Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Look Back at Joe " Lori Klausutis" Scarborough's Past

In light of the "Morning Joe" feature and comment that 9/11 truthers should be in secret prisons, let's take a look back at Scarborough's past.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Morning Joe *911 Truther should be taken to Secret Prison*

Joe Scarbourgh is a fine example of the “Moral Republican leadership" that runs our country. He abruptly resigned his congressional seat when a young female staffer, Lori Klausutis, was found dead in his office under questionable circumstances.

“According to Anna Dobbins, a producer at WEAR-TV, Joe was on the phone with the local ABC affiliate in Pensacola within three hours of the discovery of the body, and before the family was notified, to say that 'a young woman had died in his office and that she had a complicated medical history, specifically surrounding ’stroke and epilepsy.'

The congressman and his advisor, Mick Serrano, made similar calls to two other local media outlets within hours of the body’s discovery.

According to Dobbins and others, about a week later, after the Klausutis family wrote an excoriating letter to a local paper, Serrano called back to ask that they stop reporting the “complicated health history.”
Joe, they were now correctly told, had spoken in error.

Klausutis-a marathon runner, 28 years old and happily married-had been in great shape. Her “complicated health” began only on the night that she died, and its “history” surfaced primarily because of Joe’s misinformation.

The nebulous circumstances surrounding Klausutis’s death were further compounded during her body’s postmortem exam. Michael Berkland, the medical examiner assigned to perform the autopsy, quickly released a statement to the press indicating that there were no signs of trauma to the body or any indication of foul play. Later, however, he admitted the body had “a scratch and a bruise.”

Berkland, it must be noted, has a less than professional record. He was fired from his position as medical examiner in Missouri for making false statements and eventually lost the right to practice medicine in that state (see sidebar). Still, Berkland concluded in the final autopsy report that Klausutis’s heart had failed. Moreover, by failing to officially close the investigation, long after they had ceased to interview witnesses, the police prevented the public from learning any facts about Klausutis’s death.

Only when the autopsy report was released (and that occurred only because the editor in chief of the Northwest Florida Daily News Ralph Routon’s editorial demanded its issuance) did those willing to exercise their rights under Florida’s Sunshine Law learn the extent of Lori’s injuries.

The autopsy report revealed that Lori had suffered two skull fractures and an additional wound. A 71/4-inch crack all but spanned the top of her head, from right temple to left.” - Dennis Wright on Larry

Reader Letter:

Special Report
A Death in the Congressman's Office
Does Anybody in the Press Care About Lori Klausutis?
By Denis Wright and Chris George

In reality, there is indeed a news story percolating out there. The story bears remarkable and ironic similarities to the Condit/Levy story. Both involve Congressmen, rumors of infidelity, and the fate of a younger female subordinate. The details are so similar as to remind one of two alternate universes. The difference between the two stories? First, in the Klausutis case as not in the Levy case, there is a real body, very dead. Second, the Klausutis case involves a Republican.
The story had a brief flutter in the Northwest Florida press, which ran a few very short stories on Lori's death. With the exception of the Northwest Florida Daily News, they were of the "Aw-what-a-shame/ nothing-to-see-here-move-along-now-folks" variety. But nationally, this mysterious death earned a mere one paragraph mention in The Washington Post's NATION IN BRIEF column:
"FORT WALTON BEACH, FL. - Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old office worker for Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fl), was found dead in the congressman's district office. Police said preliminary findings from the medical examiner's office showed no foul play or any outward indication of suicide."
Unbelievably, that was it. The story was simply dropped. A young female employee of one of Florida's Congressmen had died unexpectedly in the Congressman's office. There were no witnesses to her death and the cause of death was not apparent. Klausutis' boss, Joe Scarborough had recently resigned from Congress prematurely and unexpectedly, amid rumors about his marital fidelity and soon after a divorce. He had also abruptly resigned as publisher of the Independent Florida Sun, claiming that resigning from Congress and as publisher was necessary to spend more time with his sons.
Such circumstances make one pause. Sick to death of the clear bias of the corporate owned media, and suspicious of the odd nature of this death, we began to dig for answers. The more information we discovered, the more unlikely, and the more newsworthy the story became.

Here are the facts. Lori Klausutis had a seemingly happy life. A devoted husband who listed on his online homepage "being married to Lori" as one of the honors he enjoyed, a new home in Niceville and a Catholic congregation where she was a cantor and in whose choir she sang, were some of the elements of the Good Life she enjoyed. Her husband, Dr. Timothy Klausutis, did research and development for the munitions group at nearby Eglin Air Force Base, where he presumably made a good livelihood. Although Lori hailed from the Atlanta, Georgia area where she had attended school, there were numerous family members in the area. According to her obituary in the Fort Walton Daily News, Lori had served as President and, later, Treasurer, for the Emerald Coast Young Republicans and as a aide to Congressman Scarborough, she was active during the Florida recounts. A former neighbor, Barbara Cromer, said "Every morning, I would see her run while I walked. We'd wave to each other as we passed. I loved Lori so much. She was wonderful. She was a kind, generous person, so sweet.

