Vincent Foster committed suicide. And he acted alone.
Copyright © 1998, 2001 by Dan E. Moldea
(Readers may link, but please do not copy or cut-and-paste.)
Never let it be said that I rejected a legitimate--and even an occasionally illegitimate--opportunity to defend my work.
In a Free Republic post at 16:55:55 PST on 12/31/2000, professional conspiracy theorist and Clinton-hater Michael Rivero made a series of false and misleading claims about my honest, wholly-responsible, and well-researched 1998 book, A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm. Rivero's participation in this thread was apparently provoked by an earlier defense, posted by Kevin Fornshill, the U.S. Park Police (USPP) officer who discovered Foster's body at Fort Marcy Park. In fact, Rivero's post was a response to Fornshill, who had lauded my work on the Foster case. (To read the first chapter of this book, please click "First Chapters.")
I try not to waste my time responding to people like Rivero, especially about the Foster suicide case. (I have agreed to debate Hugh Sprunt, man-to-man, with the proviso that Reed Irvine, no fan of mine, serves as moderator. That event, which I have always insisted must be live and in person, has never taken place.) And I simply refuse to debate the minutia of this case online, especially at the Free Republic--where ad hominem attacks always overwhelm attempts at reasonable discussions about controversial issues.
But--because of my respect for Fornshill, my disdain for Rivero's inability to get his facts straight, and my long-held policy to respond to the garbage that is published about me at the Free Republic--I'm going to make an exception in this case.
I will respond to each of Rivero's claims, one-by-one. I will leave nothing out of Rivero's original post--which deals mostly with Lisa Foster's identification of a "silver-colored" gun to the FBI.
Briefly, I believe that the entire issue of the "silver-colored" gun is nothing more than another red herring. In A Washington Tragedy, I criticized Mrs. Foster for lying to USPP investigators on the night of the suicide when she claimed that there were no guns in her home. Also, during her subsequent formal interview with the USPP, she failed to mention that guns were, indeed, present in the house.
To me, even though she later came clean with the FBI, Mrs. Foster simply lacks credibility with regard to the issue of her late-husband's guns, in general--and, specifically, with regard to the issue of the now-infamous "silver-colored" gun.
Nevertheless, here are my specific responses to Rivero's specific claims--as well as his overall charge that my book was simply an extension of an official cover-up of this case.
In short, that allegation is utter nonsense.
1. Rivero's claim: Moldea completely ignored most of the hard facts in the Foster case, in particular the FBI documents proving that the FBI showed Lisa Foster a "silver colored" gun and told her it was the gun found with the body, although the gun found with the body was dark blued steel.
Moldea's response: This is not true. I did address the "hard facts" about this case--and even its most prominent controversies--in my book.
For a mainstream media perspective on this: Describing A Washington Tragedy as "a smart, chronological appraisal" of all the investigations of Foster's suicide, the Washington Post added in its review of my work: "Although Moldea, a crime reporter of considerable repute and experience, uses his own investigations to clear up some of the troublesome questions about Foster's death, for the most part he is simply a neutral narrator, a levelheaded guide through the five years of sleuthing by others. His pages of notes at the end, by the way, are essential reading."
Also, Regnery Publishing, hardly composed of Clinton supporters, published A Washington Tragedy. To understand how someone like me hooked up with someone like Al Regnery, please click "From Fuhrman to Foster."
Furthermore, on pages 218-219, I specifically cited the FBI report of Lisa Foster's May 9, 1994, interview. Regarding her identification of the "silver-colored" gun, I quoted from the report, saying:Lisa Foster also knows that Foster kept a gun in a closet in their home in Washington, D.C. Lisa Foster was aware of the location of one gun inside her residence in Washington, and she found that gun still in its usual location on the night of July 20, 1993. The gun which she found on that date was not the silver gun which she had earlier found in the trunk in Little Rock. Lisa Foster believes that the gun found at Fort Marcy Park may be the silver gun which she brought up with her other belongings when she permanently moved to Washington.Then, I added to my text on page 219:The obvious problem here is that the gun found in Foster's right hand--according to all reports, except this one--is black, not silver.(There is more on this subject in my responses to questions 2 and 3.)
