WASHINGTON, DC – The Washington D.C. watchdog group that six years ago called for an investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis today released a report critical of the resulting probe, which ended without any charges being filed against the Redlands congressman.
The FBI began an investigation of Lewis in 2006. Agents initially planned a three-month probe to examine allegedly inappropriate relationships Lewis had with individuals whose clients benefitted from earmarks obtained by the Congressman, as well as Lewis’ relationship with a hedge fund.
The Bureau’s case instead lasted four years. The Justice Department closed the case in 2010 without filing any charges against Lewis, although newly released documents show that agents considered a possible charge of honest services fraud in 2008.
Lewis’ office did not immediately provide any comment. Lewis consistently denied any wrongdoing in news articles about the FBI investigation.
The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, did not go as far as to say the Justice Department deliberately went soft on the Lewis, but instead claimed its review of more than 1,500 of federal documents demonstrates the FBI did not provide sufficient resources to agents working on the four-year investigation.
CREW chief counsel Ann Weisman said the group’s review did not find any “smoking guns” proving the FBI botched its investigation, but the group does not believe the FBI devoted sufficient resources to the case.
Among CREW’s criticisms is the government’s decision to let FBI agents based in Riverside lead the case, although any wrongdoing would have been more likely to take place in Washington, D.C.
“They were 3,000 miles from where the events took place. It looks like they were nickeled and dimed,” Weisman said.
A possibile of an honest services fraud charge was mentioned in a singe FBI document dated Oct. 10, 2008. The document, released by CREW, states the FBI would need to conduct further investigation of financial records in order to prove any charge should be filed.