A Wisconsin Department of Justice agent who has accused his boss of illegally selling guns used the state's email system to send messages laced with profanity, mocking Islamic terrorists' dress and calling his supervisor an obscene name, records obtained by The Associated Press show.
DOJ officials have twice suspended and reprimanded Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Dan Bethards since 2003 for misusing the agency's email, the records show.
Bethards accused former Superior field office Special Agent-in-Charge Jay Smith in December of selling weapons to law enforcement officials without a federal firearms license. He also accused DOJ officials of ignoring him when he brought the allegations to them.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is investigating his allegations. An ATF spokesman said Friday the probe is ongoing.
DCI Administrator Dave Matthews has said the allegations aren't credible, saying Bethards and Smith were locked in a long-running feud . Matthews placed Bethards on administrative leave and started an internal investigation after news of the ATF probe broke.
The AP filed open records requests for both Smith and Bethards' disciplinary files. The DOJ said no such records exist for Smith, indicating he has never been formally disciplined. Some of the documents in Bethards' file underscore the animosity he felt toward Smith and show repeated violations of DOJ email policy.
"Nobody in the DOJ has received more verbal, written and days off without pay reprimands than me," Bethards wrote in a March 2011 email in the file. " ... When they would ask, Bethards, did you call that man an (expletive), I would say no sir, I called him a (expletive-expletive), sorry about that, I will try harder and do better in the future, then take my punishment and move on. ... Integrity."
Bethards, who handled drug cases in the Superior field office, declined to comment when reached by the AP. The office has recently closed, although Smith still works as an DCI agent.
Bethards' file contains several emails from 2011 and 2012. In one to a fellow agent, he calls Smith a profanity after Smith admonished him for not adequately recording case activity and not following procedures for signing up confidential informants. In another he addresses a friend using a gay slur.
Bethards also forwarded messages disparaging President Barack Obama, mocking Islamic terrorists' turbans and urging Americans to learn about and stop "Islamic behavior." He received a message joking about blowing up prophets in Afghanistan using land mines that look like prayer mats. The sender titled the message, "This is bad but good." Bethards replied, "Just good!"
He was reprimanded in November 2003 for sending emails to large groups of recipients without approval, violating policies that require messages be professional and to treat fellow employees with respect, and being discourteous with fellow workers. The file doesn't include emails tied to that reprimand.
In May 2006, he was suspended for a day over an email exchange involving the American Federation of Teachers asking agents to join an anti-war rally. An agent sent out an agency-wide email calling the invitation a profanity. That prompted another DOJ worker to write that the email system was for official state use only and the agent should respect different opinions.
Bethards responded by saying he was a veteran of the first Gulf War, calling the rally "anti-American" and accusing the employee of using the email system to advance his political agenda. Bethards later told his superiors he didn't realize the worker didn't send the invitation and apologized to him. He denied being discourteous, saying the email offended him.
In September 2010, then-DCI Administrator Ed Wall sent Bethards a letter admonishing him for copying an investigator from an outside agency on an email that made offensive remarks undermining another agent. Bethards wasn't disciplined but Wall told him further transgressions wouldn't be tolerated.
Wall suspended Bethards last October for two days and ordered him to attend diversity and cultural sensitivity training. Wall's suspension letter accused Bethards of blind-copying agency staffers on an email he sent to Smith complaining that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen failed to seek raises for agents in the 2013-15 state budget. Other documents associated with the suspension suggest the discipline also was linked to other emails.