2. Rivero's claim: Moldea never wondered why the FBI interviewers did not record the serial number of the gun shown to Lisa Foster, which would be normal practice to maintain chain of evidence. Moldea never questioned why the FBI interviewers never identified the gun shown to Lisa Foster by make and caliber, choosing to describe the gun solely as a "silver colored" gun, when normal practice would have been to record the details of the gun to legally establish that it was indeed the same gun as was found with Vincent Foster's body.
Moldea's response: Even though I interviewed everyone from the USPP who was actively involved in this case--a claim that no one else in the world can make, not even the OIC--I did not receive the cooperation of the FBI, which I have been extremely critical of in my previous books. (See: Alien Ink.) Thus, I did not have inside access to its firearms identification data beyond what was contained in the public record.
But--as to whether or not the FBI recorded the serial number, make, and caliber of the "silver-colored" gun--this matter was not an issue prior to the publication of my book. Had it been, I would have addressed it. Even Hugh Sprunt--whom I consider the world's expert on the minutia of the Foster case--did not mentioned this alleged discrepancy in his section, "The Foster Family Could Not Identify The Death Gun," in his Citizen's Independent Report.
Admittedly, because I believe that this is such a dead-bang case, I have lost track of the minutia-peddlers' efforts since the release of A Washington Tragedy. But, even if Rivero's allegation against the FBI is true, then I believe that the bureau was either playing some sort of odd game with Mrs. Foster because of her already shaky credibility or had simply made an innocent mistake.
How do I know this? Because no police official at the Foster crime scene--and no firearms expert who examined the suicide weapon--ever saw a "silver-colored" gun. No one.
Significantly, I have seen and documented past FBI screw-ups that make the "silver-colored" gun issue pale by comparison. But, in defense of the FBI and all law-enforcement agencies, official mistakes--even stupid mistakes--are certainly not indicative of complicity in anything nefarious. Nearly all official mistakes are errors of omission rather than commission.
In other words, if one does not account for occasional official mistakes and incompetence, then nearly every unnatural death could appear to be a conspiracy, particularly if a civilian investigator--with limited access and resources--is looking for one. And any reasonable person can see that Rivero is clearly looking for a conspiracy, grasping at anything to make his case while ignoring any evidence that is exculpatory.
3. Rivero's claim: Moldea never questioned why Robert Fiske, the ex-BCCI lawyer, used such obviously flawed and legally invalid testimony to claim that Vincent Foster owned the gun he was found with . . .
Moldea's response: What does BCCI have to do with this case? The answer, of course, is nothing. Regarding Fiske and the mystery gun, I accurately reported on page 423, endnote 70:The Fiske Report did not address the fact that the gun Mrs. Foster had identified was silver, not black--which was the color of the gun found in Foster's right hand.However, on page 218, I discussed the Fiske/FBI investigation of Foster's ownership of the suicide weapon, saying: Regarding her husband's possession of guns, Mrs. Foster said that he had received several from his late-father's estate. The FBI report states:[Lisa Foster] is aware of a handwritten note from the elder Mr. Foster regarding the disposition of his property after he passed away. According to this note, all of the elder Mr. Foster's guns were left to Foster and a diamond was left to Lisa Foster. After the funeral for [his] father, Foster went down to his father's house and retrieved the guns. Lisa Foster believes that there were approximately three to five handguns included in the guns retrieved by her husband. She believes that her husband obtained all of the guns which were left by Foster's father.At the end of that passage of the FBI report, I cited endnote 58, which may be found on page 420. In this note, I wrote:Mrs. Foster did say that her sister-in-law, Sharon Bowman, had received the elder Foster's shotguns and "one handgun," and "that Beryl Anthony has one of the handguns from the estate here in Washington, D.C." This was probably the gun that [Webb] Hubbell took from the Fosters' home on the night of the suicide.On page 238, with regard to the findings of the Fiske Report, I wrote:
In what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to get a positive identification that the gun found in Foster's right hand once belonged to Foster's late father, the FBI visited Foster's nephew, Lee Bowman, a gun enthusiast who worked for Barclays Bank in New York on June 28, 1994. Bowman told the FBI that he had often gone shooting with his grandfather and had seen many of his guns.
