All quotes are from the article linked on the previous page:
He [Bethards] told them Smith was “manufacturing and selling firearms without a Class 07 Federal Manufacturer’s License. This is a felony violation of multiple federal laws.”
Bethards said Smith had told him several times over the past few years that he made .45-caliber handguns and AR-15 rifles and sold them to fellow law enforcement officials. Bethards is also a gun dealer and manufacturer, and co-owns All Weapons One in Brule.
OK, as I said there are not only disputes among the people in the story (one guy cutting into the business of another guy) but also questions as to whether various actions are legal or not (is guy #2 running a business, or doing occasional hobby work?). Agent Bethards thinks Smith has entered a gray area and asked the feds to investigate. They acted quickly.
He also notified DOJ, which is not responsible for enforcing federal law but is clearly responsible for employing agents who follow federal law particularly with regard to their main area of responsibility.
And DOJ has put him (but not the person he accused) on leave for his troubles, which does not sit well with people who think the DOJ and the feds should in general be on the same side of the law. We don't know the outcome of the investigation but preemptively putting the accuser on leave is strange. Is this for his own protection, or just a routine reaction to whistle-blowing? They don't say.
This sounds like the tip of an iceberg of interpersonal feuding that goes back years, which makes it hard to tell what exactly is going on and why (and what makes it a good story).
Van Hollen is not at arm's length in this tale; he has had a business relationship with one of the principals as depicted in the news report.. Accusations and allegations are not convictions, but the public has been notified and is watching.
“This is my official notification to management within the Department of Justice that I am aware of a law enforcement officer within the Department of Justice that is and has committed felony violations of federal firearms laws,” Bethards said in the email to DCI Administrator Dave Matthews and Mary Casey, head of human resources for DOJ.
In notifying DOJ, Bethards is saying he thinks this is a matter that should be of interest to them. The relationship of AG Van Hollen to the DOJ is obvious. And DOJ knows or ought to know who's dealing in stolen guns, one would think. That's part of what they do -- knowing who is a lawbreaker. They also want agents who are themselves clean and not subject to blackmail or other corruption.
Bethards also alleged Smith may have made illegal “straw purchases” by buying parts for firearms that he intended to manufacture for someone else. He said his concern about Smith’s activities eventually turned to alarm in August when his boss told him he had obtained a fully automatic M16 rifle and wanted Bethards to get parts for him.
“I took this as good news, as it is not illegal to own a machine gun as long as you register it with BATFE,” Bethards told his superiors in the Dec. 19 email, which he provided to the State Journal. “I thought he may have stumbled into a good deal somewhere. I told him he should check to make sure it isn’t stolen, and then if he were to sell it, he could make a great deal of money, as they are worth about $15,000.00
“Jay told me he didn’t need to check to see if it was stolen, he knew it was stolen. I asked him how he knew that. He told me it was stamped, ‘U.S. Government Property.’”
These are not the guns he is alleged to have sold the AG, but would it not look better if the AG wasn't doing business with someone who is alleged to have made statements confirming he was in possession of stolen guns?
Bethards said he believes at least four DOJ officers, including himself and Smith, have been interviewed.
Investigators apparently were waiting on Van Hollen. Bethards showed a text message he received last week from BATFE agent Dave Nygren stating, “We are still waiting to hear from Wisconsin AG J.B. Van Hollen.”
Van Hollen is not irrelevant to the investigation, then. I should not have said he bought a stolen gun (there's your retraction, in print), but rather that he participated in a gun deal with a party who has allegedly said he possesses stolen guns, although not the model of gun Van Hollen supposedly got from him. I am assuming possessing stolen guns is illegal, but in this world maybe even that is an unjustified leap of logic.
While earlier I thought AG Van Hollen simply might have gotten greedy and bought himself a fancy gun of questionable provenance, now that I've taken a second look (at your insistence) I've opened the possibilities his agency is oblivious to who is obtaining and holding stolen guns right under their nose, or else his staff are concealing this from him (if it's true) and putting him in what is at least an embarrassing position and at worst a position where he's dependent upon the silence of those he dealt with -- people in his own agency. I kinda wish I hadn't revisited this thing, because it looks worse the longer I study it.
So we're waiting to find out if this is a case of "where there's smoke, there's fire" or if all these people are as clean as Ivory soap. What is your belief about the case? For instance, is Agent Bethards acting overaggressively to protect himself with regard to some other matter not yet mentioned? We haven't even gone there yet.
I think people on all sides of the political divide, and both gun people and non-gun people, want the state's attorney general and all his staff to be above reproach. We want some assurance the state's agents not only act legally in regard to federal law but also feel safe in reporting violations, even by co-workers, to the feds. These standards do not reference any political agenda, but instead rely upon the bottom line of fairness and justice: the people in charge must not be compromised or corrupt.
The best possible outcome would be for this to be true. Logic, however, makes it hard to find every person in this story to be unimpeachable.