Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund

Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund

Summer 2013

Inside This Issue


From the Chairman

In the 18+ years that LELDF has been helping our law enforcement agents in bringing about justice, never have we been involved in a case like that of American hero, Jay A. Dobyns. This heroic man gave 23 years of his life, risking death, being separated from his family for long periods of time, and being in almost constant danger. His two years with the Hells Angels, during which time he was able to collect enough evidence to indict many of them, is something that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be most proud of. Instead, after a trial of gang members in which he was “outed” as an infiltrator (since he had to testify against them), the ATF stopped protecting him, putting him in tremendous risk of retaliation. Then they accused him of setting fire to his own house!

photo_noangel_bookYou can read about his experience in the Hells Angels in his bestselling page-turner book, No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey into the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels (Broadway Books, 2010).

Jay Dobyns said in a recent letter to me: “I wanted to personally thank you and the LELDF for your financial assistance to me. Without your help there is absolutely no way I would have been able to have my day in court and expose the truth of what happened to me. Fighting DOJ for five years is not a game that a lowly agent can finance without some help.”

Also it is a travesty that Detective Donald Taylor of Maryland should have his life turned upside-down for pursuing and subduing a robbery suspect, who was not injured or treated wrongly in any sense of the word. The suspect said he was traumatized when the officer’s pistol accidently discharged (not hitting anything) during the arrest. It is amazing to me that such cases against our law enforcement personnel can even go to trial, costing thousands of dollars, and leaving the detective’s reputation sullied. Donald Taylor was put through months of personal turmoil just for doing his job. Thank goodness this one ended with the detective being exonerated.

The trial of “Fresno Four” officers from California, which took over a year to finally go to trial, resulted in a hung jury with 9 jurors in favor of acquittal. But the politically motivated Department of Justice is not satisfied and already announced that there will be a new trial.  Instead of commending the police for their heroic efforts in taking this violent criminal off the streets, the politically-correct bureaucrats at the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Justice Department literally made it into a civil rights case in favor of the criminal. Although the criminal was guilty as charged and plea-bargained his sentence to just nine months, the police officers who arrested him face 10-year prison sentences for allegedly violating the rights of a convicted felon and an illegal immigrant. Our previous estimate (before the trial) that it would cost a minimum of $100,000 to defend each officer unfortunately proved to be true.

It is because of your support that we have been able to be instrumental in these and other important cases. Thank you very much for your past and future tax-deductible donations to LELDF!

David H. Martin

Decorated ATF Hero Battling His Former Agency

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Jay Dobyns as he looked when he was with the Hells Angels

LELDF’s newest case is that of an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who has found it necessary to sue his former employer. Jay A. Dobyns conducted more than 500 high-intensity undercover operations in his 23-year career with the bureau, including the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles; the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas; the Columbine high school massacre in Littleton, Colorado; and the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. He received some of the federal law enforcement’s highest awards for valor and excellence.

In 2002, he was selected to infiltrate the Hells Angels, a notoriously dangerous and violent motorcycle gang, in what was called “Operation Black Biscuit.” His somewhat fearsome persona convinced the gang to bring him into its inner circle for almost two years. He collected enough evidence to bring about the arrest of 52 people and the indictment of many gang members. Because he had to testify in court, his real identity was revealed, and the enraged gang targeted him with a series of threats of violence. They threatened to inject him with the AIDS virus, to murder him, and to kidnap and gang-rape his daughter and wife.

Dobyns and his family were subsequently given new covert identities for their safety, but Dobyns  knew these threats were serious and would be carried out if the Hells Angels could find him. He consequently asked the ATF to investigate the gang’s threats. And the ATF did nothing. Dobyns contacted the Office of Inspector General, which did its own investigation, concluding that the Dobyns and his family were, indeed, in danger and that the ATF was neglecting the safety of their special agent. The Office of Special Counsel concurred, issued a letter to the White House stating that the ATF was negligent in protecting one of its agents.

Despite these complaints from official government bureaus, no action by the ATF was forthcoming. Agent Dobyns, fearing for himself and his family, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Act complaint against the ATF, alleging, among other issues, safety violations. He won that suit in September 2007, settling his claim with the ATF.