But this was another dead end. Although the gun found in Foster's right hand seemed familiar to him, Bowman could not positively identify it.However, even though the FBI concludes that the gun found in Foster's right hand was "operable" and that the spent cartridge inside the cylinder was fired inside this particular gun, it cannot confirm from any source that Foster had been in possession of this specific weapon prior to his death. Nevertheless, the Fiske Report, like the USPP report, strongly suggests that the gun came from Foster's father's collection.Clearly, these were unregistered guns, which was why ownership could never be established. And this might have been one of the reasons Mrs. Foster lied to the USPP on the night of the suicide--and then concealed her knowledge of the guns during her formal interview with the USPP.
In Washington, D.C., possession of firearms by private citizens is illegal.
4. Rivero's claim: . . . or why Kenneth Starr never investigated why the FBI showed Lisa Foster a "silver colored" gun and told her it was the gun found with her husband's body.
Moldea's response: Regarding the Starr investigation of this matter, I accurately reported on page 369:Noting that Lisa Foster has not been able to identify the gun, the Starr Report continues: "She stated to the OIC in November 1995, when viewing the gun recovered from Mr. Foster's hand, that it was the gun she unpacked in Washington but had not subsequently found, although she said she seemed to remember the front of the gun looking lighter in color when she saw it during the move to Washington."And I added right after that quote:This is the Starr Report's explanation for Lisa Foster's controversial statement to the FBI on May 9, 1994, about the "silver-colored gun."To those who actually believe that I was in cahoots with Starr and the OIC during and after the research for my book on Foster's suicide, please read my Affidavit on OIC Leaks.
5. Rivero's claim: Moldea never explains how Vincent Foster, on a hot July day and supposedly under great stress (which makes people sweat), was able to insert a smooth metal revolver into his own mouth and pull the trigger without getting his blood or his fingerprints on the gun, or bullet fragments or powder granules matchable to that gun in his wounds.
Moldea's response: Rivero's statement is not true. On pages 91-94, I explained in great detail--based on my exclusive interviews with everyone involved--how Foster's gun was dusted for fingerprints by the USPP before USPP criminalist Pete Simonello, who had left for a scheduled four-day leave soon after his crime-scene investigation at Fort Marcy Park, had the opportunity to examine the weapon for trace evidence.
Earlier, on page 40, I quoted from Simonello's personal notes, in which he wrote, in part:Does not appear to be any blowback or blood spatter on sleeves or any other area of white shirt. Why not?Reporting that Simonello had planned to investigate this matter when he returned from his leave, I wrote that:[B]efore locking up the gun, Simonello, for identification purposes, removes one of the grips of the revolver and, on the handle underneath the grip, engraves his initials--"P.J.S." He then places a handwritten note on top of it inside the evidence bag, warning: "Not processed. Do not handle."Then, on pages 91-94, I wrote that, while Simonello was away, his partner, USPP criminalist Eugene J. Smith, received a direct order from Captain Charles Hume to conduct a fingerprint analysis. Describing the fallout from that order, I accurately reported:Smith warns Hume that the process of dusting for prints might destroy any other trace evidence--blood, fibers, hair, tissue, and other materials not clearly visible. Hume nevertheless tells Smith to proceed, even though Hume is not in Smith's normal chain of command. . . . This is the first time that Smith has ever received a direct order from Hume of CIB.Also, shattering the famous "neck wound" scenario, promoted by the Foster conspiracy theorists, I wrote on page 401, endnote 47:
But Hume is also under extreme pressure. His bosses, particularly Major [Robert] Hines--and even Foster-family attorney Jim Hamilton, who has been calling him regularly on the telephone--are pushing him to get things done.
After recovering Foster's .38-caliber revolver from the evidence room and unwrapping it, Smith, still reluctant, dusts the gun with black powder and a fingerprint brush, ready to use lifting tape to pick up any latent prints. But when he examines the freshly powdered gun, he finds no prints at all, just possible smudges.
Smith isn't really surprised, realizing that a number of factors might have contributed to this, including the slick surface of the gun and the coarseness of its handle, as well as the ambient temperature when the gun was used. And if Foster was sweating when he clutched the gun in the 90-degree-plus heat, his perspiration could have contributed, to some extent, to the destruction of his own and any other latent prints.
Soon after completing his assignment, Smith, during a conversation with Sergeants [Danny] Lawston and [Robert] Rule, says that he regrets conducting the test; that other tests on the barrel should have been conducted first, as Simonello had wanted. . . .
