Senate Committee Memo Details US Marshals Service's Long History Of Misconduct

from the outed-on-the-way-out dept

Senator Chuck Grassley is leaving his post as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, firing some parting shots at the US Marshals Service on his way out the door. His 20-page memo [PDF] detailing years of USMS misconduct comes with over 400 pages of exhibits -- source documents, email chains, and other evidence backing up the disturbing narrative.

The USMS wasted taxpayer dollars, misused asset forfeiture funds, engaged in routine retaliation against whistleblowers, and -- for an entire decade -- forged a judge's signature on more than 800 subpoenas.

A 2007 OIG investigation prompted by reports from a whistleblower uncovered evidence that a USMS task force there had been routinely customizing an electronic subpoena template and pasting in a digital image of a local judge’s signature obtained from legitimate court documents in order to give the appearance of official judicial approval. The OIG found that between the years 1995 and 2005, approximately 800 fraudulent subpoenas had been served by the task force.

A decade of fraudulent behavior was followed by a single written reprimand of a deputy marshal who was later promoted to Supervisory Criminal Investigator. Given this culture of unaccountability, it's little surprise two high-profile incidents involving US Marshals and solicitation of prostitutes was greeted with minimal punishments for everyone involved.

There has been no improvement over the last decade.

Just last year, in what the DOJ OIG called an instance of “gross mismanagement,” a Chief Deputy United States Marshal who engaged in sexual harassment, misused his government phone and vehicle, obstructed an OIG investigation by threatening and retaliating against subordinates, and lied to the DOJ OIG, was allowed to retire with full benefits and without receiving any punishment whatsoever.

And, while the USMS was willing to blow funds on expensive, rarely-used 'training centers' featuring "high-end granite countertops" and "custom artwork," it wasn't so willing to spend money to keep its employees safe. After USMA testing determined body armor needed to be replaced every five years, Service management chose to address the impending purchase of 4,000 body armor panels by doing nothing. It finally secured a replacement contract in 2016, but the contract only provided for phased replacement, which would mean some vests would have been nearly a decade past their "expiration date" before being replaced.

When employees complained about using expired body armor, USMS was telling Congress (and USMS staff) that the 5-year lifetime estimate wasn't accurate and that the vests were still safe to use. It made these statements while simultaneously asking Congress for additional funding in 2017, citing specifically the 13% failure rate in testing of older equipment.

In short, the USMS was representing to Congress that this study showed that expired body armor was dangerous and needed to be replaced while telling its own employees that the old armor was safe to use.

Acting Director Harlow’s email also raises serious concerns about the operational awareness of senior officials. Acting Director Harlow wrote, “if armor is in good condition and has been properly cared for…it retains its full ballistic capabilities.” This statement neglects to take into account that Deputy Marshals across the country perform their duties in the heat, cold, rain, and snow. Exposure to sunlight, humidity, or even excessive flexing or bending of armor can lead to degradation over time. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a Deputy Marshal would not expose their body armor to any of those factors on a daily basis.

Multiple whistleblower complaints -- followed by multiple acts of reprisal by the USMS -- paint a picture of an agency that is accountable to no one, not even the Judiciary Committee that is supposed to be overseeing it.

Throughout this investigation, the Committee has uncovered countless instances of mismanagement, favoritism, and a lack of accountability. The OIG has confirmed many of the allegations the Committee has received, and identified multiple additional instances of misconduct and mismanagement—including by the most senior leaders in the agency. Those leaders set the tone for the entire organization, and their actions affect employees throughout their many districts and divisions.

Grassley's memo is an extremely disturbing read. Given its contents, it's hard to believe Grassley actually thinks installing a new director will root out the deep-seated problems detailed in his report. But I guess those are the things you say to the New Guy, especially when you're no longer directly involved in keeping an eye on him.

Filed Under: abuse, chuck grassley, coverups, misconduct, us marshals


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Gary (profile), 9 Jan 2019 @ 12:11pm

    Enforcement

    Obviously the internal enforcement has broken down. The only thing we can do is spread the word until someone takes action, so thanks for sharing this Tim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Jan 2019 @ 8:02pm

      Fox finds new coop designs and rules to be perfectly acceptable

      Investigation and enforcement of rules/punishment for violations should never be an internal matter for just this sort of reason. 'Conflict of interest' means that it should always be an outside party investigating things like this, one with the power to force compliance and hand out punishments, as if you just leave it to the very party under investigation to look into it you get results like this, brushing things under the rug if not flat out ignoring them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2019 @ 2:08pm

    More important question is why the hell this sub human piece of shit (grassley) waited until now to say something and worse still do nothing during his tenure? Fuck him and all the old bastards that know shitty corruption runs rampant but let it. They are as guilty of it if not more because it was their job to do something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Jan 2019 @ 6:17pm

    And this is why

    This is why we have little trust in law enforcement (in general).
    No accountability. Without repercussions, there will be no following of the rules.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Jan 2019 @ 8:31pm

      When law enforcement behaves criminally...

      ...then criminals will run the district. The people will stop relying on those institutions tasked with enforcing law and keeping peace and turn to organized vigilante gangs to do the job instead.

      Those that succeed become the mob. Eventually, they may become the new state order.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Jan 2019 @ 7:58pm

    How's that saying go again?

    'Dumb criminals go to jail, smart criminals go into law enforcement and/or politics.'

    The OIG found that between the years 1995 and 2005, approximately 800 fraudulent subpoenas had been served by the task force.

    800 fraudulent subpoenas served, involving forging a judge's signature. If someone without a badge tried something like that they'd be sitting in a cell for a long time, yet what did those responsible face...?

    A decade of fraudulent behavior was followed by a single written reprimand of a deputy marshal who was later promoted to Supervisory Criminal Investigator.

    A written reprimand followed by a promotion, making it crystal clear that no-one involved saw anything whatsoever wrong with fraudulent legal documents with forged signatures.

    With findings like that I'd call them a gang of criminals that just so happen to have badges, but in fact I'd argue that they're worse, because at least criminals without badges only take your money when they rob you directly, you don't have to pay their gorram salary while they do it, and non-badge toting criminals at least have the possibility of being held accountable for their actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 10 Jan 2019 @ 3:03am

      Re: How's that saying go again?

      Just the use of fraudulent court documents is a major cause of concern. How could there be no repercussions from that? (A written reprimand is not a negative repercussion.)
      Didn't the courts have a problem with this? Or even attorneys?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re: How's that saying go again?

        Unless these were reported to them at the time, no.

        Then there's the matter of who they're going to report malfeasance to and what will be done afterward. In any organisation there's a hierarchical structure of some kind. This means that ultimately there's a person with whom the buck ultimately stops. It seems to me that this was Grassley and the DOJ's departmental heads. There have been at least two of these, which means that the Obama administration had an opportunity to deal with this assuming it had access to Grassley's intel.

        Assume it did. Why was nothing done?

        Assume it didn't. Why was Grassley holding back this intel?

        Widespread institutional corruption should not be the norm in a liberal democracy. It'll take a lot of work to sort this out and someone is going to have to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 8:54am

    Look out Grassley, remember what happened to Jamarion Robinson.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.