PHOENIX - United States Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich is retracting claims that there were eleven instances in which weapons linked to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' controversial Fast and Furious case were associated with violent crimes within the United States.
Not including the two firearms discovered at the December 2010 murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry , Weich is now saying the ATF is aware of only one instance in which a weapon linked to the Fast and Furious case can be linked to a violent US crime.
"…We would like to correct and update the information provided," Weich wrote in a letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy , Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, dated August 31, 2011.
The incorrect information was initially provided by the Department of Justice in July 2011.
Weich's letter did not reveal information about the weapon or the location and the circumstances of the violent US crime.
ABC15 INVESTIGATORS HAVE BEEN COVERING THIS STORY FOR MONTHS
We uncovered official documents showing nearly 50 guns connected to the Fast and Furious case were also recovered at the scenes of non-violent Glendale and Phoenix crimes.
In the letter addressed to Leahy, Weich said the eleven firearms initially reported to the Committee on the Judiciary erroneously included seven weapons traced to violent crimes in Mexico and one non-violent crime within the United States. The report also included two weapons found at the scene of Terry's murder.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY'S RESPONSE
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been a leader in the Congressional investigation into the controversial Fast and Furious case said he was not surprised by the new information.
"The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since day one, so the revisions here are hardly surprising, and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered-most likely years down the road."
ADDITIONAL GUNS LINKED TO VIOLENT CRIMES IN MEXICO
Weich said, as of August 16, 2011, the ATF has identified and recovered 21 additional firearms associated with violent crimes in Mexico.
"As further firearms are traced and additional analysis of recoveries occurs, ATF advises that additional firearms associated with Operation Fast and Furious may be identified," Weich wrote.
CASES TRANSFERRED TO CALIFORNIA
The Brian Terry murder case, meanwhile, and the Fast and Furious case will both be transferred out of the US Attorneys Office in the District of Arizona.
According to Manny Tarango, a representative for the US Attorney's Office in the District of Arizona, the two cases and a separate weapons case will be moved to California.
"Out of abundance of caution and in the best interest of these prosecutions, the United States Attorney's office has asked that these cases be reassigned to prosecutors in offices in Los Angeles and San Diego," he said in a statement.
"The Justice Department has finally recognized the conflict of interest with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona handling both the Terry prosecution and the Fast and Furious case," said Sen. Chuck Grassley.
"Up to this point, the Terry family and others who have been impacted by Fast and Furious have been treated poorly by the department. This is a step in the right direction and an overdue recognition that the cases could not be handled properly by the same prosecutors who oversaw the dangerous gunwalking strategy in the first place," he added.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform , also said the change of jurisdiction would be a good idea.
"Moving cases related to Operation Fast and Furious away from the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office is clearly in the best interest of achieving just outcomes and removes the apparent conflict-of-interest that Arizona prosecutors had in bringing cases from an operation they mishandled," he said.
"The Oversight committee first urged the Justice Department to transfer these cases to an impartial prosecutor in May. This decision is also an important step in respecting the rights of victims of Operation Fast and Furious, including the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who had expressed concern about how the cases were being handled in Arizona."