Then, on Friday, July 20th, the body of Lori Klausutis, 28, was found slumped next to a desk on the floor of Florida Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach office where Lori had served as a constituent services coordinator since May, 1999. Her body was found around 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning by a couple arriving for an appointment. She had been dead for some time. A second employee, who would have normally arrived for work at around the same time, was away on vacation. Police cordoned off the area for investigation, later announcing that there was no reason to suspect foul play, nor were there signs of suicide.

Scarborough's office released a statement several hours after the discovery:
"My staff and family are greatly saddened by the loss of Lori Klausutis. I know Lori will be missed by the thousands of citizens who regularly contact my office to seek assistance with a variety of problems. May God grant Lori's family the grace, comfort and hope that will get them through this difficult time."
The Congressman returned to Florida that same day, and his office was quick to point out that it was not unusual for him to fly home for the weekend.

There was a great deal of ambiguity over whether Lori had suffered past medical problems. Scarborough's press secretary, Miguel Serrano, made mention of health problems in Lori's past, but could not be more specific. In response, Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Steve Hogue is quoted as saying "That's part of our investigation, checking into her medical history."

Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Berkland said "She had a past medical history that was significant, but it remains to be seen whether that played a role in her death". Soon after a member of the immediate family rejected out of hand that Lori had any significant medical problems. She was, in fact, quite an athlete, having recently run an 8K with a very respectable time and she belonged to the Northwest Florida Track Club.
The results of the mandated autopsy, however, were deemed "inconclusive" by Dr. Berkland, who ordered more specific toxicology tests. These results were expected by the middle of the following week, around the first or second day of August. Dr. Berkland commented at the time "This turns over several puzzle pieces in the case of her death and reveals more of the picture".

Welcome to the Wheel of Fortune.

Michael Berkland, it turns out, has a very interesting background himself. Recently relocated to Florida, it is a matter of public record that Dr. Berkland's medical license in the state of Missouri was revoked in 1998 as a result of Berkland reporting false information regarding brain tissue samples in a 1996 autopsy report. Berkland does not deny the charges.
It's also a matter of public record that he was suspended from his position as Medical Examiner in the State of Florida in July, 1999.
Quincy, he's not.

Repeated requests to Dr. Stephen Nelson, Chairman of the Medical Examiners Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, have failed to verify that Dr. Berkland's suspension was lifted and that his licensure and disciplinary record are clear at the present time. Dr. Nelson was appointed Chairman of the Commission by Governor Jeb Bush.

As for Lori Klausutis, rumors began to swirl as time passed with no resolution to the case, rumors that included whispers of suicide, some emanating from inside the Beltway. Family members, angered at what they considered unfair and exploitive coverage wrote the editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News, Ralph Routon, saying "For those who knew Lori, the thought of suicide, as your published reports suggested, is absolutely unthinkable. Suicide was contrary to her faith and being. She did not suffer from seizures, nor did she have a history of medical problems." Meanwhile, the final report has been issued that Lori died as a result of a blow to the head because an undiagnosed heart condition caused her to collapse and fall, hitting her head on the desk.

The initial reports from the Medical Examiner's office denied any trauma to the body that would indicate cause of death. But Berkland acknowledged on Monday, August 6th, that Lori had sustained a "scratch and a bruise" on her head and that his original denials were to prevent undue speculation about the cause of death. "The last thing we wanted was 40 questions about a head injury", he said.

And so, what we have here is the death of a healthy young woman who died of a blow to the head and a lie from the Medical Director's office about this blow which was quite obvious to the naked eye. They then had to go search for some reason why she might have "fallen" and hit her head. And they have found an "undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia". But a number of questions remain to be answered, and we have requested opinions from Dr. Nelson, the Chairman of the Medical Examiners Commission.

The questions are:

- Were Lori's medical records thoroughly examined for any evidence of the pre-existing heart condition? It would seem that someone must have examined her heart if she ran 8Ks.

- Did Dr. Berkland personally examine the site of death in undisturbed condition in order to support his later conclusion that the physical evidence was compatible with his later conclusions?

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.

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!

- Were the toxicology studies entirely negative? Was there evidence of any legal or illegal substance in the blood stream which could have caused her to lose consciousness?

- Was she pregnant? If so, were fetal blood specimens obtained to determine paternity?

These are the questions being asked by some in the medical community of Dr. Stephen Nelson and Dr. Michael Berkland, and they continue to go unanswered.

