Monday, July 30, 2007

A Spirited Conversation with author William Keisling on the Murder of Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna (and much more) Part I of II


It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

 
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from "Paul Revere's Ride," 10th stanza.

It was on the cold day of December 4th, 2003 when Lancaster, Pennsylvania authorities found the mutilated-body of assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan P. Luna. He was supposed to be in the court of U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., in a very troubling federal trial in which he appeared to be attempting to scuttle a corrupt investigation by the FBI. Why would he do this? He had good reason to: during the FBI's dubious investigation into a Baltimore rap label, a Black family named the Dawsons were burned-to-death at the end of October of 2002 after repeated calls (36, by most accounts) to the city's federal "Safe Streets Task Force."
For reasons that are unclear, the calls were never forwarded by members of the Baltimore PD to federal agents. It should be noted that the Safe Streets Task Force was populated by the very same investigators in the Stash House investigation, and members of the Baltimore PD. They were nowhere to be seen while the Dawsons were fighting-off drug dealers in their East Baltimore neighborhood. Not one of them has ever been held responsible for this negligence. 
Even worse, Special Agent Steven Skinner allowed the key informant in the Stash House case (one Warren Grace) to sell heroin and terrorize his neighbors, just like the murderer of the Dawsons, one Darrell Brooks. Both were repeat offenders. Grace was caught in a drug-transaction on the day the Dawsons were murdered by Brooks, possibly even being supplied the heroin by an FBI agent. While the feds were trying to take over a rap label, the Dawsons were frantically trying to contact them, were ignored, and died in flames. Roughly a year later, Jonathan Luna would join the Dawson family. In a very short time after his body was discovered in faraway Pennsylvania, Luna's character would be assassinated, probably by his killer (or killers). An air of institutionalized racism and neglect hangs over all these events, and our nation.
Federal law enforcement close to Luna's work on the Smith/Poindexter trial (the FBI wanted to own Stash House Records--what if they had a hit-single?) figure prominently on the suspects-list, which adds a certain irony to the fact that the case is no longer considered a federal one. It's great when one agrees with oneself. To-this-day no genuine suspects have been investigated, and nobody has been convicted. The press have been far-too-credulous in their trust of the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, Maryland. At that time, the office was headed by one Thomas DiBiagio, now in private practice, a man who has made a lot of broken promises. I can only dimly remember the flash on the news (CNN) in December of 2003. There was an image of the crime scene that showed a car in a field and some crime scene tape-barriers. If the public had seen the condition of Luna, the outrage would have been everywhere, and palpable.
We never saw how despicable the crime really was: Luna's body was horribly-mutilated. He was stabbed at least 36-times, with a coup de gras through the back of his throat. His hands were shredded--cut to-the-bone, clearly illustrating that the assistant U.S. attorney suffered the tortures of the damned defending himself. Incredibly, the feds wanted to paint it as a suicide. Some in the media followed their lead, and still are. The FBI's role in all of this is unsettling, particularly in the case of Special Agent Steven Skinner. Skinner is still serving in Baltimore's FBI field office, probably falsifying more 302s (field reports from agents on cases and incidents).
Where was the "Safe Streets Task Force" when the Dawsons were calling 911? Watching Stash House's Poindexter and Smith, and chasing their informant Warren Grace around. He was out committing crimes just as the murderer of the Dawsons--one Darrell Brooks--was, and on the government's payroll. Why weren't the Dawsons' 36-calls forwarded to the federal task force? There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding all of these events in Baltimore during the period surrounding the murders in Baltimore and Pennsylvania.
The murder of Jonathan P. Luna is a sprawling case involving municipal, federal, and organized crime entities. It also reaches into the politics of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and without Bill Keisling's book, "The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna," we wouldn't know many of the problems with the government's story. Like the night ride of Paul Revere, Jonathan P. Luna is still warning us of the approaching threat...from his grave. We only need listen to hear his warning. He might be telling us where Special Agent Steven Skinner was that night.
