Lawrence A. "Larry" Gaydos, Attorney at Law.
"Things like this happen because of meetings. People sit in meetings and they decide what they want to happen. And then they take decisions, make policy and implement that policy to achieve those ends." He added, "That's why State is so nervous. They signed off on this. In a meeting." -- Old Spook.
It is Friday, 11 March 2011. The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami is devastating Japan. At the U.S. Attorney's office in Phoenix, Lawrence A. "Larry" Gaydos, of the high power Dallas law firm Haynes and Boone, his client Andre Howard, federal firearms licensee and owner of the Lone Wolf Trading Company sit down to a meeting with Assistant United States Attorney Emory Hurley, his boss Michael Morrissey (who will later be interviewed by an oddly amnesiac Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for an Arizona judgeship), ATF supervisor Jim Needles, ATF Group VII supervisor Tonya English and other lesser mortals. The meeting has been asked for by Attorney Gaydos. His Haynes and Boone bio reads as follows:
Larry Gaydos is a partner in the White Collar Defense/Antitrust Practice Group at Haynes and Boone. He has extensive experience in white collar criminal defense and government investigations, including antitrust, federal securities, defense procurement, foreign trade, environmental and general criminal matters. He also has extensive experience in civil antitrust litigation, antitrust counseling, internal investigations, and federal criminal appeals.
Mr. Gaydos, in short, is no inexperienced slouch when it comes to either federal scandals or cover-ups. By this time in the scandal, Andre Howard was concerned about his safety say federal sources familiar with the investigation. Between the letters written by Senator Grassley to ATF Acting Director Melson and surveillance video played on CBS News, Howard was convinced his identity was known and that he would be a target of retaliation.
"Morrissey did most of the talking for the Feds," said one source who was not there but who had knowledge of the investigation, adding that "Tonya English said nothing but kept copious notes."
Most of the time, meetings in a bureaucracy are held to either establish a policy or to execute it. Sometimes, especially when the bureaucracy itself doesn't call the meeting, it is about covering up the dangerous consequences of a policy gone wrong.
There were a number of things that Howard and Gaydos knew going into this meeting, according to the sources. Howard knew that the two Kalashnikovs that had been found at the Terry murder scene traced back to his shop. He also knew that a "third gun" had been found at the scene, and that it was an SKS that traced back to Texas. These facts he knew from ATF agents directly after the Terry killing.
Yet, to a man, the DOJ and ATF participants in the meeting sought to reassure Howard and his attorney that none of the weapons found at the murder scene had come from Lone Wolf and, more incredibly, they maintained that all of the weapons that had come from Howard's gun shop had been interdicted before they went across the Mexican border.
Howard, the sources say, had previously been told that by Hurley and at this meeting that falsehood was backed up by Morrissey.
"They were in a complete state of factional denial," said one source, adding, "They kept insisting that everything Dodson and the other whistleblowers were saying were lies," and that "the real truth would come out in the trials of the straw buyers."
According to a source familiar with the recollections of the meeting by its participants, "There were people in that room, and not just Gaydos and Howard, who knew that . . . it was bullshit and completely ridiculous."
Notes taken by Tonya English, at least those turned over to the Oversight Committee, do not reflect those statements, however. Although English was reported to have taken "copious notes," according to one source, the notes turned over to the committee are said to be a mere list of meeting participants. This column attempted to contact Ms. English and other meeting participants by email about the discrepancy, but as of this writing they have not responded.
Where did the notes go? "I guess you'll have to ask English that," said the federal source. "It isn't the first document that disappeared in this investigation and it won't be the last."
Ironically, according to all the sources, AUSA Hurley, while denying the obvious, admitted an even more dangerous fact.
"Howard told the meeting that he knew there was a third gun found at the scene and that it had been traced," said one source, adding, "Hurley admitted that there was but said that neither it nor the AKs came from Lone Wolf so Howard didn't have anything to worry about."
Neither Howard nor Gaydos was that stupid. It was also in early March that Howard began taping ATF Group VII supervisor Hope MacAllister, tapes where MacAllister also admits that there was a third gun.
"I think Gaydos knew that DOJ was taking a completely untenable position," said one federal source. "Factually, it just was not credible."
He added, "Morrissey made promises" about helping guard Andre Howard's shop and home against potential threats" (the initial reason for the meeting), but "later on they proved to be a complete hoax as well."
"The one thing that was clear in the meeting," said the source, "was that (Gaydos) put the DOJ and ATF on notice that they didn't want to be caught in a fight between the Congress and the DOJ" and that if put under oath, Howard "would testify as to what he knew to be true -- the traces, the third gun and the lies about the weapons being interdicted" -- regardless of what the DOJ would insist.
The meeting, then, did not turn out the way the DOJ planned. Recognizing that Andre Howard would not "play ball," DOJ may have decided that they had no incentive to protect Andre Howard from Mexican cartel killers.
Said the federal source, "The longer this drags out, the bolder the DOJ and ATF management gets" about "retaliation against witnesses." "The committee needs to do a better job of shielding these guys" like Dodson and Howard, said the source, "or they aren't going to be around to testify much longer."