Why is there a complete media blackout on this story? Why the complete preoccupation with the similar but largely speculative Condit/Levy story? What does this say about the state of our press? What does corporate ownership of the press do to what gets to be news? How much of what we think we know as fact is actually based on selective and distorted reporting? How does that "fair and balanced" cable network explain the complete hypocrisy and contempt for truth in their handling of these two similar tales? Will we ever know the truth of how Lori Klausutis died?

Three Pivotal Questions
by the Editors

September 1, 2001 (APJP) -- Over at The American Prospect's message board thread concerning this very article, Phoenix Woman has asked a trolling Scarborough "defender" three pivotal questions. We'd love to know the answers ourselves:

1) If Lori's death was just a simple accident, then why did Rep. Scarborough and his spokesman Miguel Serrano feel the need to go to two different local TV stations within three hours of her body's being found and invent a nonexistent history of chronic medical conditions for her -- in other words, why did they feel the need to lie about Lori's health?

2) Would you trust without question the word of a Medical Examiner who lost his ME license in two separate states (Missouri and Florida) because he LIED about his autopsy work (for instance, saying he had autopsied some brains when he hadn't)?

3) Why should whoever wrote Ms. Klausutis's obituary feel it was appropriate to mention nearly everything about her life -- EXCEPT where she'd been working since 1999?

A recent check of the Young Republican's web site found no mention of Lori or her contributions, nor any tribute to her memory nor comments about her passing. In fact, you will find no mention of her at all. If you go to The Pensacola News Journal's online pages, one of the few papers that actually covered the story, and search the site for "Klausutis" you will come up empty, even though the same search will pull up numerous stories matching "Scarborough". It seems as though someone wants to erase all traces of Lori Klausutis from the record and bury the story with her.

It's an increasingly puzzling case. We are reminded of the famous Kitty Genovese case, in New York, in 1964, where a young woman pleaded for her life over the period of 30 minutes, while neighbors ignored her cries. The assailant returned three times to stab her. With Lori Klausutis, it seems possible that a corrupt North Florida establishment is determined to keep the lid on the case, even if that means silencing the news. And our esteemed news media, from the supposed mainstream liberal press stalwarts to the near delusional on air shouters of the channel that just reports so that you can decide, willingly turn the other way and ignore Lori Klausutis. But they continue to chatter endlessly in speculation over Chandra Levy. In so doing, they ignore the cries of truth, they deny their viewers access to the truth and they utterly, once and for all, betray our faith and trust in the media.

This report was made possible by devoted citizens who are determined to bring Lori's story to the light of day. Their contributions in research and insight are more appreciated than we can say. Thank you from both of us to each and every one of you.


Big Wheel Keeps on Turning
by Tamara Baker and Celeste Harrison Whitlow

July 21, 2003 ( -- Between the evening of July 19th, 2001, and the following morning, a young, vigorous political aide named Lori Klausutis died alone and under mysterious circumstances in the Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, offices of Congressman Joseph Scarborough.

The attending medical examiner, Dr. Michael Berkland, stated in his report that she had fainted and fallen, hitting her head on a desk. This, he said, broke her skull in a 7-inch transverse fracture running from right temple to left, pulverized a region of bone the size of a small marble inside the skull behind the right ear and caused a fist-sized hematoma, or effusion of blood, gathering below the dura mater of the left side of the skull. There was also a contusion, or bruise, on the back of the head. Bloody foam, signifying a death of slow asphyxiation, bubbled up from her lungs into her mouth. Just for good measure, Dr. Berkland claimed that Lori's heart had also failed.

Remarkably, the entire political establishment of northwest Florida, from the police department to the press formed a solid stone wall around this astonishing conclusion.

Berkland's supervisor, Dr. Gary Cumberland, did not notice the internal contradiction between the claim of heart failure and the formation of a massive hematoma. Nor did he remark on Berkland's claim, which contradicts the medical literature, that the hematoma could only have been formed by Lori's head striking an object, not vice versa.

The Chairman of the Medical Examiners' Commission for the state of Florida, Dr. Stephen Nelson, was well aware of the shortcomings in Berkland's record, having recommended that Berkland be suspended for failing to report to Florida that his license was in danger of revocation in Missouri. Nelson knew that Berkland had been fired by the state of Missouri for failing to complete autopsy reports. According to his Missouri supervisor's deposition, Berkland failed to perform 28 autopsy reports for homicides alone in 1994-5. The total number of incomplete cases may have been over 140. Ultimately the cause of death could not be determined for several cases.

