-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [CPOP] fbi memos detail coverup of slit throat versus claim of
self induced hanging
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 11:32:51 -0000
From: "g_etzkorn" <glen_e...@hotmail.com>
FBI memos detail effort to avoid Senate hearings in prison death
Thursday, May 29, 2003 Posted: 1:55 PM EDT (1755 GMT)
(Pleanty of others met the same fates at the hands of the federal
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, pictured with Sen.
Don Nickles, left, suggested years ago that the death of a federal
prisoner was a murder.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- On TV and on paper, Senate Judiciary Committee
chairman Orrin G. Hatch pledged to hold hearings into the death of a
federal prisoner the government says hanged himself even though the
victim's throat was cut and his face bruised and bloodied.
Hatch, R-Utah, suggested as long as six years ago that the death was
a murder at the hand of government employees and there was an "aroma
of a cover-up." A federal court recently awarded the prisoner's
family $1.1 million for intentional infliction of pain for misleading
the family about the case.
But Hatch's hearings never materialized -- one of several examples
critics say shows Hatch hasn't been aggressive enough as chairman of
the Senate committee that oversees the FBI and Justice Department.
Hatch rejects the criticism, saying he has a lengthy record of
questioning FBI and Justice wrongdoing "and will do so again if
Internal FBI memos obtained by The Associated Press offer a rare
window into how the bureau escaped hearings in the Oklahoma City
prison death. Agents convinced one of Hatch's Senate leaders -- then-
Republican whip Don Nickles -- that hearings were unnecessary.
Nickles "intimated that he had a significant role in determining
whether this matter would require congressional review, and that such
action would most likely not be necessary," FBI agents wrote in a
January 28, 1998, memo summarizing their contacts with Nickles.
Those same memos raise questions about whether the FBI told the
senator the full story.
They show Nickles wanted to know whether there was evidence of a
struggle in the cell before prisoner Kenneth Trentadue died, and
agents told him that the blood found on various items in the cell
belonged to Trentadue.
But one of the same agents who briefed Nickles later testified at the
civil trial that six months after the death he found a mattress in
the prison cell with two blood stains on it -- one which belonged to
someone other than Trentadue and which was never tested for DNA.
After Trentadue's body was found, with his face was bloodied and
bruised and his throat cut, prison officials concluded he hanged
himself. The local medical examiner openly questioned the conclusion.
Internal probes by the government reaffirmed the suicide ruling but
found Justice employees had lied during the case and that evidence
was mishandled, including a bloody sheet that was stuffed in an FBI
car and putrefied, destroying its value as evidence.
The FBI's meetings with Nickles occurred just weeks after Hatch sent
out a news release to announce that his committee planned
hearings. "It looks as though somebody in the Bureau of Prisons or
having relationships with the Bureau of Prisons murdered the man," he
told then-Attorney General Janet Reno at one point.
Early and aggressive tactics
This week, Hatch said he believes his early and aggressive tactics
forced the Justice Department to conduct multiple reviews of
"The committee did not hold hearings on the Trentadue matter because
it appeared very unlikely that such hearings would add materially to
the multiple criminal investigations of the case, as well as a
separate investigation by the Justice Department inspector general,
all of which concluded that Trentadue committed suicide and was not
murdered," Hatch said.
"This is not to say that I think this case was handled correctly. In
fact, it was not," he said.
The family and other critics say the canceled hearings are evidence
of weak oversight.
"The refusal of Senator Hatch to conduct hearings into my brother's
murder and the government's actions has taken us beyond frustration
to rage," said Jesse Trentadue, the victim's brother and a Utah
lawyer. "We are obsessed by the notion that Kenny's death is due a
certain amount of justice."
Kris Kolesnik, a former GOP Judiciary Committee investigator who
worked the Trentadue case, said Hatch missed an opportunity to hold
Justice officials accountable.
"It was a typical reaction when Hatch first heard about a case he
would be gung-ho to investigate, and at some point there was a
meltdown in which either he or the staff decided they didn't want to
investigate," Kolesnik said. "They would do whatever the FBI and
Justice department said."
Rare public swipe
In February, three of Hatch's colleagues -- two of them fellow
Republicans -- took a rare public swipe at their chairman, suggesting
some of the FBI's pre-September 11 lapses might have been avoided by
stronger committee oversight.
"While it is impossible to say what could have been done to stop
attacks from occurring, it is certainly possible in hindsight to say
that the FBI, and therefore the nation, would have benefited from
earlier close scrutiny by the committee of the problems the agency
faced. ... Such oversight might have led to corrective actions,"
Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa and Arlen
Specter, R-Pennsylvania, wrote.
Leahy also recently criticized Hatch's decision not to hold immediate
hearings into the FBI's problems with handling Chinese intelligence
assets, exposed earlier this year by a California criminal case.
Hatch said he plans to investigate after the criminal matter ends.
And AP reported earlier this month that Hatch was told by senior
staff as early as 1995 that the FBI had missed warning signs about
the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and was ill-prepared to prevent
future domestic terrorist attacks. Though Hatch approved holding
hearings in 1995, he never followed through.
As for Trentadue's case, some memories have faded.
Nickles' office said the senator, now the Senate Budget Committee
chairman, remembers being upset the FBI was not forthcoming about the
case but became satisfied after the briefings that Trentadue died by
his own hand. Nickles' office said it was likely he talked to Hatch
about the case but he doesn't recall anything else.
Current and former FBI officials said they went to Nickles to allay
his concerns about Trentadue's death, and not to scuttle Hatch's
Tom Linn, the FBI agent who briefed Nickles and testified in the
Trentadue case, said he cannot recall six years later whether he told
Nickles about the second trace of blood on the mattress. "I certainly
would not have withheld that information. I would have freely
discussed it as I did with people who needed to know in the case,"
said Linn, now retired.
As for why the second blood stain was never tested for DNA, Linn said
the preponderance of evidence, including blood spatter and pooling,
pointed toward suicide. By the time the second blood stain was
located six months after the death, at least 16 other inmates had
slept on the mattress because Trentadue's cell had not been secured,
"I held the blood sample for DNA comparison in case a suspect or
suspects emerged," he said.
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