Hot tip: if some scroungy guy offers to sell you guns out of his trunk, he’s probably one of “ATF’s Finest” — a criminal working with the agency to make new first-time felons. A Wisconsin man is now about to be a literal jailhouse lawyer because he didn’t listen to his own sense that there was “something funny” about the convicted drug dealer who was insisting he buy the guns.
A jury found a Wauwatosa lawyer guilty Friday of buying what he called “a hit man’s gun” with a “highly, highly, highly illegal” silencer during an undercover reverse sting in 2011.
Thomas Michael Barrett had been set up by a convicted drug dealer who was trying to earn a break on his sentencing in federal court. But despite his own testimony that he sensed something was funny about a meeting for the possible sale, Barrett paid the informant — a man he’d never met — $400 for two handguns and the silencer.
He was arrested moments later in the parking lot of Mayfair mall in Wauwatosa, where the whole transaction was recorded on surveillance video and audio.
Before this week’s trial, Barrett had mounted a vigorous, though unsuccessful, defense of the charge focused on a claim that the state’s law against silencers infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The informant, Michael Bond, also recorded his initial phone calls to Barrett, saying an acquaintance, a former client of Barrett’s, had said he might be interested in buying some pistols.
Though Bond said one gun had a silencer, Barrett testified he did not believe Bond, and that even when he saw the gun and silencer in Bond’s trunk and commented on its illegality, he could not be positive the item was a real silencer.
Barrett, 54, said he became fearful of Bond at the parking lot meeting, because Bond was so insistent that Barrett buy both guns and the silencer — Barrett first offered to buy the one gun without a silencer.
Barrett said he knew he could turn in an illegal silencer to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and said that’s what he had in mind when he told Bond he could help him dispose of the item.
But when he was arrested, Barrett already had put the silencer in a separate lock box in his own car and made police get a search warrant to open it.
Barrett faces up to three years in prison at his sentencing April 18 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
Bond’s sentencing in the federal drug smuggling case is set for next month. Many records regarding his case are under seal.
This is what a win looks like to ATF:
- a formerly law-abiding man who was, when solicited, willing to bend the law is behind bars,
- a violent drug dealer who should be behind bars is out free, and
- another statistic for the ATF and the USAO.
And this time they didn’t even need to go full retard (the agents in this case are the same ones who ran a gunwalking storefront near a middle school, and managed to bag no crime guns, but some retarded guys they were able to entice into making illegal sales).
And this is what a set-up looks like from the victim (ATF would say criminal) point of view. Somebody new in your life (or someone in your life who has been trending towards the sketchy) is offering you contraband. If you’re not interested, he or she won’t take a polite “no.” As the same issue keeps cropping back up, despite your efforts to dismiss it, this person is pushy, even insistent. That’s because the ATF has the informer over a barrel, and can apply hammer and tongs if said informer doesn’t produce someone the ATF wants more.
Note also that the case files remain under seal: this is probably because the ATF is still using the informer. They will keep using him as long as he can be effective; someone can earn a six-figure income for years if he can keep producing felons for the ATF.
This is also a pretty good reason not to be a lawyer. First, being a lawyer means you’re always going to be up to your ears in people with problems. Second, for many lawyers, the people with problems will be real-live criminals. Nobody is a more natural informant than a criminal, since by profession they come pre-compromised, and by character they’re often the polar opposite of models of integrity.
Should such a situation appear to you, you need to take the hard way out, not the seemingly-easy way Thomas Barrett did. Or you’ll wind up like him: following an easy path to doing hard time.