Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is sending signals that he might be ready to run again for public office. He was the subject of a fawning profile in Parade. An op-ed piece he penned at Politico made Scarborough sound like a reasonable Republican who might appeal to independent voters. A persistent rumor even has “Morning Joe” running on a presidential ticket with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
If “Morning Joe” does wind up on a ballot somewhere, voters might want to keep this question in mind: Was a young woman once murdered in Joe Scarborough’s office?
Many Americans probably have forgotten, or never knew, that a 28-year-old female staff member was found dead in the summer of 2001 in the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL). Officials in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, determined that Lori Klausutis died from an accident. The mainstream press largely ignored the case, but our review of several investigative reports indicates the official finding is highly questionable.
Does that mean Joe Scarborough is a murderer? No. But we suspect someone who had access to Scarborough’s office in 2001 is a murderer. We find it unlikely that the head trauma that killed Lori Klausutis was the result of an accident.
We hardly are the first to raise the “murder” issue that surrounds Scarborough. Two liberal icons, filmmaker Michael Moore and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, made references to it and wound up in public spats with Scarborough.
Since Scarborough himself doesn’t shy away from the topic, we won’t either. The subject is of particular interest here in Alabama because Scarborough is a graduate of the University of Alabama and is pals with former Gov. Bob Riley and his son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley. The Rileys probably are one of the sleaziest father/son tandems in the history of American politics. Regardless of what one might conclude about the Lori Klausutis death, any would-be voter should be alarmed by Scarborough’s ties to the Rileys–especially since dead bodies mysteriously kept popping up around Alabama in the final year of Big Bob’s reign.
Why should we doubt the finding of an accidental death in the Lori Klausutis case? Here are several reasons:
* The nature of the head trauma does not suggest an accidental death–According to a report from American Politics Journal (APJ), Dr. Michael Berkland, medical examiner, determined that Klausutis had an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia that caused her to faint and hit her head on a desk in Scarborough’s office. Reports APJ:
There are several problems with the head injury. Generally, for a closed head injury to cause bleeding inside the skull, there is a much more severe injury on the outside of the skull. Do the autopsy notes, indeed, describe such a severe injury on the outside of the skull? In fact, the only closed head injury which usually may cause bleeding inside the skull involves a fracture of the temporal bone, with rupture of the underlying artery. The most important discrepancy that should be answered is how intracranial bleeding could continue if the cardiac arrhythmia had caused a cessation of blood flow to the brain.
* The fainting story does not add up–What is the likelihood that an apparently healthy woman, who ran marathons, would faint and hit her head on a desk in such a way that would cause death? It’s pretty unlikely, our research indicates. Reports APJ:
Presumably the heart valve condition alluded to is Mitral Valve Prolapse. This may be associated with arrhythmias, but rarely with VTach (ventricular tachycardia) or VFib (ventricular fibrillation), the only arrhythmias which would stop the flow of blood to the brain.
Generally, with syncope of whatever cause the “guarding reflex,” wherein one raises a hand to protect the head, is preserved.
A report at onlinejournal.com, stated that such a fall in a healthy person is unlikely to cause death. Berkland’s determination of an accidental death, however, brought the investigation to a virtual halt:
According to the medical literature, simple falls in young, healthy people, virtually never cause
death. Berkland’s claim that injury opposite to the site of impact is observed only when a
person’s head hits a stationary object is also contradicted by the literature. . . .
The autopsy describes the prolapsed mitral valve in great detail, claiming that the medical
literature sustains the notion that this is likely to be fatal.
Dr. Berkland contends in lengthy autopsy comments that “there are only about three entities that generally cause one to drop in midsentence or in midstride . . . pulmonary embolus . . . a ruptured aneurysm . . . and most common, is a sudden cardiac arrhythmia.” Yet, the medical literature suggests that neither pulmonary emboli nor aneurysms are likely to cause immediate loss of consciousness. A blow to the head is a common cause of loss of consciousness. . . .
Finally, although the report shows the subdural hematoma was severe, it was far from the site deep in the brain stem that controls heartbeat and respiration. Dr. Berkland’s microscopics give no description of the brain stem and no evidence that it was damaged at all, leaving a question as to the exact cause of death. Ed Friedlander, M.D., a noted forensic pathologist has stated that “A good rule of thumb is that nothing inside the head short of a gunshot wound through the lower brain stem will kill a person in less than 60 minutes.”
* The medical examiner had a troubled history–Before moving to Florida, Dr. Berkland had practiced in Kansas City, Missouri. His time there ended in controversy. Reports onlinejournal.com:
Before moving to Florida, Dr. Berkland had worked in Kansas City, MO. The August 30 edition of the Pitch Weekly, based in that city, noted in its Kansas City Strip column, “Former Jackson County coroner, Mike Berkland, provides the brains for a scandal in Florida.”
The Pitch said, “Berkland claims he “sectioned’ Klausutis’ brain during her autopsy to determine that her head was injured by a fall, not by a blow from a weapon. But that’s the same sort of claim that got Berkland run out of Kansas City in 1996, after he’d falsely reported that he’d sectioned brains later found whole by his boss–a mistake he blames on poorly proofread reports written with computer macros. No such mistake occurred with Klausutis’ brain Berkland told the Pitch. “You can rest assured it was sectioned,’ he says.”
Jennifer Van Bergen, writing at Truthout, said Berkland’s actions both in Missouri and Florida raise serious questions about the Lori Klausutis investigation:
The final touch in this case which simply makes it cry out for further investigation is the fact that Associate Medical Examiner Michael Berkland had lost his license in Missouri in 1998 for “misrepresentation or unethical conduct and knowingly making a false statement in the autopsy reports.” As a result, Berkland was suspended from practice in Florida.
In 1999, Berkland’s supervisor, Dr. Gary Cumberland, the Acting District Medical Examiner, who, by the way, had donated heavily–and perhaps beyond federal limits–to Joe Scarborough’s election campaigns, said that he “still has full confidence in Berkland and no plans to replace him,” according to Beach Browser, a local paper. It seems that Berkland was reinstated with the issuance of a “letter of guidance” by the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
Van Bergen provides a summary of the oddities surrounding Lori Klausutis’s death:
* The congressman (an ardent and vocal supporter of G.W., by the way) resigns only six months after re-election, just prior to his aide’s death. The reason: amid rumors of marital infidelity, the recently-divorced husband wants to spend more time with his sons.
* A medical examiner who had his license revoked in another state. Why? He lost it falsifying autopsies.
* The medical examiner’s supervisor had contributed thousands of dollars to the congressman’s election campaign.
* Contradictory reports about whether there is a visible head injury or not.
* A medical conclusion that contains several inconsistencies. First, that Mrs. Klausutis, who was a marathon runner, died of a cardiac arrhythmia. Second, that although she had suffered a fractured skull and a “contracoup” bruise on the opposite side of the brain, the injury could not possibly have been caused by a physical assault.
* Then there’s the question of whether the office was locked and the lights were on. One report says the door was locked and the lights were off; another report says the door was unlocked and the lights were on.
* And if all this weren’t enough, there’s the scientist husband who does high level weapon design work for the Air Force.
Is Joe Scarborough a murderer? We cannot reach a conclusive answer at this point. But the evidence strongly suggests that Lori Klausutis’ death was the result of foul play, not an accident.
If “Morning Joe” steps back into the political arena, voters should have serious questions about his fitness for office.