You may have never run into a U.S. Marshal, but the U.S. Marshals Service is the oldest federal law enforcement body in the United States, started under George Washington. There have been legendary marshals, like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, and epic arrests, like that of famed mob boss Whitey Bulger. Today we examine a different side to the Marshals Service — a darker side. Lisa Fletcher hears from two former marshals who put their careers on the line, when they fought the law, and the law almost won.
Dawn Mahoney: My whole entire life, I wanted to be in law enforcement, and the United States Marshals Service to me was the pinnacle of my career. This was my calling, and I was good at what I did. I was good at catching bad people and putting them in jail.
Dawn Mahoney joined the Marshals Service in 2002. She came to law enforcement through the Army as a military police officer and served in the Federal Protective Service. She was recruited by a veteran marshal.
Bobby Ledogar: And she was young and up-and-coming and a workaholic and a huge positive personality.
Bobby Ledogar became Dawn’s mentor.
Bobby Ledogar: And then she wanted to go into what everybody wants to do when they're a U.S. Marshal. Everybody wants to work warrants and work out in the street and go after fugitives. I mean it's what they make the TV shows about and the movies about. It takes a lot of confidence and courage to go down these dark hallways into a dark room, and to hope that the person under those sheets are the guy or girl you're looking for, and they don't have a gun. And that's what Dawn wanted to do. And Dawn earned her spot.
Ledogar was a supervisor with the Fugitive Task Force, nearly 25 years in the U.S. Marshals Service. He never suspected that promoting the best person for the job would cost both of them their careers.
Bobby Ledogar: She was responsible for a lot of work. High-profile felons, violent, dangerous, "America's Most Wanted" people. And it was her job to investigate, locate, and arrest them, with several other members of the task force.
Lisa Fletcher: This is exactly the position that you wanted, but then everything goes south. Tell me what happened.
Dawn Mahoney: My first two years there, before I went on to become the team leader of that team in the task force, the culture there was already there. He calls it high school with guns. I think it's "Animal House" with guns. Racism, you had just a lot of degradation of women, pictures hung all over, a lot of very explicit stuff that was happening. When it really hit the climax was in July of 2015 in the office, when I was sexually harassed. I was restrained from getting to my desk. And then Bobby had requested that I go speak with the supervisor that was there, and I went in on a Friday afternoon, sat down with him, and explained to him, this culture has to stop. You have women coming in here. I have interns. I have to explain, ignore those jokes, stop what you're hearing. It was a disgusting work environment.
But it didn’t end there. It escalated. Four days after her complaint, she and her team were serving a warrant at a fugitive’s house.
Dawn Mahoney: We went, we get inside the door. And then out of nowhere, one of the task force members violently pushed me from behind, walked by me. No, "I'm sorry. Hey, get out of my way." Nobody was in trouble. Shots weren't fired.
Lisa Fletcher: They were sending you a message?
Dawn Mahoney: Clear message. They knew I went and talked to that supervisor.
Lisa Fletcher: What was the message they were sending?
Dawn Mahoney: To shut up.
Bobby Ledogar: I knew she couldn’t protect herself anymore. They’re out to hurt her.
But neither Mahoney nor Ledogar shut up. They spoke louder. Their stories became part of an investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senator Chuck Grassley.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: So, just so we are very clear, over 60 current and former U.S. Marshals Service employees have made disclosures to my office since March. That is over 1.1% of the agency. Many of the reports include allegations that the Marshals Service frequently uses Internal Affairs investigations as mechanisms for reprisal. Multiple whistleblowers from all across the Marshals Service have also told me that Internal Affairs does whatever it can to charge employees with misconduct — regardless of what the evidence actually says.
The concerns raised in Grassley’s investigation became a real-life hell for the two marshals.
Dawn Mahoney: It all happened after my chief had suggested I file an EEO complaint, an Internal Affairs complaint, so he could help out. And I didn't want to go there, again, violating the blue wall of silence. But he convinced me. So, I think it was right at New Year's Day, January 2016, he comes to my house to deliver me sad news that all my claims are unsubstantiated. So now they're leveling it against me and him, because I'm exposing the office where all this nonsense was happening, while he's exposing the agency heads that's allowing this to happen. And they didn't want any part of that. And that was a smear campaign against me and him and our reputations. And it was devastating.
Lisa Fletcher: Did you ever think that doing the right thing, and standing up for Dawn, and trying to protect the integrity of the U.S. Marshals was going to cost you your reputation and your retirement?
Bobby Ledogar: I knew there would be some ramifications. I could never imagine that in a million years. Nobody could imagine. You can't even write a — it's a movie.
Ledogar says baseless allegations came out of nowhere. Everything from him being a racist, to being in business with informants. And in the absence of evidence, Internal Affairs was charging him with misconduct. Straight out of the treacherous playbook the Senate investigation exposed.
Lisa Fletcher: How did that investigation, if at all, impact the two of you as it was going on? And then, did anything come out of it that has changed the way the Marshals Service operates?
Bobby Ledogar: Our cases were part of Senator Grassley's investigations. And several of the people that were involved with us at the Marshals Service headquarters, leadership spots, were identified as being problematic, being the reasons. And they were identified as breaking policies and violating the code of professional responsibility. But oddly, nothing happened to them.
The Marshals Service responded that they are “not able to provide specifics related to an individual’s employment record.”
Lisa Fletcher: It feels like a bit of window dressing. We spent four years investigating the U.S. Marshals Service. We found all of these problems, but then there's no teeth.
Bobby Ledogar: Well all you've got to do is tell the truth and say, "Listen, this is all wrong what happened to them, to Dawn and Bobby. It's wrong. And we've got to change this and move these people and move on." But no, they came at us hard.
Lisa Fletcher: What did that cost you?
Dawn Mahoney: A lot of money. A lot. I was like $25,000 in before I found an angel on my side who knew a law firm that took my case pro bono, thank God. And in the end, did I win back a settlement? Okay. Was it a lot? No. But for me, it was all about just proving them that I was right, and you were wrong. They settled with me. So that just kind of — they're never going to say they're sorry.
Lisa Fletcher: Bobby, what has this done to you and your family?
Bobby Ledogar: I was really good at my job. I loved my job. I devoted myself to the job. But thank goodness I have a great family. I have great friends. My wife is unbelievable and so smart. She saw it so clearly that they were coming after me. But for my wife telling me, "I'm very proud of you for protecting Dawn," that was it. So, I'm getting my courage back. I'm not a coward. And I keep fighting forward. And the people that came after me and came after Dawn, they're slobs. They're cowards. And they have nothing.
Sharyl (on-camera): What did Senator Grassley’s investigation find?
Lisa: The investigation found widespread waste and misconduct at the highest levels of the U.S. Marshals Service. And it included things like inappropriate hiring practices, nepotism, ethics violations, and retaliation for whistleblowing.
Sharyl: What happened to Ledogar — the one who tried to help and seemed to have suffered quite a bit?
Lisa: Yeah. He was terminated about two months short of his retirement, so he lost all of his benefits. And he’s appealing right now. He's fighting to get his pension back. But his case is on a five-year backlog.
Sharyl: Seems to be the case with so many whistleblowers. Thanks, Lisa.