Department of Justice Agent Who Blew The Whistle in 2012 Says Experience Ruined Him

In 2012, Dan Bethards had been a special agent in the Wisconsin Department of Justice for 14 years. But his career and life were upended after he reported his direct supervisor and friend, Jay Smith, for making and selling firearms without a license — a possible federal offense.

Since blowing the whistle on Smith, Bethards has been fired. He lost his home to foreclosure. He figures his future in law enforcement is over.

Bethards says he regrets his choice to report Smith, and wouldn’t do it again.

“In particular with me, it wasn’t a good thing because the ‘thin blue line’ became a negative thing. You don’t snitch on cops. That’s just the way it is, you just don’t. Otherwise, bad things happen. And bad things happened for me,” Bethards said.

Bethards says he was aware of Smith’s activities for several years before he decided to report him. He was prompted to blow the whistle after Smith approached him asking for help to modify an allegedly stolen government-issued AR-15 rifle to become a fully automatic machine gun. Bethards says this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Even more disturbing to Bethards, he knew that then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Division of Criminal Investigation administrator Ed Wall both had bought guns from Smith.

Bethards says he reported the activity — despite the risk to his career — because, “We are the cops, we are supposed to do the right thing every time all the time without question, right? That’s what you expect from your police officers.”

After Bethards made his allegations, he was put on paid leave and later fired. In response, he filed a series of retaliation complaints, which sparked a legal battle between the former narcotics agent and DOJ.

In May, the state Court of Appeals ruled against Bethards. The court found that the way Bethards reported his allegations — by notifying both his superiors and the head of DOJ’s human resources department — nullified his whistleblower protection.

The agency had argued Bethards notified the wrong people at DOJ of his allegations, that only members of his chain of command should have been informed. The appeals court found that Bethards’ “interpretation of that (whistleblower) statute is not more reasonable” than the state’s.

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos declined comment on the litigation.

Bethards says he cannot afford to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“The chances of even getting heard are minimal, and the chances of winning there are miniscule,” he said. “ You can’t go up against the government and win. They are just too powerful —and arrogant. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and nobody is strong enough or rich enough to stop them.”

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