Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Whistleblower mugged (updated)

I don't know what to make of this story, but any way you slice it, it is remarkable. If you didn't catch the news today of the mugging of Tommy Hook, auditor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bradley Graham and Griff Witte of the Washington Post gave one of the more coherent accounts.

Now comes this brief and at times incoherent story from Albuquerque's KRQE-TV—

The Los Alamos whistle blower says he won't be intimidated after he was brutally beaten over the weekend. However, KRQE News 13's has learned investigators are now questioning Tommy Hook's story.

Federal? State? Local?

Hook insists the beating at a Santa Fe strip club over the weekend was brought on because he is scheduled to talk to congress next week. But investigators now say there are inconsistencies in the time frame of around the incident.

The man has his jaw wired, has suffered severe trauma and is under sedation. Not to mention that he had a stroke about a year and a half ago. I would be surprised if there were not inconsistencies in the time frame. Clearly someone wants to put Tommy Hook's credibility in doubt without disclosing anything more than innuendo.

Hook says he was pulled from his car and beaten by at least four men last Saturday.

He says he drove the club after receiving a call from someone saying they were a Los Alamos lab employee. Hook says the caller claimed to have more information that would useful to Hook as he prepared to testify before congress.

When I read in other accounts that Hook says the man asked to meet him at the only stripper bar in Santa Fe, why was I thinking "Set up!"?

"This individual was telling me I should keep my F***in mouth shut. And I immediately jumped to the lavatory when he said that that he was trying to keep me from not having me not talk in front of congress," said Hook in an interview with CBS News.

This garbled paragraph is interesting for its reference to "an individual" and the lavatory. No other story speaks of any encounter other than the beating in the parking lot.

Since the bouncer was able to obtain some license plate numbers, it shouldn't be too hard to track at least some of the attackers down. There is nothing questionable about whether the man was beaten or not. Instead of questioning the timing of Hook's story, why haven't any arrests been made of one of the attackers?

This story is about who was behind the attack and why. Is this an officially sanctioned Brown Shirt assault? Frightened fellow workers? Crooked vendor corporations?

Environmental News Service says some congressional investigators are on the way—

Congressional staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee were scheduled to arrive Tuesday to investigate Hook’s allegations.

Also flying to Santa Fe is the Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) Senior Investigator Peter Stockton, who investigated the 1974 murder of nuclear whistleblower Karen Silkwood in his previous position as a Congressional investigator.

This could get mighty interesting.

6/9/05 - 7:45 pm

I actually wrote an update yesterday that was eaten by the vagaries of Blogger. But just as well; there's now a lot more.

The first thing to note is that, according to the Project on Government Oversight (PoGo), the congressional staff that were "scheduled to arrive" Tuesday were not coming as a result of the beating, as I had supposed from other accounts, but had prearranged to meet with Hook.

All news accounts that I've seen have referred only to Hook's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee coming "later in the month" with no mention of this meeting. This is important to the timing. If Hook was beaten with the intention to shut him up, it would have had to occur before he was to meet with the staff on Tuesday.

If you want to see just how wrong the press can get it, this is the case to watch. Media accounts are all over the place,1 though some of the confusion is undoubtedly due to the lawyers representing the various parties.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque has apparently been selected (or has selected itself) to be the purveyor of a number of leaks from "investigators." When I first wrote this post, KRQE had put out a brief, garbled account saying that investigators (no specification whether these were local, state or federal) had questions about the "time frame." They have since modified and embellished the same report. If you check the KRQE quotes above, you will see that the account has been altered.

The current form now says "investigators have found inconsistencies in the time frame in which the incident was reported by Hook and also how the altercation occured [sic]."

(I hope you don't have to rely on KRQE for your news.)

KRQE has a new report out. Apparently one of the assailants has been questioned or arrested. His lawyer is maintaining that the attack had nothing to do with Hook's work at Los Alamos—

A lawyer in Santa Fe has been hired to represent a man who says he was involved in the beating. The man reportedly claims the attack has nothing to do with the fact that the victim is the Los Alamos National Labs whistleblower.

Santa Fe investigators also have some new questions as they continue to investigate the details surrounding the beating of a Tommy Hook earlier this week.

CBSNews gives a slightly more detailed version—

A lawyer representing one of the men involved in the fracas told the Albuquerque Journal that the dispute that nothing to do with the nuclear research laboratory.