Not long after that settlement, however, the ATF, which had been proven negligent in court, suddenly ceased all protection of Agent Dobyns and his family, thereby releasing his real identity and whereabouts to the world! His real name and address thus went out into the public domain, with no fictitious identities any longer in place to make it difficult for the biker gang to find him.

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Exterior and interior photos of Jay Dobyns’ house after an arsonist set it on fire. His family barely escaped from the blaze.

At 3:30 a.m. on August 10, 2010, while Agent Dobyns was away at flight school in Phoenix, an unknown person or persons set fire to his home. His wife and children barely escaped the blaze, which completely destroyed the house. A certified fire inspector from the ATF concluded that it was arson, and an internal ATF report compiled a list of suspects. But the ATF ignored this list and zeroed in on Agent Dobyns himself as the suspect. They recorded his phone calls without his knowledge, and meanwhile made no effort to find the real culprits.

A request to the Justice Department to hand over a secret ATF file targeting Agent Dobyns as the lone arson suspect was ignored, as was a petition to turn over the audio recording of his phone conversations. It was then that Agent Dobyns, who served the agency in one of the most difficult ways possible, found it necessary to file a suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for breach of contract for failing to protect him and his family after threats of violence following one of the most successful undercover operations of the bureau. The case has been in discovery for three years and finally went to closed trial in June, which was scheduled to last at least six weeks and be held in two cities: first in Arizona and then in Washington, D.C. As we go to press, the closed-door trial is still in process. Information on the results will be posted here.

LELDF continues to be very involved in this lawsuit by helping to pay legal fees (including costs for 150 hours of depositions, many of which were videotaped) paying for the transportation and housing of numerous federal witnesses, many of whom are former ATF employees. We, and the Dobyns family, appreciate any assistance you can make to help with this case for a real American hero.

Maryland Detective Wins Case Against Felon

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Detective Donald Taylor with his canine, Cezar

LELDF recently was instrumental in providing assistance to help a detective accused of using excessive force to reach a “not guilty” verdict in a circuit court of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Detective Donald A. Taylor, who had a distinguished 19-year career in law enforcement and 15 years in the Marine Reserves, was found innocent of five criminal counts in the arrest of Ryan Keith Dorm near the Maryland-Washington, D.C. border.

Detective Taylor was assigned to the Robbery Suppression Task Force in Prince George’s County, which is known for being high-crime area. On February 3, 2012, he and a partner observed two men entering a convenience store connected to the Low Price Gas station on Rhode Island Ave. in Brentwood, Maryland. One of the men was wearing a ski mask. The two officers, in a marked police cruiser, pulled up to the store and Detective Taylor’s partner entered. He approached both men in the store to question them. A struggle between the officer and Ryan Dorm ensued, with Dorm knocking over the policeman, and fleeing the store. Detective Taylor observed this as he was getting out of the police cruiser, and immediately pursued the suspect on foot, chasing him through dark streets. As he started to catch up with him, he observed that Dorm seemed to be reaching for something in his waistband area. In a split second, he drew his weapon just as Dorm suddenly turned around. The detective saw that he had a black object in his hand and took a swing at the suspect, knocking him to the ground. In the ensuing struggle, Detective Taylor’s weapon accidently discharged, not hitting anyone. Footages of the last few seconds of the chase from a nearby night-vision surveillance camera showed the suspect running, and then turning, with the detective behind him. Unfortunately the video gave a distorted view of what occurred. What became clear during the trial was that the angle of the video gave a much clearer shot of the suspect than the detective could see in the dark. Also, for most of the chase, which lasted just a few minutes, the detective could see only the suspect’s back at ground level.

After Detective Taylor knocked Dorm down, the event was over. He handcuffed the suspect and brought him to his feet. He had subdued him with just a single blow and no further use of force. Dorm testified during the trial that he ran because he did not want to go back to jail. The 19-year old African-American was a convicted felon who had already served time for assault. Ironically, about a month before the trial, Dorm was arrested again on the charge of first-degree rape.

