What began as a discrimination lawsuit by an Army veteran who lost his hand could end up in disciplinary action for a senior FBI official resulting from the findings of a Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The IG found in a recently released report that said Teresa Carlson, former special agent in charge of the FBI Milwaukee Field Division, acted “unprofessionally” and “exhibited extremely poor judgment.”
The IG forwarded its finding to the FBI for review and potential administrative discipline. However, the report did not allege criminal conduct, even though it says an attorney alleged Carlson “tampered with a witness in a civil case and attempted to suborn perjury.”
The conduct stemmed from the case of Army veteran Justin Slaby v. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Slaby’s left hand was blown off when a grenade prematurely detonated during a training accident in 2004. He now has a prosthetic hand. He went on to work for the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group’s Hostage Rescue Team as a telecommunications specialist, but wanted to become an agent.
Slaby reportedly passed the basic fitness tests and was admitted into the FBI training academy in 2011. But the instructors cut him because they concluded he couldn’t safely fire a gun with his prosthetic left hand.
On July 13, Slaby filed a disability discrimination case against the FBI for claiming he was wrongly disqualified from being a new agent trainee because of his Army injury. The suite was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. During the trial, Slaby reportedly showed jurors he could hold and even pull the trigger of a model handgun with his prosthetic hand.
In August 2013, Slaby won the case getting both reinstated in the academy and a $75,000 settlement. He will be graduating from the academy next month and will be the first FBI agent to have a prosthetic hand.
“I’m going to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21 and will be one of the proudest people in the world to watch him go across that stage and graduate from the academy. It’s going to be a special moment,” Slaby’s attorney John W. Griffin told the Victoria Advocate newspaper in a story published Monday.
Before the case ended though, there were some bumps – mostly involving Carlson, according to the IG report released on Aug. 27.
Carlson talked to Special Agent Mark Crider who was going to be deposed in the civil case.
“In this context, according to Crider, Carlson made statements to the effect that his testimony should support the FBI’s position that Slaby should not be an agent and that it would be in Crider’s best interest to come down on the side of the FBI,” the report says.
The IG report says that in the course of the investigation, it requested an interview with Carlson, but she eventually had to be compelled to talk to investigators. Carlson told the IG that she only told Crider to “tell the truth” and “don’t do anything stupid” in his deposition for the case. She strongly denied telling him to side with the FBI.
In May 2013, while the case was still going on, Griffin filed a pleading with the court that was forwarded to the Office of Inspector General making the allegations of witness tampering by Carlson.
The IG report says that in the course of the investigation, it “received an allegation that in a separate incident, Carlson had admonished another agent in the Milwaukee Field Office for providing information to FBI inspectors about the office’s communications with local law enforcement in connection with a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in August 2012.”
The report says, “Carlson conducted herself unprofessionally and exhibited extremely poor judgment when she made statements to Crider relating to his deposition in the Slaby lawsuit. We also concluded that Carlson’s statements to Crider created the appearance that she was attempting to improperly influence his deposition testimony.”
Carlson has since become the acting deputy assistant director in the facilities division, he said.
“We similarly concluded that Carlson’s conduct was highly inappropriate and reflected a troubling lack of judgment when she admonished another agent for his comments to an FBI inspection team about the Milwaukee Field Office’s handling of the Sikh temple shooting,” the report continued. “We found that Carlson’s conduct created the appearance that she discouraged her subordinates from speaking candidly with inspectors.”
(H/T Victoria Advocate)