"This was an altercation in the parking lot of a topless bar, nothing more," attorney Doug Couleur told the newspaper. "This has absolutely nothing to do with Hook's employment, his witness status, his employment status, or any of that."

The dancer's testimony: Did Hook have his wanker wiggled?

The previously modified KRQE story said,

A dancer at the club says she recognized Hook as the same man who got a lap dance from a waitress the night of the beating. Hook's attorney argues that club employees have confirmed that Hook didn't interact with any girls at the club.

The AP gives the dancer's name as Jeanette McCalip. Remember that McCalip is not the lap dancer but the witness to the lap dance. The AP story has this—

Roger Prucino, a Santa Fe attorney who represents Cheeks owner Elmo Montoya, said he interviewed Montoya and a manager who was at the bar Saturday and early Sunday when Hook was beaten.

Prucino said he could not confirm a report by a dancer at the club, Jeanette McCalip, that she recognized Hook as the same man who got a lap dance from a waitress earlier that night.

"I got no lap dance from any dancers," Hook said. But he said people were dancing around him while he was at the bar.

Robert Rothstein, Hook's attorney, said a private investigator who talked to bar employees was told Hook didn't interact with any of the club's dancers.

The latest KRQE report has

... the owner of the club says Hook ... received a 50 dollar lap dance at the club. That’s contrary to what Hook has maintained.

It is beginning to look as if we have to be careful with the words "dancer" and "waitress." The picture I'm getting is of "dancers" who perform on a stage perhaps and "waitresses" who perform up close and personal.

How much did Hook have to drink?

The one fact on which accounts that mention the matter agree is that Hook was drinking light beer. But how many did he have?

KRQE: "the owner of the club says Hook had a total of six beers...."

Hook's lawyer Rothstein: "two or three" (via NY Times)

How long was Hook at the bar?

Hook's lawyer: "Hook arrived at the bar at 11:30.... Sometime after 1:30 a.m., Hook went to his car...." (via NY Times)

How many assailants were there?

Given the variation in the number of assailants, it must have been very dark, and some people may have been seeing double.

KRQE: "Hook says he was pulled from his car and beaten by at least four men."

Hook's wife: "between four and six men"

A cover-up?

In the midst of all the confusion Peter Stockton of PoGo is accusing the FBI of deliberately leaking an alternative version of events. NewsMax has

In the FBI scenario, described in several New Mexico newspapers, Hook went to the topless bar not to meet a fellow Los Alamos whistleblower – as his wife and attorney have claimed – but because his wife was out of town.

He had several drinks and got a lap dance. When he left the bar, he nearly backed into someone with his car in the parking lot, which touched off the fight, according to the version of events that Stockton says was leaked by the FBI.

The Guardian gives

Rothstein [Hook's attorney] said he also heard allegations that the beating stemmed from an altercation in the parking lot and possibly Hook backed his car into someone. But Rothstein said that story hasn't been confirmed and Hook's car was found in a parking space beside the club.

Some other mysteries

Why is the lap-dancer herself not identified in any account?

There was either a woman on Hook's lap or there wasn't, and Jeanette McCalip should be able to identify her if there was. Remember that it is always possible that Hook went to "Cheeks" to meet someone as he says and in the boredom of waiting, decided to go for a little $50 lap dance. Or that it was a set-up, paid for by someone else. Or that it didn't occur at all.

Where and how does an individual and a "lavatory" come into this story?

KQED says this is from a CBS report. If so, I can't find it.

Which agency or agencies has been leaking to the local press and why?

Further update

Anna Macias Aguayo of the AP had this to report this evening—

Authorities said Thursday that the beating of a Los Alamos nuclear lab auditor outside a bar was unrelated to his status as a whistleblower.

"Facts, evidence and information obtained during the course of this investigation has led investigators to believe that the altercation involving Mr. Hook is an isolated incident and is in no way related to Mr. Hook's whistleblower status at the Los Alamos National Laboratories," Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Eric Johnson said in the statement.

The investigation is "leaning toward a fight in the parking lot as a result of Mr. Hook backing into a pedestrian," Johnson said.


1The most bizarre headline was offered by the Guardian: "No Evidence Whistleblower Was Beaten," which then opens with—

There's no evidence that a Los Alamos lab whistleblower who was beaten up outside a topless bar had been in a minor accident in the parking lot or had cavorted with dancers at the bar, his lawyer says.

It certainly pays to keep reading. [back]

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