Matt Janovic: For members of the public who maybe only heard of the murder of assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan Luna, what can you tell them about its significance?
Bill Keisling: Well, I think that the title, "The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna,"refers to is the midnight ride of Paul Revere. That it's a warning to the American public of a new level of corruption in American government. What they've done here is to manage to silence the press, they've eliminated public participation, and you don't read in the papers about how there's government corruption anymore--or court corruptions--not that the problems are solved. They've eliminated the criticism, and the checks-and-balances are rooted-out. What the Luna case appears to be is the case of a federal prosecutor who was murdered, and how they then destroyed his reputation so that the public might not even care about him. The truth comes out.
Matt Janovic: Do you think assistant U.S. attorney Luna was a hero, a villain--or maybe something in-between?
Bill Keisling: I think you have to look at it like this: while writing Midnight Ride, I had to study this book on "victimology"--I had to study victims and where they're coming from. Luna grew up in the Bronx in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and they [drug dealers] were dealing drugs at his door, they were shooting through his apartment building door, and he generally wanted to help people. He was really remarkable. This isn't somebody whose daddy put him through school, he did it for himself. I think that he genuinely wanted to help people that find themselves in the inner city neglect that he grew-up in.
He joined the Bush Justice Department, and in his last case the FBI had an informant who--while on the government payroll--was dealing heroin, [and] was being sent in by the FBI to halfway houses to deal heroin. At the same time, the FBI was ignoring [the Dawsons]. They had this so-called "Safe Streets Task Force,"but they were dealing heroin. They weren't helping people like the Dawsons, who were burned out of their home. So, I think is that what he came to see was that in the Bush Justice Department--he couldn't see a hero, he couldn't see white hats because it was too compromised.
Matt Janovic: Are there other similar cases of murders of U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys going-on in the continental United States currently?
Bill Keisling: Oh yeah. The assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle [Tom Wales, who was murdered exactly one month after 9/11] who was shot from his basement window, and it appears to be connected to one case or another. The operative phrase that the Justice Department is using in both the Luna and Seattle assistant U.S. attorney is that it wasn't connected to their jobs, or the line-of-duty. But I don't think it's just the U.S. attorneys. You have the federal judge in Chicago who came home and found her family killed. ...The point is, in the United States, we used to have this idea that our law enforcement and our judges--that nothing was going to happen to them.
Matt Janovic: Things are happening to them.
Bill Keisling: But things are happening to them, and again, that's the point of Midnight Ride. It's a warning that it has risen to a point where where it's open season on judges and prosecutors--the next step is journalists and writers.
Matt Janovic: I think that's already begun...at least in Iraq. This is just for your opinion: who might be murdering them?
Bill Keisling: Well, I think that the body-of-evidence that's being developed--and I don't know who's murdering them--but I know one of the parties that have actively participated in mob murder is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I think that's what has come out in congressional hearings. Up in Boston, with Whitey Bulger...these guys were worshipped as the stars of the streets along with their informants. ...So, if your readers watch the Sopranos, they'll see that these agents are so tied-in with their informants, [and] there's no oversight.
You either turn your back, or pretend you don't know what's going-on, or you actively participate in it [the crimes], and you have the mob running the FBI. The FBI works both sides of the street, and the problem is, there's no oversight. They're not responsible to the Senate, they're not responsible to the American public. What your readers have to understand is that the FBI's informant program is their holy of holies.
They don't want to talk about it. This is breeding all-kinds of corruption. At the same time, what you have is the Justice Department not respecting the writers' and reporters' sources. Now, reporters are being jailed. What I think is that there needs to be oversight, and that whole [informant] program needs to go out the window. It's time for Americans to really focus on what's going-on and get involved here.
