WASHINGTON (AP) - A former leader of the FBI’s Milwaukee field office used “extremely poor judgment” in trying to influence the testimony of a subordinate in a disability discrimination lawsuit, according to a Justice Department inspector general report issued Wednesday.
The report concerns a discrimination complaint brought two years ago by Justin Slaby, a Wisconsin native who lost his left hand in an Army training accident and argued in his lawsuit that the FBI wrongly kicked him out of its training academy because of his injury. An Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Slaby contended that he was qualified to serve despite his prosthesis.
After Slaby sued, his attorney accused Teresa Carlson, then the special agent in charge of the Milwaukee office, of tampering with a witness in the case. That allegation triggered an investigation from the inspector general, which concluded in its report that Carlson left the appearance of trying to improperly shape a subordinate’s testimony.
That subordinate, special agent and firearms instructor Mark Crider, had determined that Slaby was qualified to be an agent because he could shoot with his dominant hand and was preparing to give a deposition.
But Crider said Carlson strongly opposed the hiring of Slaby and encouraged him to “come down on the side of the government in this matter,” according to the report. He said Carlson told him that Slaby, an FBI telecommunications specialist, was not qualified, should never be an agent because of his disability and that he should be satisfied with the job he had.
Carlson denied making the remarks attributed to her, saying she told Crider to “just tell the truth” and “don’t do anything stupid.” But the inspector general’s report says it concluded that Crider’s recollection was more credible and that Carlson had “conducted herself unprofessionally and exhibited extremely poor judgment.”
“We concluded that regardless of whether Carlson intended with her statements to influence Crider’s deposition testimony, the statements created the appearance that Carlson was attempting to do so,” the report said.
The inspector general’s office said it referred its findings to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, which declined to prosecute Carlson.
The report also criticized Carlson for having admonished another subordinate for comments made to an FBI inspection team about the field office’s response to a 2012 deadly shooting at a Sikh temple.
Carlson, who has since been transferred from her position in Milwaukee and is identified in the report as an acting deputy assistant director in Washington, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment, saying it’s an ongoing personnel matter.
Slaby’s lawsuit went to trial last year in federal court in Virginia. A jury ruled in his favor and awarded him damages for emotional pain and suffering.
One of his lawyers, John Griffin, said he was pleased with the report. He said his client is now in training to be an FBI special agent.
“It makes it pretty clear that when supervisory personnel attempt to intimidate special agents in the line of duty, and intimidate them from telling the truth, that people who do that are going to be treated harshly and rightly so,” Griffin said.
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