[After returning from his four-day leave,] Simonello is furious that he had not been notified [about the fingerprint examination]. After all, he had carefully wrapped the barrel of the gun, intending to test the weapon for trace evidence when he returned from his leave--and had punctuated his intention with his handwritten note on the gun. He can't blame his partner, because Smith had acted under orders of both Sergeant Rule and Captain Hume. . . .
Simonello then angrily confronts Hume, insisting that Foster's gun should not have been examined without his approval. Hume . . . defends his decision, criticizing Simonello for locking up all the evidence and then taking his leave without completing his work on such an important case. Simonello, a USPP shop steward, replies that he would have been willing to come in if Hume had simply called him.All four of the USPP officers present at the autopsy--Sergeant Robert Rule, Investigator Jim Morrissette, identication technician Shelly Hill, and then-ID trainee Wayne Johnson--told me during my separate interviews with them that there were no other wounds or trauma to Foster's body.With regard to the wounds in Foster's mouth, I provided a graphic description of the autopsy on pages 56-59 of my book, which included the "black-powder-stained soft palate of Foster's mouth," which had been removed and placed on a dish in the morgue. Foster's tongue, I added, "does not visibly contain the same black residue."
Specifically, there was no wound of any kind on Foster's neck, as others would later claim.
On page 242, I spoke of the FBI's findings, quoting from a report:No ball-shaped gunpowder was identified on the tissue samples from the inside of Foster's mouth, when examined at the Office of the Medical Examiner for Northern Virginia.However, in endnote 74 at the end of the above cite--which may be found on page 424--I quoted from an FBI report, stating:Inasmuch as these tissue samples were prepared in a way which is not conducive to retaining unconsumed gunpowder particles, these findings are not unexpected. Also, unconsumed gunpowder particles are different from residue of gunpowder. The FBI Laboratory findings are not inconsistent with the Pathologists' Report relating to a suicide finding in which the muzzle of the firearm was in Foster's mouth.Then, on page 369, I continued my accurate reporting, writing:Dr. [Henry] Lee [on behalf of the Starr investigation] confirms the finding in the Fiske Report that Foster's DNA appears on the barrel of the gun--where he also found "brownish-colored deposits" that are consistent with blood. Lee then goes a step further, analyzing the brown paper in which USPP criminalist Pete Simonello had originally wrapped the gun--item number 38 on the USPP property report. Dr. Lee discovered "the presence of reddish-colored particles" on the paper, which "gave positive results with a chemical test for blood." Dr. Lee also identifies "[b]lood spatters and tissue-like materials . . . on the fingerprint lift tape from the weapon."6. Rivero's claim: The FBI officially concluded that some third party moved Vincent Foster's head after he had been shot but before the blood had dried, based on the multiple directions of the blood tickles [sic]. Moldea never mentions this fact, let alone questions who that third party might have been, playing with the body position right after death.
Equally remarkably, Dr. Lee finds a small bone chip among the debris on another piece of brown paper, on which Foster's clothing had dried while in the USPP crime lab. This bone chip also contains Foster's DNA. The report states: "Dr. Lee concludes that 'This bone chip originated from Mr. Foster and separated from his skull at the time the projectile exited Mr. Foster's head.'"
Moldea's response: This is flat-out not true and, perhaps, the most irresponsible of all of Rivero's false and misleading claims.
Not only did I repeatedly discuss the possibility that someone might have moved Foster's head--an act which has caused so many problems with this case--I interviewed and identified the person who most likely did it.
On pages 381-384, I stated in my Epilogue:What strikes me most about the case of Vincent Foster's suicide is that there are really no bad guys in this tragic story--only a handful of people who did their jobs badly. The problem with this case, as with many others, is that unexpected complications often arise for people who are doing their jobs well, which cannot be easily resolved or explained.7. Rivero's claim: Moldea doesn't mention any of these facts, because his goal isn't to get to the truth about Vincent Foster but to sell the official lie to the public.
For instance, USPP Officer Kevin Fornshill told me that when he located Foster's body, the victim's head was resting on the right shoulder of his shirt--which investigators later saw was bloodstained from the two streams of blood flowing from his mouth and nose.
During my interview with John Rolla, the lead investigator at the crime scene, he said that he saw Foster's head "straight up, looking at the sky." On Foster's right cheek, Rolla saw "a transfer stain. It was not a heavy stain; it was a light stain."
