December 10, 2010

So, is Someone in Hot Water at the BATF?

After publishing Felons Canít Own Guns. So How Did This Guy Acquire Three Ö Gun Companies? in October at Pajamas Media, I reached out to the BATF in an effort to try to understand why convicted felon Lee Franklin Booth hadn't been arrested for what appear to be clear violations of federal gun laws.

Several weeks later, after questions had reverberated from Washington, DC to the regional office overseeing the Carolinas, I was contacted by Charlotte-based BATF Special Agent and Public Information Officer (PIO) Earl Woodham on November 2.

I had a cordial 20-minute preliminary conversation with Agent Woodham outlining my concerns. He seemed to think that the regulatory end of the ATF had investigated Victory Arms before, but wanted to read the article. He said he was "getting hammered by a chain of inter-agency emails" and wanted to resolve the issue. At the same time, he understood that the Pardon of Forgiveness Booth was given would not allow him to possess firearms, and found that perplexing.

In that initial conversation—based upon my description of what we'd revealed—Woodham seemed to be of the opinion Booth had probably violated the law.

The cordial tone was gone from our next conversation, a very clipped and formal affair where Agent Woodham told me that after conferring with his colleagues (fellow BATF agents in Charlotte and Greensboro), that they had "no interest" in pursuing an investigation against Mr. Booth.

The abrupt shift in the official BATF response from Agent Woodham was stunning. I thought about his response, and wrote back to him in an attempt to clarify and understand the agency's position.

Good afternoon Agent Woodham,

I just want to make sure that I am accurately citing the BATF's position regarding Lee Booth and the allegations we've made against him in our Pajamas Media article and during our telephone conversations last week.

It is the BATF's position that Lee Franklin Booth is a convicted felon, and that his Pardon of Forgiveness does not restore his right to own firearms.

It is the BATF's position that the agency has looked into Lee Franklin Booth's business relationship with Detonics USA Industries, Inc,, Victory Arms, Inc, and the Victory Arms acquisition of Templar Consulting, and have found that while Booth is listed as a principle officer in these corporate entities in legal documents as CEO, and/or President, and that eyewitness testimony will reveal that he ran day-to-day operations of at least Victory/Templar out of a property that he owns, that this felon's involvement with these companies was not a crime, even though these associations appear to be in direct violation of 18 USC 923 and 18 USC 922(g) which both recognize Booth as clearly being a "prohibited person."

It is the BATF's position that a photo of convicted felon Lee Franklin Booth holding a pair of Detonics pistols, taken January 6, 2007 at 1:41:04 with a SONY DSC-T5 camera belonging to Lee Franklin Booth, witnessed by two individuals currently in possession of the photo, and willing to testify in a court of law that Booth both held and fired those firearms, is not worth additional investigation.

It is the BATF's position that the agency has no obligation to determine if Lee Franklin Booth illegally obtained a concealed carry permit in Guilford County, even though his attorney Dan Hardway of Angier, NC freely admitted Booth was issued a permit by the Guilford County Sheriff's Department in discussions with Pajamas Media legal counsel.

It is the BATF's position that all auditors and agents within the Greensboro, NC, BATF office followed the letter of the law and were not in any way influenced by Lee Franklin Booth's relationship with an IRS CID agent who administers the Victory Arms/Templar page on Facebook, and who restricted the public version of the site and his own personal Facebook page after the Pajamas Media article posted, even though he was never cited in the article.

It is the BATF's position that documentation amassed by the Pajamas Media legal team that apparently shows Booth in violation of federal and state laws, including an internal exhibit within Skipper and Detonics vs. Booth and Detonics Consent Order, Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction, labeled "Exhibit B," lists by serial number the 23 firearms Lee Franklin Booth took into his personal possession, is not something the agency is interested in reviewing, based upon the BATF's previous investigations into these allegations.

It is the BATF's position that their investigation into Lee Booth and his involvement is thorough, and that no further investigation is warranted.

Thank you very much for your time and clarifications on this matter. I want to document the BATF position precisely for my next article.

I then forwarded the same letter to BATF-Washington as well.

Agent Woodham never responded.

Someone else did.

On November 15 I spoke with Jan Kemp of the BATF Public Affairs office after being asked to call the agency's main number in Washington. I provided her with a copy of the above letter, and mentioned that I had questions I was trying to address regarding the kind of discharge Mr. Booth received from the Marines while in prison, and the status of the two Federal Firearms Licenses for Victory Arms. We also informed her of the expert analysis that confirmed the validity of a photo in the original article showing Mr. Booth literally gun in hand.

Two days later Ms. Kemp graciously wrote back to say that she was sorry, "but I don't have anything to tell you regarding this matter."

I wrote back:


That is a very, very interesting response, and I do want to be fair in my characterization of it (nuance is lost via email very easily).

Is it the BATF's position that they do not owe the public an explanation for why field agents and supervisory agents in the Charlotte and Greensboro offices are purposefully declining to enforce clear and direct violations of criminal statutes in the case of Lee Booth, even though they agree (and I speak of Supervisory Agent Earl Woodham) he is a felon that cannot own guns?

Or are you saying that the BATF doesn't have anything to tell me because you do not comment on current investigations?

Ms. Kemp then replied, "ATF does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations." I've been told by various law enforcement sources that such a statement typically confirms the existence of an investigation. In this case, that might include an internal investigation of the Charlotte and Greensboro offices themselves.

It appears that before all is said and done, Lee Booth may not be the only person in hot water for his apparently criminal activity.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 10, 2010 07:38 AM

Sometimes I truly wonder whose side they are on... Thanks for pushing this one!

Posted by: Old NFO at December 10, 2010 01:30 PM

It appears that before all is said and done, Lee Booth may not be the only person in hot water for his apparently criminal activity.

Or it could mean STFU and go away, we just don't care. Or that Mr Booth is some form of "protected" person and no one will be permitted to question it.

Looking forward to how this resolves.

Posted by: Professor Hale at December 10, 2010 03:00 PM

This looks like the continuation of a trend. Don't these "public officials," who used to be called "public servants," work for the "public"? And aren't we the "public"?
I mean, where do they get off in effect telling citizens that it's none of our business what they're doing and to whom they're doing it?
I think it's time for a clean sweep, and not just of the elected officials!

Posted by: MichigammeDave at December 10, 2010 09:40 PM

I hope you aren't holding your breath waiting for the atf to act against this guy.
As a 10 year gov employee I can be pretty certain that I am on solid ground when I tell you that the unspoken/ unwritten line following Kemps' K "...comfirm...deny..." booshwah is, "the fix is in".

Posted by: emdfl at December 10, 2010 09:46 PM

Follow the money.
Bet the local BATmen have a "independent retirement fund."

Posted by: Stretch at December 10, 2010 11:45 PM

Booth may be a Confidential Informant at this point as well...

Posted by: MunDane68m at December 12, 2010 12:19 AM

I don't know which side they are on, but I know that they aren't on ours (with us being the American People.)

Posted by: Phelps at December 12, 2010 05:14 AM