Nelson also learned at the time of the Klausutis case that Berkland had falsified his curriculum vitae. More seriously, he had falsified autopsy reports and mishandled organs taken from the dead. In one particularly tragic case, one that irreparably traumatized the surviving family members, Berkland removed the brain of a young woman from his office and placed it in the back of his car. It had to be rescued by an agent of the family's attorney.

Nelson, who in 1999 recommended that Berkland be suspended, also knew that Berkland had subsequently escaped discipline by Florida. Yet as senior medical examiner for the state of Florida, Nelson disclaimed to us any power to act in the Klausutis case. Perhaps having witnessed the political workings that squashed Nelson's effort to oust Berkland-- and succeeded in sealing the complaint against Berkland that Nelson had supported-- Nelson concluded that the state of Florida desired good politics over good forensic medicine. In any event, not long after the Berkland episode, Nelson was promoted to the Chairmanship of the Medical Examiners' Commission.

For this second anniversary of Lori Klausutis' death, a review of recent events is in order.

On June 17th, 2003, WGTX AM-1280 radio broke the news that Berkland had been abruptly fired.

On June 27th, Michelle Nicholson of WEAR-TV reported that the official cause of dismissal was given as a failure to complete autopsies in a timely fashion. This was one of the same charges that led to his firing in Missouri. In Florida, Berkland claimed he had done 320 autopsies in his last year in the First Judicial District Medical Examiner's office. This number, disputed by the medical examiner's office, is substantially greater than the number he was performing in Missouri and may represent cases with incomplete or absent notes.

Given the backlog of unperformed autopsies, the cause of dismissal is suspicious. By firing Berkland abruptly, with no replacement available, Berkland's supervisor, Dr. Gary Cumberland, is faced with doing double duty. There are even more serious implications. As noted, Berkland has a history of having claimed to do autopsies that he had not completed, and in many cases, had never started. With Berkland's departure, many more cases may well pass into legal limbo, with the cause of death impossible to ascertain.

Unraveling the full slate of Berkland's deceptions could prove to be a full-time job. He seems to have misstated the date of his hiring as acting medical examiner by the Jackson County Medical Examiner's office, listing 1990 rather than 1994 as the start date. The University of Kansas School of Medicine has failed to respond to repeated inquiries into Berkland's claim of having served as an associate professor of pathology, beginning in 1993. We also understand that he was booted from Litton Pathology Associates, where he had moonlighted even as he was avoiding his work at the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office, with his possessions being unceremoniously dumped in the parking lot.

The courts, of course, are unlikely to do this sort of continuing re-examination. Dozens of people, convicted on the strength of Berkland's incomplete, inaccurate and invented work will remain in prison. In many cases, the defendants are poor and sport an unpopular shade of skin. The courts are busy, don't you know? In Missouri, courts were extraordinarily indulgent of Berkland's misdeeds. Therefore, justice is likely to come slow, and from the charitable work of conscientious public defendants rather than as an corrective intrinsic to the system. In other cases, such as that of Lori Klausutis, murderers walk free thanks to Berkland's work- and, of course, thanks to the corruption that hired, retained and even celebrated Berkland.

Joe Scarborough has run a ragged course. A few months after Klausutis' death, responding to a question by Chris Matthews about what would happen to an aide left his employ and wrote about him, Scarborough blurted out "I think they'd be in danger." Abandoning his congressional seat, his role in publishing the Florida Sun and an active legal career with the Levin Law Firm, Joe Scarborough eventually re-married, left northwest Florida and moved to New York, to join the stable of sideshows at MSNBC.

Recently Don Imus slagged Scarborough with a question from left field: "You said you had sex with that intern and then you had to kill her."

Scarborough, laughing, replied, "Yeah, well what are you gonna do?"

On Imus, of course, it's difficult to tell the humor from the rest of the nastiness. One is reminded of George Bush's answer to Tucker Carlson's question about murderess and born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker's plea for clemency. Pursing his lips, Bush mimicked the lady he had doomed: "Please don't kill me."

Hey, death is a scream.

But the political machine in northwest Florida just keeps on rolling. As Bill Moyers reported on PBS, the Emerald Coast is being paved over by the St. Joe Timber company. People of the Panhandle, if you give them enough time, if you stay silent in the face of this wrong, they'll pave over Lori's grave.

1 comment:

  1. I have found your article very interesting as I to am very suspicious of what really happened in Mr. Scarborough's office for all the reasons you mentioned. But surely you realize by now that Mr. Scarborough is a Republican for convenience only as many of our local politicians are, so your reference to his lack of integrity due to his political affiliation is unfair to the rest of us.
    That said, have you searched for O.R. nurses/techs that worked at the various hospitals at the time Dr. Berkland was a medical examiner? As they were required to assist in Organ Harvesting. Knowing Dr. Berklands more recent indiscretions this may be a way to go in your investigation.