Most of you will be aware that armed employees of the EPA and FBI recently conducted an armed raid on a company in Bozeman that recycles used cartridge brass. This email is to give you additional information that was not in the news about that, to tell you what I’ve been doing concerning the raid, and to prepare you to help with the next step.
Several months ago, OSHA visited the business, USA Brass, because of allegations of workplace safety issues, notably lead dust in the air from tumbling fired brass (the lead dust would be from primers). There were two employees who had lead levels above what is acceptable. As a result, USA Brass invested a lot of money in expensive air filtration and ventilation equipment, and upgraded employee training and practices. As a result, USA Brass passed a subsequent inspection by OSHA.
However, upon OSHA’s first visit, I’m told, USA Brass managers didn’t kneel quickly enough to OSHA inspectors and offended them by not being subserviently cooperative. So, the subsequent raid by EPA, FBI and others was conducted to teach them a lesson about federal power and proper cooperation.
I have yet to learn if the federal entry was conducted with guns drawn, but that will come out. Many, if not all, of the federal employees were visibly armed (thanks to the local TV station for covering this). The federal employees were aided and abetted by personnel from the Bozeman Police Department and the Gallatin County Sheriffs Office.
Upon arrival, the federal employees forced all the employees into a room or rooms where they were isolated and held for hours. The employees cell phones were confiscated so they could have no communication out of the building. The feds disabled all of the security cameras in the building so there would be no video record of the federal deeds or misdeeds. The feds confiscated and took away all laptop computers and external hard drives, and copied all desktop hard drives, including USA Brass’s contact information for 10,000 customers.
I see this as a Montana version of what’s happening in Nevada. And, I see no reason to put up with it. None!
What is known about the Bozeman raid presents more questions than it answers. I put those questions in a polite letter to the U.S. Attorney for Montana and asked him to look into it. He has not responded. I assume my very polite request went into his round file.
With no response from the U.S. Attorney, I redirected my request for an investigation to Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. That request, which includes the request to the U.S. Attorney, is pasted below for your information. I’ve had no response from Fox yet.
If I don’t get a response from AG Fox by Tuesday (actually, later today as I write this at 2 AM), I’ll turn up the heat.
One additional tidbit: Lawyers for USA Brass have persuaded the principals that they should hunker down and make no waves, for fear of triggering more Draconian and punitive federal actions. While I sympathize with USA Brass, frankly this posture strikes me as similar to advising Jews in pre-WWII Germany to not make any fuss over their neighbors being hauled away in the night by the Gestapo, for fear that the remaining neighbor might be executed right in his apartment then next night by the same Gestapo, rather than just being given a nice train ride to an undisclosed destination.
That’s all. If/when I need your help with this, I’ll get out another email. Stay tuned for more as I learn more.
April 10, 2014
Attorney General of Montana
Montana Department of Justice
You will have seen my request addressed to Mr. Cotter (below). Mr. Cotter has not responded, at least not in a timely manner. I interpret this lack of response as a reluctance or unwillingness to conduct the investigation I requested of him.
Therefore, I now make the same request of you.
In addition to the questions suggested to Mr. Cotter, I hope you will also look at what role the Gallatin County Sheriffs Office may have played, or not played, in the federal raid at USA Brass. More specifically, was the GCSO looking out for the welfare of the people of Gallatin County, or was the GCSO simply aiding and facilitating the operation of federal entities and federal personnel?
Tim, given the heavy-handed application of federal force by BLM currently unfolding in Nevada, I believe it is imperative that Montana assert some accountability for the application of federal police, or police-like, force in Montana. If Mr. Cotter won’t do that, then it becomes even more important for you to be interested and involved.
On behalf of all Montanans, I thank you in advance for your willingness to look into this incident.
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
April 4, 2014
Michael W. Cotter
U.S. Attorney for Montana
2601 2nd Ave N.
Billings, MT 59101
Dear Mr. Cotter,
Greetings from Missoula.
The purpose of this email is to request that you conduct a careful investigation into the circumstances surrounding a raid executed upon cartridge brass recycler in Bozeman, USA Brass, last Thursday, March 27, 2014, by employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, possibly other federal agencies, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, local law enforcement agencies, and possibly others.
Although the federally-employed personnel involved prefer to characterize this incident as an “audit,” the media portrayal of the incident as a “raid” appears to be more accurate.
