Dennis Burke's Ouster Tied to Botched Grenades Case; Former U.S. Attorney Also Entwined in "Fast and Furious" Scandal

Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke's apparently forced resignation last week stemmed not only from the "Fast and Furious" scandal, but also from a botched case involving grenades.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Burke may have approved an attempted sting in 2009 by the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau that resulted in a suspect taking parts for hundreds of grenades into Mexico.

The suspect, Jean Baptiste Kingery, took delivery of the parts in January or February of 2010 while under ATF surveillance -- but agents and Mexican officials lost contact with him as he drove to the border.

That June, agents arrested Kingery in Arizona with parts for more grenades, but he was released without being charged within hours. When Mexican authorities took the man into custody on August 31 in Mazatlan, they found enough parts for hundreds of more grenades.

According to the Journal article, the June decision to release Kingery:

"... is at the crux of a bitter fight between ATF agents and prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix. The lead ATF agent on the grenades case, Peter Forcelli, "was horrified with the thought of releasing this individual" and "practically begged" senior prosecutor Emory Hurley "for permission to arrest the suspect on a criminal complaint..."

An e-mail later surfaced in which Burke wrote, "Agree [with] the course of action as the variables play out."

Yikes. And this is on top of evidence that Burke personally approved of the ATF's Fast and Furious Operation's gun-walking tactics, in which hundreds of firearms were allowed to be sold to suspected cartel affiliates.

Local blogger Greg Patterson, who predicted months ago that Burke would lose his job over the Fast and Furious scandal, suggested a few days ago that for Burke and some of his former underlings now being investigated, it might be "time to lawyer up."

Whatever the outcome of the investigation, the new allegation that literally heaps grenades on top of a firearms scandal looks bad for Burke, a Janet Napolitano protege who was once considered a rising star in the Arizona Democratic Party.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.