EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article, written by Daniel Zanoza, was published in the January 2002 edition of Guns Save Life [www.gunssavelife.com/]. The article was an RFM NEWS (now known as RFFM.org) Exclusive. The following details how Jim Ryan, who is currently seeking the Illinois Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, attempted to entrap law-abiding citizens who were selling and/or buying firearms over the Internet. In 2001, Ryan was Attorney General for the state of Illinois. Ryan launched a failed--and what many called unlawful--sting operation targeting gun owners and dealers.
Ryan was pursuing what his own legal advisors determined were cases which would not have passed legal muster in a court of law.
While Ryan was doggedly pursuing his Internet gun sting, AG Ryan reportedly refused to assist the USPIS (U.S. Postal Inspection Services) in an investigation of nearly 1,700 possible cases of the Internet being used for the procurement of child pornography.
Titles below as published in Guns Save Life:
Questions abound: Where are the guns? Where are the arrests? What happened to the money?
A.G. Jim Ryan’s botched gun sting
Chicago (RFM NEWS) - RFM NEWS has learned Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan postponed a press conference that would have announced a major investigation. The press conference, which would have outlined a significant Internet gun buy sting conducted by investigators from the Attorney General’s office, was reportedly scheduled to take place sometime during the Spring of 2001.
According to sources close to the Attorney General’s office who spoke to RFM NEWS on condition of anonymity, the Internet gun buy sting netted as many as 25 automatic and semi-automatic firearms which were sent through the U.S. mail and purchased by investigators from the AG’s office.
Sources tell RFM NEWS the press conference was postponed indefinitely when lawyers for the Attorney General’s office determined up until that point of the program cases made by investigators would not have passed legal muster in a court of law. Reportedly, lawyers for the AG determined that investigators might have entrapped many of those targeted in the sting , thereby making the cases unprosecutable on constitutional grounds.
Upon learning about the legal flaws in the accumulated cases, a source said Ryan went into a tirade, demanding that staff lawyers be briefed by investigators in all future investigations.
RFM NEWS is reporting the sting operation was originally funded by the Attorney General’s office itself. However, the AG eventually received a federal grant for $850,000 with the help of Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.
More than one source within the Attorney General’s office has confirmed some of the weapons obtained during the Internet sting may not be accounted for, including the necessary parts to build an automatic machine gun, which was also purchased by AG staff during the covert gun buy.
Dan Curry, press secretary for Attorney General Jim Ryan, confirmed that a press conference announcing the sting had been postponed. “We contemplated conducting a press conference but backed off when we studied the new Illinois Supreme Court rules, which prohibited our office from displaying evidence in the case,” said Curry. Jim Ryan had intended to display the weapons as part of a photo op during the press conference. However, questions remain why the results of the investigation were never released to the public. Jim Ryan’s office would not confirm the status of the gun buy operation and/or how much of the $850,000 has been spent on the sting and any subsequent investigations involving firearms.
Some law enforcement experts question whether the AG’s office should be participating in this type of activity because such investigations usually fall under the jurisdiction of agencies more suited to the task. RFM NEWS has learned officials at the U.S. Postal Service were not pleased when they learned of the Internet gun buy sting because they were not given advance notification about the operation. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s frustration was compounded by the fact firearms were traveling through the U.S. mail without that agency’s knowledge.
In June of 2000, Jim Ryan first publicly announced his office would become more active in such investigations, when the press was informed the AG’s office was pursuing three cases involving the alleged sale of firearms, over the Internet and at gun shows. One such case involved a Michigan man who sold firearms over the Internet without ever seeing the individual to whom he was selling.
“Apparently, the Attorney General’s office was not aware they were unknowingly walking into the middle of an ongoing criminal investigation,” said a source within the AG’s office who preferred to be unnamed. “Our people got involved and basically compromised a good case. Ultimately, the Attorney General’s office pled the matter down, presumably to get out form under an embarrassing situation. The defendant walked away with little more than a slap on the wrist.”
RFM NEWS has learned a high ranking official from the Bureau of ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) in Washington, D.C. personally contacted Jim Ryan over this matter, making it clear the AG’s interference in the case was not appreciated by the ATF.
According to reports, there have been circumstances when federal law enforcement has sought cooperation from the Illinois Attorney General’s office without success, further compounding the friction between these agencies. RFM NEWS has learned the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) sought assistance from the Illinois Attorney General in the investigation of nearly 1,700 possible cases of the Internet being used for the procurement of child pornography. The AG reportedly refused to assist the USPIS in a project called Operation Avalanche.
Dan Curry, Jim Ryan’s press secretary would not answer repeated questions from RFM NEWS concerning the status of the Internet gun sting.
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