TUCSON, Ariz. -- The former U.S. Attorney for Arizona – who was investigating the possibility of a lawsuit against the United States for the murder of a Border Patrol agent – has recused himself from the case. It was revealed the U.S. had allowed guns into Mexico during his tenure.
Paul Charlton was hired by the parents of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. It was found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) ran a program called Operation Fast and Furious that allowed hundreds of guns to be walked into Mexico. Two of those guns, AK-47 variants, were found at the murdered agent’s crime scene.
The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed that ATF ran a similar program while Charlton was U.S. Attorney. That program was called Operation Wide Receiver.
Now, Charlton says he’s stepping away from representing Terry’s family. His law firm, Gallagher and Kennedy will continue to represent Terry's family.
"The narrative that the Department of Justice is using to talk about Fast and Furious involves Wide Receiver and I think that that diminishes and takes away from the tragedy of Brian’s death,” Charlton said.
The Department of Justice recently released documents related to both gun-walking operations. In one of the emails, a prosecutor under Charlton asked if it was possible to allow ATF to let guns walk into Mexico.
In the 2006 correspondence to Charlton, an assistant federal prosecutor wrote:
"The question was posed by RAC [Resident Agent in Charge Chuck] Higman as to the U.S. Attorney's Office's position on the possibility of allowing an indeterminate number of illegal weapons, both components of which (the upper and the lower) [receivers] were provided to the criminals with ATF's knowledge and/or participation, to be released into the community and possibly into Mexico, without any further ability by the U.S. Government to control their movement or future use."
Charlton said that the letter's request was never approved and points out that the letter mentions that ATF's own legal team wouldn't have approved it. The letter says ATF's legal team was opposed to the gun-walking program citing "moral objections."
Yet, federal records show that the Wide Receiver defendants did in fact traffic weapons into Mexico and then returned to Tucson to buy still more weapons and repeat the crime for well over one year.
Charlton said he did not approve the operation, but Wide Receiver still took place.
“What ATF was doing exactly is a great question for ATF," Charlton said.