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Accused in Justice Dept.'s Upper Echelon, and Innocent Until Scot-Free

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in_dojs_upper_echelon_you_are_innocent_until_you_get_off_scot-free_122897.html

Eric Felten
March 25, 2020

It wasn’t the first time the FBI attorney had been in the Marine Corps Base Quantico Exchange. Nor was that day in February 2018 the first time she had secreted cosmetics in her purse. But it was the first time she was caught – with $257.99 worth of shoplifted beauty products in her bag. She admitted to the crime – and to stealing from other area stores. And yet she was not prosecuted.

Not that it was a surprise. The Justice Department regularly declines to prosecute high-ranking current and former department officials, even when its Office of Inspector General provides the grounds for it.

The Department of Justice OIG does not keep complete public records on the number of prosecutions that result from its investigations. But the office does keep track of certain cases – those involving wrongdoing by senior DoJ managers and officials that Justice declines to prosecute.

In 2019 the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office issued 27 such reports of alleged wrongdoing by senior Justice Department officials and employees that went unprosecuted – everything from nepotism in hiring, to making false claims on mortgage documents, to “lack of candor” with federal investigators, to sexual assault. RealClearInvestigations reviewed the OIG’s summaries of its investigations and found that in at least a dozen of those cases the inspector general determined that the wrongdoing was serious enough to be criminal. Even so, the Department of Justice declined to bring criminal charges. The sticky-fingered FBI attorney was one of the more strictly treated – she had to agree to 125 hours of community service to avoid prosecution.

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Aponte has denied the accusations. Contacted by RealClearInvestigations, Aponte said, “I have no comment.” Had he been charged, he would have had a forum in which to defend his reputation. Instead, he retired, leaving the charges unchallenged. He is now a soccer coach at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Northern Virginia.

DOJ spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle insists department officials get no special treatment. “The Department of Justice expects all employees to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct,” he tells RealClearInvestigations. “The department takes allegations of employee misconduct seriously, including claims that employees lacked candor when dealing with investigators, and has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment in the workplace.” Allegations of misconduct are met with “appropriate action” he says, including “criminal prosecution, if warranted.”

Not necessarily so, says Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn’s attorney. Accusations that would be aggressively investigated and prosecuted if alleged against a DOJ target are treated differently when alleged of DOJ or FBI officials, she says. “They are given passes.”

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