This case was also complicated by the fact that Ryan Dorm became a media star granting many interviews to the local press, who bought his fabricated story that Detective Taylor had used excessive force. He even went as far as saying that he did not know he was being chased by the police. In court, he admitted that he had lied to the media.

LELDF provided funds to pay for expert witnesses on police defensive tactics, survival training and issues regarding perception and reaction time. They demonstrated that Detective Taylor’s actions were reasonable based on the circumstances, particularly considering the fact that the suspect had just had a violent confrontation with the detective’s partner and then decided to flee the scene. He also had just 1.75 seconds to react to the suspect’s threatening maneuvers. LELDF congratulates Detective Taylor and his attorney, Marcus Bobsib, for a successful outcome of this case.

CASE UPDATES: Hung Jury for Detroit Officer Weekley

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Officer Joseph Weekly

A June trial in the case of Officer Joseph Weekley, a 15-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department, resulted in a hung jury. Weekley had been implicated in the accidental death of a child during an October 2011 arrest of two murder suspects, and was facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent discharge of a firearm.

The incident occurred in the wee hours of May 16, 2010, while he was on detail with a SWAT team, which surrounded a building where two suspects were hiding. The team tossed a flash-bang grenade, which causes a blinding bright light for several minutes, through the apartment window to disorient the suspects. Weekley entered the apartment, arriving at the exact moment that the grenade burst into an impenetrable blinding flash of light. He was momentarily blinded.

In the chaos of that moment, a woman confronted him and grabbed for his weapon. In the scuffle, the gun discharged unintentionally, accidently hitting and killing a child sleeping on the sofa. The two suspects were arrested and charged with murder.

Officer Weekley went on disability status to cope with trauma and other psychological effects that he has been suffering on account of the child’s accidental death. He and his wife, a former policewoman, have two young daughters of their own.

The tragic accident occurred in a very dangerous confrontation with an aggressive individual. LELDF assisted Officer Weekley in this difficult and emotional case.  We provided expert witnesses and legal fees during the trial proceedings. We now await word on whether there will be a retrial.

Despite Hung Jury, Justice Department Retrying “Fresno Four” Case

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Fresno Four: Christopher Coleman; Sean Pylmale with his family; Paul van Dalen; Michael Manfredi

The trial of four officers from Fresno, California, who were charged with violating the civil rights of a man who had beaten, stalked, and threatened to kill his girlfriend, has resulted in a hung jury. Unfortunately the politically motivated Justice Department is preparing to retry the case. Sgt. Michael Manfredi and Officers Paul Van Dalen, Christopher Coleman and Sean Plymale each face possible 10-year prison sentences if convicted in an incident.

In 2005, the four Fresno policemen had responded to an urgent 911 “crime in progress” call from a single mother who said her ex-boyfriend, Rolando Celdon, was trying to break down the door to her apartment and was threatening to kill her and her children. She had good reason to be scared, as Celdon had assaulted and beaten her the previous day.

Celdon fled the scene. It took the four officers plus a police dog to capture and subdue him. At one point, he scaled a fence with a police dog attached to his leg. But, by  acting quickly, the police managed to apprehend him and book him on five charges, including stalking, battery, making a criminal threat, burglary, and domestic violence. He was convicted of the first two counts later that year, served his time in prison, and was deported as an illegal alien.

Five years later, however, a federal grand jury indicted the four officers who had arrested Celdon on nine counts of civil rights violations relating to the arrest.

E. Marshall Hodgkins, the attorney for Sgt. Manfredi and Officer Plymale, said that his clients are innocent of the charges and that “there will be no plea bargain.”

Referring to the officers who saved the life of the woman being threatened, the attorney said, “Is this the kind of people we want to take off the streets? … Or do we want to take the likes of Mr. Celdon off the streets?” LELDF agrees. It is clear that a politically motivated Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Justice Department is trying to score a victory against the police.

LELDF spent more than a year and over $90,000 in helping the four officers with legal fees and costs to prepare for the trial. Now with a new trial coming up, there will be many more costs, not to mention a personal toll on the four men and their families. While lacking the resources of the Justice Department, LELDF will use all the means at its disposal to prove that these brave officers used non-lethal force in the proper way and were seeking only to subdue a violent criminal.