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Name: Jones, B. Todd
Current Position: Previous Director

In the wake of revelations that an undercover ATF operation designed to track illegal guns purchased in the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels has lost track of more than 1,000 guns, Acting ATF Director Ken Melson was re-assigned to the Justice Department Office of Legal Policy. Attorney General Eric Holder asked B. Todd Jones to serve as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms  and Explosives (ATF), starting on August 31, 2011. Jones was sworn in as ATF director on August 29, 2013. This was not the first time that Jones has been called in to fill a position left open by the resignation of a controversial official.


While he was still acting director, Jones continued to serve simultaneously as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.


Born May 23, 1957, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones’s father was in the Air Force, and the family moved quite often. After graduating from Wyoming High School in Cincinnati in 1975, Jones earned his B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College in 1979 and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983. During his senior year of college, he worked as an intern in the office of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, and he has said that his internship inspired him to a career in public service, which he also says is “in his blood.”


Immediately following admission to the Minnesota bar, Jones went on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as an infantry officer with the 7th Marine Regiment and subsequently as both defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of courts martial proceedings.  In fact, it may be military service that runs in Jones’ family, because his great-great-grandfather served in the Ohio Colored Infantry during the Civil War. 


Upon leaving active duty in 1989, Jones worked as an associate attorney at Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly from 1989 to 1992.  In 1991, Jones was recalled as a Marine Corps Reservist for the first war in Iraq and served as the commanding officer of the fourth Marine Division Military Police Company until his honorable discharge in 1998. 


During those same years, Jones served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1992 to 1994.  He returned to private practice as a partner with Greene Espel from 1994 to 1997, and served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1997 to 1998.  In 1998, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones as the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, and President Bill Clinton nominated him. He served from 1998 to 2001, resigning upon the election of Republican George W. Bush. 


Back in private practice, Jones returned briefly to Greene Espel, but soon left that firm and became a partner at the much larger firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi from 2001 to 2009, where his practice focused on complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense. 


In 2009, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones for his old job as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. The previous Attorney, Rachel Paulose, had resigned in 2007 following allegations of mishandling of classified reports and a dictatorial management style. President Obama nominated Jones, and he has served in that role from 2009 to the present. Ironically, six years earlier, in 2003, Jones and Klobuchar clashed in a high profile criminal trial in Minneapolis, with Klobuchar’s office prosecuting former Minnesota Twins baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett for rape and Jones defending him. The trial ended in an acquittal on all charges. 


Shortly after beginning his second stint as Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney, Jones was asked by Attorney General Eric Holder to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) of U.S. Attorneys, which provides advice and counsel to the Attorney General on policy, management and operational issues affecting U.S. Attorneys Offices throughout the country, and also represents U.S. Attorneys in the decision-making process at the Department. 


Jones will be no stranger to the issues faced by ATF, for during his years as a federal prosecutor, he conducted grand jury investigations and was lead trial lawyer in many federal prosecutions involving drug trafficking, firearms, financial fraud and violent crime.  As U.S. Attorney, moreover, Jones has advocated a community-based approach in dealing with Arab-American communities, many of which feel stereotyped in the current Islamophobic environment. 


Jones has been married since 1980 to Margaret Samanant, whom he met in college, and the couple has three sons and two daughters.  According to the website OpenSecrets, Jones has contributed $12,947 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2002. 

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Department of Justice Press Release Announcing the Jones Appointment

Federal Agent: How B. Todd Jones Became the Man to Put the U.S. Attorney’s House Back in Order (by Frank Bures, Minnesota Monthly)

New Acting Director of ATF B. Todd Jones Will Tackle “Lack of Stability” (by Steven John and Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio)

Washington Called, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones Answered (by Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press)

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