The man brought in to repair one of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies after it was scarred by a gun-running scandal is stepping down, ABC News has learned.
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones has informed Attorney General Eric Holder he plans to resign, effective March 31. Jones has secured a new job in the private sector in New York City, and may be joining a professional sports league, ABC News was told.
Jones, 57, first took charge of the agency in August 2011, holding the position in an “acting” capacity until the U.S. Senate confirmed his presidential nomination nearly two years later. ATF had been without a Senate-confirmed leader for seven years.
During that time, the ATF and the Justice Department, more broadly, were blindsided by the “Fast and Furious” scandal, named for the ATF-led investigation in Arizona that put guns into the hands of criminals in Mexico, two of which ended up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in late 2010.
In the wake of the scandal, President Obama then tapped Jones to chart a new course for the ATF. At the time, Jones was serving double-duty, holding onto his position as U.S. attorney – the Justice Department’s top prosecutor – in Minnesota.
Once confirmed, though, Jones left the U.S. attorney’s office, devoting his full attention to what ATF’s website says is “the unique law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice with the responsibility for enforcing firearms and explosives laws that protect communities from violent criminals and criminal organizations.”
Some within the agency and on Capitol Hill say privately that, besides improving morale, Jones has done a reasonably good job of reforming some of ATF’s management practices that led to problems like “Fast and Furious.”
“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” Jones said in a statement confirming his departure. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combatting violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”
Last month, controversy simmered across the country again when the ATF proposed banning certain .223-caliber bullets, which the ATF warned can break through a supposedly bullet-proof vest. Nevertheless, the public outcry and pressure from lawmakers prompted ATF to abandon its plans.
Before becoming U.S. Attorney in Minnesota at the start of the Obama administration, Jones was a partner with a major national law firm in Minneapolis, according to his official biography on ATF’s website.
After receiving his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1983, he went on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as an infantry officer with the First Marine Division and, subsequently, both a trial defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of court martial proceedings, his official biography says. Though he left active duty and returned to Minnesota in 1989, he was recalled to active duty in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California.
ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon will serve as acting director after Jones steps down, the ATF said. Brandon -- a 26-year veteran of the ATF -- was appointed deputy director in October 2011.