Matt Janovic: Do you believe the use of informants by the FBI has some overarching goals, or is federal law enforcement simply broken, or both?
Bill Keisling: What I try to point-out in the book is that there is a long history--not only in this country, but going back to Shakespeare's time, the Roman Empire, and Alexander the Great--of using informants and counterintelligence. There's definitely a role in that. I talk about how it saved us during the Revolutionary War, that General Washington was very adept at the use of informants and misinformation. He kept Cornwallis at-bay in Philadelphia, planting false information. ...He really was a hero. Washington had a prohibition against torture, but look what's going-on now. ...I'm a big defender of George Washington. The proof's in the pudding.
Matt Janovic: Why do you think FBI agent Steve Skinner is important in the context of Jonathan Luna's murder?
Bill Keisling: He's important because he mishandled Luna's last case, his informant Warren Grace was out dealing heroin, they [Safe Streets Task Force] were ignoring the calls of the Dawson family who needed help, he's dishonest, he likes to meet people in the dead of night, he scares people, we don't where Skinner was the night Luna was murdered--I just think he's a really important character in all this.
Matt Janovic: What's Warren Grace and Mr. Skinner doing these days?
Bill Keisling: Well, Warren Grace is in the hoosegow, and Skinner is still a Special Agent in Baltimore as far as I know. I think Skinner should get a new job--there's probably opportunities at McDonald's or Walmart. As for Warren Grace, you don't have to read the book too-carefully to see here's a guy who found himself in the driver's seat: he was driving the [Stash House Records] case, he was driving the investigation.
I think that whole case is a classic study of why there needs to be more oversight and reform. What happens is, Luna is just left holding the bag. You have this one guy who is up-against the Bureau and their corrupt practices, and I think they helped contribute to his death.
When I was researching this book, and writing it, I thought, "Oh my God, I can just imagine some moron like Ethan Brown [another investigative author on the Luna murder] coming up and trying to put Warren Grace back in the driver's seat of this case." Here he [Grace] was leading this investigation, leading the trial, and caused all this tragedy, and which moron is going to put Warren Grace back in-charge? But it wasn't going to be me! [laughter]
Matt Janovic: Do you think Ed Norris was ferrying prostitutes with the Baltimore Police Department's Executive Protection Unit [created, ostensibly, to protect the then Police Commissioner]?
Bill Keisling: I don't know! That's one of the things we have to find out. There's females 1-6--Ed tells me (I was on his show last year) that they were his "friends," so people need to look at the information on my site and decide for themselves [www.yardbird.com]. I think it's very troubling to have this sort of thing going-on with the head of a police department.
Matt Janovic: Is it true that you were the first to report the 36 stab-wounds on Jonathan Luna's body?
Bill Keisling: That was a count issued by the Lancaster county coroner. I was the first one to realize that the 36 wounds matched-up with...
Matt Janovic: The missing $36,0000 from [money stolen from evidence from a previous federal trial in Baltimore in a bank robbery case. Luna and an FBI agent were the last to handle the money...]...
Bill Keisling: Right, and the number of times the Dawsons tried to call for help [to the Safe Streets Task Force. Skinner was a lead member.]. That's called a crime signature, and you can't ignore something like that. ...So, why was he stabbed 36-times? Incidentally, the undertaker said she counted 32. What do I say in the book--who's counting? He was hurt. It looks like the coup de gras was the neck-wound, and probably with the others he was being held at knifepoint. The undertaker said that the wounds to his hands between his fingers cut to-the-bone. Luna was obviously trying to defend himself. ...The guy was taken out and tortured.
Matt Janovic: Not a suicide, definitely.
Bill Keisling: That's misinformation. ...If this was happening to me--while it was happening--the last thing I would want is for someone to think I did this to myself.
End of Part I

Statement of intellectual ownership
: All content in this interview (and all content on this site produced by the Editor), and its subsequent part are the intellectual property of Matt Janovic, sole proprietor of this website. Quotations of more than four lines requires written permission from the author. (Transcript corrected and revised, 08.16.2007)