The federal government has taken over the case of an FBI employee involved in a fender bender.
Washington, D.C., police issued Benjamin Huff a $100 ticket after he allegedly scraped another vehicle looping around Sheridan Circle during rush hour.
Such routine traffic accidents are assigned to the city's Department of Motor Vehicles' Adjudication Services. But Huff made a federal case of his mishap by asking the U.S. Department of Justice to step in.
On Friday, an assistant U.S. attorney got Huff's case "removed" to U.S. District Court.
The filing said removal "ensure(s) that federal officers or agents shall not be forced to answer for conduct assertedly within their duty in any court except federal court."
Government officials cited a regulation that permits legal coverage if an employee's "actions reasonably appear to have been performed within the scope of his employment and whether providing representation would be in the interest of the United States."
U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Nicole Navas simply recited the passage in response to Watchdog.org's questions about Huff's status and the case's purported national interest.
Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, said Huff's case "was delegated by DOJ to our office." He did not comment further.
Ted Gest, spokesman for the D.C. attorney's office, representing the DMV, said his agency was considering opposing the removal of the case from its jurisdiction.
Civil libertarians see a slippery slope where more than 3 million full- and part-time federal employees can get free DOJ counsel and a court of their choice for local offenses.
"They're no longer part of the citizenry — they've become their own class of rulers," said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, Va.
"You expect it in places like China. Now you're seeing it in Ferguson [Missouri] with snipers on tanks. They're the rulers; we're the ruled," he said.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Watchdog has requested official documentation that Huff, a civilian investigative specialist, was on the job when the crash occurred. The FOI filing also seeks the reasons why his case was in the "interest of the United States."
Additionally, Watchdog asked how many vehicular accidents the DOJ has removed from adjudication by local authorities, and at what cost. The requests are pending.
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