U.S.A. – -(Ammoland.com)- “I call your attention to the application of one of my constituents, Mr. John Thomas Shipley, that is before the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice,” Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk writes in a Dec. 1 letter to President Donald Trump. “After careful review of his circumstances and consultation with my former colleagues in the House of Representatives and other professionals, Mr. Shipley’s incarceration appears to be the result of prosecutorial retribution, judicial overreach and political targeting…”
Shipley had gotten the wrong people mad at him. Because he came to believe a woman he had arrested was innocent, he refused to sign an affidavit to prosecute her. She was awarded a large settlement and wanted to show her gratitude, but he declined. Nonetheless, he was charged with perjury and bribery, neither charge having evidence to stick.
In what appears to be a determination to get him for something, Shipley, a collector, was later charged and convicted of gun trafficking. A firearm that he had sold to a local deputy sheriff who sold it to a gun store that “the ATF sanctioned to sell weapons to cartels and traffickers.” It was subsequently recovered in Mexico.
My personal tie-ins with Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” notwithstanding, this new development in Shipley’s story is of special interest to me because I extensively covered his story back when he was fighting for his life.
“Is FBI agent Mexican ‘crime gun’ source?” I asked in a July 14, 2009, Gun Rights Examiner headline upon reading a report in The New York Times that “An F.B.I. agent in El Paso has been arrested and charged with dealing guns, some of which ended up being used in gunfights between the authorities and drug dealers in Mexico…”
My initial assumption, that a crooked cop got caught, was challenged within hours by a trusted source, who told me all was not as it appeared. It soon became evident from that source that there was much more to the story than what the government was claiming and the media was reporting.
Shipley maintained he was a collector. The government charged him with being a dealer. Despite there being no firm-fixed standards to ensure consistent application of the rules, the jury sided with the government.
And in an unbelievable development, a full day of testimony affecting the appeal and in the custody of the court was “lost.” Add to all that an unlikely trafficker, Jonatan Lopez-Gutierrez, a Mexican national, and a prosecutorial decision in his case that screamed official coverup:
“Despite that gun being a central piece of evidence in the government ‘justifying’ its charges against Shipley, who had nothing to do with either its sale to Lopez or with smuggling it to Mexico, that .50 was not included in the indictments against Lopez and his accomplices, leading a source close to the Shipley case to conclude ‘[I]f the ATF charged Lopez with trafficking that Barrett to Mexico, the ATF would have to provide discovery materials that would prove the ATF knowingly allowed that gun to ‘walk.’”
Unfortunately, much of my reporting is either lost or will be extremely difficult and time-consuming to reconstruct. Examiner.com stopped operations and removed its website content, and much of that has not been archived on sites like the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine. On top of that, my own files are incomplete due to changing computers a few times, having a hard drive on one become irreparably broken, and other reasons. There was literally so much information that in order to try to retrieve it I would probably need to take a week off work, and still wouldn’t get all of it.
That said, you can get a feel for the extent of the reporting by searching for “Shipley” on my The War on Guns blog (again, note Examiner links embedded in those posts will no longer work).
A repeated criticism I received at the time I was reporting on the Shipley case was a question of why I cared. After all, the often angry challenges would continue, he was a career FBI agent, and many gun owners considered his being caught in a net the feds routinely entrap “ordinary citizens” in as both karma and a call for a bit of schadenfreude.
What I came to realize dealing with John, just as I learned dealing with ATF whistleblowers who helped navigate colleague Mike Vanderboegh and me through our Fast and Furious investigations and reporting, is that there are brave Americans whose calling to seek justice takes them on government service paths where they assume risks and put themselves in harm’s way that many of us never have to. On a personal level, I have come to believe he is a good man who, with his family, has been forced to endure long-term persecution and unjust punishment that would break many of us. And remember, he would not yield to pressure to railroad a citizen by signing an affidavit, even though that would have been the career-enhancing way out, rather than the beginning of an ordeal that is yet ongoing.
That and the reality is, if one person — no matter his background or whether you or I like him or not — suffers injustice at the hands of vindictive state officials, we all are vulnerable. It is in each of our interests to care.
“Given the pardon power vested in the President of the United States, I wanted to bring Mr. Shipley’s request to have his rights fully restored to your attention,” Rep, Loudermilk concluded. Here’s his letter to President Trump. It wouldn’t hurt if you sent him the link to this article, via The White House website communication form, or even better, by Twitter, along with the message to please pardon John Shipley.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.