Far too many people believe that federal law enforcement agents and US Attorneys and their Assistants are above being corrupted. They’re wrong.
The US Department of Justice has announced the criminal indictment of a now-former FBI Special Agent, Robert G. Lustyik Jr., age 50, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
“According to the indictment, while active in the FBI, former Special Agent Lustyik used his position in an attempt to stave off the criminal investigation of a business partner with whom he was pursuing lucrative security and energy contracts,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “He allegedly acted through a childhood friend to secure promises of cash, purported medical expenses and business proceeds in exchange for abusing his position as an FBI agent.”
There have been others.
In November 1980 a jury convicted then-former FBI Special Agent John Connolly of working with informants James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi to kill a potential witness against them 26 years earlier. Testifying against Connolly was former Boston office FBI Supervisory Special Agent John Morris who pled guilty to accepting bribes from Bulger in exchange for inside information.
In 1994 Bulger received a tip, allegedly from Connolly, that Bulger was about to be indicted by a grand jury. Bulger fled and successfully eluded capture until 2011 when he was found living quietly in Santa Monica, California. It is expected that during his trial scheduled for March 2013, Bulger may reveal even more about the corruption within the FBI.
Corruption in state and local government takes many forms and while not commonplace, it does occur. Too often it includes state and local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover promoted the perception that his Special Agents were above that. Hoover liked to portray his Special Agents as the white knights riding in to rescue a trusting citizenry from the clutches of corrupt public officials. To whatever extent it was true during his lifetime, it is clearly no longer true now.
We citizens share some responsibility. We blindly trust federal, state, and local officials whom we’ve known for years and whom we choose to believe would never betray that trust because, after all, I played basketball with him. I taught her in school. He’s a (insert favorite political party here), not one of those crooked (insert vilified political party here). She’s a police officer. She and her husband have donated generously to (insert favorite cause of charity). We go to the same church, so he’d never …
A federal law enforcement badge, regardless of the agency it represents, or a political appointment to the position of US Attorney are no guarantee that the possessor will forever retain the essential traits of honest and integrity. Sadly, people do change.
However, as the Justice Department’s press release shows, there are still those in the federal justice system who will not tolerate corruption within their ranks. That is somewhat reassuring.