Holder again testified before the Government Reform Committee investigating the Fast & Furious scheme, in which government agents instructed gun dealers to go through with the sales of thousands of firearms to suspected gun traffickers. We now know that there was never any plan or attempt made to track or follow the guns and that Washington was actively seeking numbers to bolster demands for a rule requiring dealers to report sales of multiple semi-auto long guns. Several federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI have admitted knowing about the tactics being used in the program, and agents report that when they questioned the program, they were told to leave it alone by higher-ups. The inter-agency cooperation clearly indicates very high-level involvement in keeping the Gunwalking scheme going.
ATF and DOJ officials have lied to Congress, and the operation has cost several hundred lives so far, including at least one, and possibly two, federal agents. The callous indifference to human life, constitutional liberties and the lying and stonewalling from ATF and the DOJ are indications of serious corruption within those agencies. It all calls for an immediate and thorough investigation by an independent office with the authority to access every document and every witness. This investigation must be taken out of the political realm and those responsible brought to justice.
The comparison between the way the Reese family has been treated and how federal agents and bureaucrats are being given a pass is chilling. If the Reeses are guilty, that fact should be proven in court – before the forfeiture trial – and they should be released on bail in the meantime as guaranteed in the Constitution. The same goes for those responsible for Fast & Furious. The truth must be disclosed, and they must be held accountable for their actions.