Seeing Foster's head and face in the same position as Rolla, USPP criminalist Pete Simonello told me, "It was obvious that Foster's head, at one point, had been resting on his shoulder. We just didn't know how it went from that position to face up--except that, somehow, his head moved or was moved."
The critics of the Foster case used the transfer stain on Foster's cheek as a major argument that Foster's body had been moved to the area near the second cannon--or that the stain had actually come from the phantom neck wound that no fewer than three witnesses had supposedly seen.
But, during my interview with USPP Lieutenant Patrick Gavin, a former paramedic, he said that, when he first viewed Foster's head face-up, he noticed a "hyperextension" of his neck, "which is a standard procedure for clearing a victim's airway and providing easy access to the carotid pulse."
Indeed, Michael Regan, the spokesman for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, told me, "With CPR, one of the acronyms we use is 'ABC.' You put an ear close to the person's mouth and listen to see if there is air coming out of the airway. That's 'A.' 'B' is for breathing. As you are listening to the airway, you are looking down the line of the chest to see if there is any movement. The third step, is 'C,' check for circulation, which is the carotid pulse in the neck. Those are what we call the ABCs."
Regan also noted that, although rescue workers must have consideration for the preservation of a crime scene, that task is always secondary to saving a life. Consequently, crime scenes are often disturbed during the life-saving process.
Trying to resolve the long-standing question of how Foster's head was moved, I received permission to interview Fairfax County rescue worker Todd Hall, knowing that he had already testified under oath on two separate occasions that he had not moved Foster's head. I was the first reporter he had ever spoken to about the Foster case.
Now a lieutenant, Hall, who specializes in the handling of hazardous materials and had driven Medic One on the day of Foster's suicide, recounted that he, along with Fornshill and paramedic George Gonzalez, had split off from the other rescue workers and gone into the main grove, past a large cannon. At the end of the grove, Fornshill separated from them and went into the smaller second grove to the north. Moments later, Fornshill, after finding Foster's body, called out.
Also consistent with the official reports, Hall said that he arrived first, just ahead of Gonzalez, and saw Foster lying on the hill in the midst of a great deal of foliage in front of a second cannon.
I then asked Hall, "When you were standing over the body, looking down on his right side, could you see the gun, or did you have to get down to see it?"
"You could have seen it standing," Hall replied, "if that was the first place you looked. But my first glance was at his upper body."
"Then what did you do?"
"I was carrying a bag that contained my emergency equipment, and I dropped the bag. Then, I crouched down to check his carotid pulse on the left side of his neck."
"Which side were you on?"
"The right side, up by his shoulder."
"So, from the right side, you were leaning over to check the left side?"
"Right. I was performing my ABCs. I was looking down at his chest to see if it was moving as I was checking the pulse. And that's when I noticed the gun. That shocked me, and I sprang up to my feet."
During the proper performance of his duties, Hall now admits, he might have moved Foster's head when he jumped up after seeing the gun in Foster's right hand while checking the carotid pulse on the left side of his neck.
He never realized that his innocent reaction could have caused so many problems.
Moldea's response: I ask the reader: Is it true that I never "mention any of these facts" in my book? Of course, it's not. I am an honest and responsible crime reporter and author, and I did everything I could to get to the truth about the Foster case. And I succeeded.
The only lies that have been told are by those conspiracy theorists, like Michael Rivero and others like him, who are desperately hoping to retain some semblance of public dignity after their irresponsible claims have been completely and totally discredited.
8. Rivero's claim (addressed to Fornshill): And I note you seem quite eager to help him do it. A rather pathetic situation for someone who claims to be an upholder of the law.
Moldea's response: Kevin Fornshill is a fine police officer. And he is a good man. I'm proud to know him.
Like it or not, Vincent Foster committed suicide. And he acted alone.
A final note: I attempted to post this reply to Rivero's shoddy work at the Free Republic on January 3. However, when I attempted to log on, I discovered that I had been permanently banned from the site, apparently for having the audacity to go there and aggressively defend myself from time to time. (See: The Free Republic must be held accountable.)
After an exchange of e-mails, Jim Robinson, the overlord of the Free Republic, confirmed the banning to me, insisting, "I do not want trouble on the website." However, in an obvious effort to protect his legal position, Robinson then deleted the entire thread on which Rivero's irresponsible statements were made.
Nevertheless, my response stands.