The information I have about this incident so far comes from a variety of sources. I seek more information, and so should you. Some of the troubling ingredients of this incident, as I believe them correctly to have been, ingredients not consistent with a simple “audit,” include:
1. Although USA Brass had been subject to some civil enforcement action for workplace safety by OSHA, the company had completely remedied any such problems and had been given a clean bill of health by OSHA. Thus, the recent incident appears to be disconnected from any ongoing issues with OSHA. You may be able to discover the letter issued to USA Brass by OSHA acknowledging USA Brass’s full compliance with OSHA requirements.
2. Because a warrant was served on USA Brass, anyone would wonder if there were some particularly egregious activity going on there, and what the federal foreknowledge of that activity might be. Because of the overwhelming armed force used by federal officials to mount this raid, that suggests expected resistance or some sort of ongoing, violent criminal conduct at USA Brass. Your investigation should disclose whether or not these suppositions, spawned by the tactics of the raid, are correct or incorrect. This, in turn, should offer some perspective about whether or not the level of force and intimidation used was warranted.
3. Upon arrival at USA Brass, federal employees rounded up and sequestered all employees of USA Brass, confiscated their cell phones, disabled company phones, and held employees incommunicado for several hours. Since these employees of USA Brass were not free to leave, I believe this detention qualifies as an arrest under current case law. It would be helpful for you to examine whether sufficient justification for this mass arrest was present.
4. The confiscation of cell phones and disabling of security video apparatus for the incident smacks of advance action by federal employees to prevent any recording of what they did. If everything they did was by the book, proper and legal, it’s difficult to imagine what motive they would have had to insure that there was no video record of their activities. That is very suggestive that the reason they prevented a video record is because some or all of what they did was extra-legal, and that they knew going in that some of their actions would be extra-legal. Perhaps you can get clarification about why public servants doing public work would desire their public actions to be beyond public view and scrutiny.
5. From media video and reports and reports from those at the scene, it appears as if most or all of the raid personnel were obviously armed or displaying arms. This seems excessive for what some officials present would like to characterize as an “audit.” For an “audit,” this has all the appearances of deliberate intimidation, not something exactly calculated to inspire citizen trust and confidence in their government. Maybe you will be able to learn and make public why EPA personnel are armed, and why the many federal personnel present were so obvious about being armed.
6. One unverified report says that the initial entry into USA Brass by federal personnel was made with tactical weapons (machine guns) held pointed at the non-resisting office workers and other USA Brass employees present. Perhaps you will able to confirm or dispel this report. If the report is correct, this would also seem to be excessive for an “audit.” Actually, as someone accepted in state and federal courts as an expert concerning use of force, I can tell you that if a person points a firearm directly at another person, regardless of who the firearm pointer’s employer may be, the person pointing the firearm HAS used lethal force because the firearm pointer has put the life of the other at risk from an all-too-common accidental discharge.
7. During the hours that federal personnel held USA Brass employees captive and sequestered, the federal personnel confiscated laptop computers, confiscated external hard drives, and copied internal hard drives from USA Brass computers. Perhaps you can obtain an explanation for how such seizures are consistent with an “audit.”
8. If this federal action was authorized as an “audit,” perhaps you can learn and explain how it escalated into a full-blown, armed raid.
9. One knowledgeable person has told me that employees of the EPA do not have law enforcement powers in Montana – that the EPA lacks legal authority for the type of operation conducted at USA Brass. If that is so, perhaps you can determine and explain how such an operation fits within legal parameters.
10. The media reports that the senior federal official present at this incident was Bert Marsden, purportedly an employee of the EPA’s “Criminal Division.” A search of the Online staff directory for the EPA fails to disclose anyone named “Marsden” working for the EPA. It will be helpful if you can confirm that the “Bert Marsden” reported by the media actually exists, that he is an employee of the EPA, that the EPA actually has a “Criminal Division,” and that Bert Marsden actually is employed as some sort of official in this EPA Criminal Division.
Mr. Cotter, I urge you to investigate this incident very seriously. If you should find that there were any violations of law or policy by the personnel (federal, state or local) involved in executing this operation, I also urge you to take strong remedial action, including prosecution of any personnel involved who violated any laws.
Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will respond to this request and announce your intentions in this matter. I also hope you will investigate this incident and make public all relevant findings.
Sincerely yours,Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana