BY MICHAEL SAUL
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
The federal government will not file criminal charges against any of the 15 out-of-state gun dealers accused by Mayor Bloomberg in a federal lawsuit of selling guns illegally, the Daily News has learned.
In a stern rebuke to the city's high-profile crusade against illegal guns, the feds warned the Bloomberg administration that it could face "potential legal liabilities" if it continues to conduct sting operations that fall within the jurisdiction of federal agents.
Bloomberg announced the filing of a federal lawsuit last May against 15 gun dealers, who he lambasted as the "worst of the worst." The city later filed a similar lawsuit against another 12 dealers.
In both cases, the city sent private investigators to gun dealers and secretly videotaped them making what Bloomberg called illegal "straw purchases."
A "straw purchase" refers to when an individual talks with a store clerk about purchasing a gun, but then gets another person to fill out the required federal forms and undergo the mandatory background check.
According to a letter sent to City Hall, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and various U.S. attorneys' offices have determined the city's findings against the 15 dealers "do not rise to a level that would support a criminal prosecution."
The letter - sent Tuesday by Michael Battle, director of the executive office for United States Attorneys at the Department of Justice - also scolded City Hall for engaging in sting operations involving persons "without proper law enforcement authority," saying that could put the city in legal jeopardy. Battle added that City Hall could "unintentionally interrupt or jeopardize" criminal probes.
Asked if the Bloomberg administration plans to stop conducting the sting operations, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said, "Not necessarily."
"The city hasn't violated any laws," Skyler said defiantly, adding that the city will continue to pursue its civil lawsuits against the gun dealers.
Originally published on February 8, 2007
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