Inspector general censures senior FBI official for remarks about disabled veteran

The Justice Department’s inspector general has concluded that a senior FBI official created the impression of witness-tampering during a discrimination lawsuit brought against the bureau by a disabled Army veteran.

Teresa Carlson, who is currently an FBI acting deputy assistant director, showed “extremely poor judgment” in her statements to Special Agent Mark Crider, a subordinate who was being deposed in the case, the inspector general found.

Crider was called to testify last year in a lawsuit brought by the veteran who had been disqualified from agent training in 2011 because of concerns about his prosthetic left hand.

The veteran, Justin Slaby of Stafford County, Va., won the case last August and resumed training at Quantico in June. When he graduates in October, he will be the first FBI agent with a prosthetic hand.

According to a redacted report by the office of the inspector general, Crider said Carlson told him in April 2013 that “it would be in my best interest to come down on the side of the FBI.”

Crider, in a one-page memorandum that was reproduced in the report, said he took her remarks “as a threat to make sure that I took the position that Slaby should not be an agent.”

Carlson, who was then special agent in charge of the Milwaukee field office, where Slaby, a Wisconsin native, had applied to join the FBI, disputed that she made such remarks, the report said. But government attorneys in the civil discrimination case stipulated she made the statements alleged by Crider, the report noted.

The inspector general’s office (OIG) referred its findings to the FBI to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. The bureau does not comment on personnel matters, a spokesman said.

An attorney for the 32-year-old Slaby welcomed the report. “I’m hoping this will be a beacon of light for men and women serving as special agents to know that they can tell the truth without being intimidated by their superiors for doing so,” said John W. Griffin Jr., a lawyer in Victoria, Tex.

Slaby’s left hand was blown off by a defective “flash-bang” grenade in a training accident in Georgia in 2004 between overseas deployments. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He left the Army in 2005, earned a college degree and in 2009 applied to the FBI and was offered a job.

In 2011, he went to Quantico, where the FBI has its training academy. After a couple of months, he was removed from training because instructors felt he could not fire a gun safely with his prosthetic hand. He went to work for the FBI’s hostage rescue team.

In 2012, he filed a discrimination suit. Slaby’s attorneys questioned Crider, who had witnessed the prospective recruit’s completion of physical fitness tests at the Milwaukee field office.

Crider told the OIG that when he informed Carlson that he was scheduled to be deposed, she told him, among other things, that “Slaby should never be an agent because he is disabled,” according to the report.

Carlson told the OIG that she “absolutely” did not make the statement. She also “firmly denied” telling Crider it would be in his best interest to side with the FBI, the report said.

The OIG said it found Crider’s statements more credible than Carlson’s. It noted that both the field office’s chief division counsel and supervisory special agent confirmed that Crider had told them of Carlson’s remarks.

“We concluded that Carlson’s conduct was wholly unprofessional and exhibited extremely poor judgment, particularly for the top official of an FBI field office,” the report said.

The OIG said that Carlson’s statements to Crider might be a criminal violation of the witness-tampering law. It referred its findings to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, which declined to prosecute Carlson.

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