The Trentadue Case: A Coverup That Won`t Stay Covered

CNN recently

that “the Justice Department is
re-examining its investigation into the 1995 death of a
federal prisoner that the victim`s family alleges was
murder at the hands of the government.”

The victim was Kenneth Michael
Trentadue.  At 7 AM on August 21, 1995, officials from
the Oklahoma Medical Examiner`s office arrived at the
new Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center for the body
of a man recently picked up for parole violation who
allegedly was a suicide by hanging. The astonished state
officials saw a body with scalp split to the skull in
three places, throat slashed, and a body completely
covered in blood, bruises and burns.

As law requires, the officials
asked to see the cell in which the alleged suicide
occurred. Federal officials pulled rank and refused on
the grounds that a federal investigation was underway.

A federal investigation was not

The state officials told the prison
officials that the body`s condition required FBI notice
and protection of the cell as an undisturbed crime
scene. Associate Warden Max Flowers, however, ordered
the cell to be cleaned before any investigation could be
done. Flowers claimed that medical staff informed him
that Trentadue was HIV-positive and that it was urgent
to remove the infectious blood.

Trentadue was not HIV-positive.

Dr. Fred B. Jordan, the Chief
Medical Examiner of the state of Oklahoma, was stunned
at the destruction of evidence by federal authorities
and at the way federal officials blocked his office from
carrying out required duties. In a memo to the file
dated December 20, 1995, Dr. Jordan described his
frustration over being stonewalled by top Department of
Justice officials in Washington. He recorded that he
confided to the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City
that “I felt Mr. Trentadue had been abused and

Two years later Dr. Jordan

on a Fox News Interview (July 3, 1997):

think it`s very likely he
[Kenneth Trentadue] was
murdered. I`m not able to prove it. I have temporarily
classified the death as undetermined. You see a body
covered with blood, removed from the room as Mr.
Trentadue was, soaked in blood, covered with bruises,
and you try to gain access to the scene and the
government of the United States says no, you can`t.

[the federal government] continued to prohibit us
from having access to the scene of his death, which is
unheard of, until about five months later. When we went
[the cell] and

, it lit up like a candle because blood was
still present on the walls of the room after four or
five months. But at that point we have no crime scene,
so there are still questions about the death of Kenneth
Trentadue that will never be answered because of the
actions of the U.S. government.”

Dr. Jordan`s effort to do his job
brought him under great pressure and harassment from
federal authorities. Realizing his peril, on August 25,
1997, Dr. Jordan wrote to IRS Commissioner Margaret

requirements of my job as chief Medical Examiner for the
State of Oklahoma are currently bringing me into an
uncomfortable juxtaposition with the United States
Department of Justice. In order to protect myself from
retribution, I would like information as to how to
request a protective audit from your agency. By this, I
simply mean a standard audit in order to avoid having
your agency used to harass me as I proceed with my
inquiries into a death that directly relates to the
Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City.”

In a handwritten memo to his file
dated October 22, 1997, of a telephone conversation with
U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D, ND), Dr. Jordan recorded:
“confirmed my feelings that the investigation was
crippled, the decedent was at the least beaten, we
haven`t found the truth and probably won`t, reiterated
my lack of trust in the Fed. gov`t and the Dept of
Justice in particular.”

Unable to secure from Dr. Jordan a
ruling that Trentadue`s injuries were self-inflicted,
the DOJ sought the cooperation of Dr. Bill Gormley,
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Dr. Gormley came to
the same conclusion as Dr. Jordan and came under the
same pressures. In a memo to file dated May 30, 1997,
Kevin Rowland, Chief Investigator in the Oklahoma
Medical Examiner`s Office records a telephone call he
had from Dr. Gormley:

basic purposes for his call was to 1-find out what they
[DOJ] are up to because he was very suspicious,
and 2-ask if I might be able to explain why they only
wanted certain testimony from him, since he told them
that we had already given them the truth. He was
troubled that they only seemed interested in him saying
it might be possible these injuries are self-inflicted.”

Senator Orrin Hatch (R, UT)
threatened the DOJ with Senate Judiciary Hearings on the
case. However, FBI documents (Dec. 5, 1997 and Jan. 28,
1998) indicate that FBI agents succeeded in pulling the
wool over the eyes of Senator Don Nickles (R, OK) and
using him to prevent Hatch`s investigation.

Federal harassment of, and
accusations against, Dr. Jordan built to the point that
on March 12, 1998, the Assistant Attorney General of
Oklahoma, Patrick T. Crawley,

to the US Department of Justice:

real tragedy in this case appears to be the perversion
of law through chicanery and the misuse of public trust
under the guise of some aberrant form of federalism. In
a succession of either illegal, negligent, or just plain
stupid acts, your clients
[FBI, DOJ, Bureau of
Prisons] succeeded in derailing the medical
examiner`s investigation and, thereby, may have
obstructed justice in this case. As more and more
information is revealed in this case, primarily through
the efforts of Jesse Trentadue
[lawyer brother of
victim], it appears that your clients, and perhaps
others within the Department of Justice, have been
abusing the powers of their respective offices. If this
is true, all Americans should be very frightened of your
clients and the DOJ.”

Despite the protection of the
Oklahoma Attorney General, sufficient pressure was
brought against Dr. Jordan to cause him to abandon his
position. On November 28, 2000, at the civil trial
brought by Jesse Trentadue against the United States,
Dr. Jordan was asked: “You didn`t find any evidence
of beating or torture, did you?”
He answered:
“No, there is no evidence to substantiate beating or

Despite Dr. Jordan`s changed
testimony, the presiding federal judge in the Trentadue
civil suit saw enough evidence that much was amiss to
award the Trentadue family $1.1 million for suffering
harassment and intentional infliction of emotional
distress by the federal government.

But, as all evidence of homicide in
the case was destroyed, whether intentionally or
negligently, or withheld by the DOJ, the charge of
murder could not be proven.

Whatever the deal with the DOJ,
apparently it only covered Dr. Jordan`s testimony in the
Trentadue civil trial. Two years later on December 11,
2002, under oath in a subsequent deposition in a libel
case brought by a FBI agent against a magazine that
covered the story, Dr. Jordan said: “Because of the
extensive bruising of the body, the cut throat, and the
general appearance of the body, we felt that the death
should be investigated as a homicide.”

In answer to a question whether he
was harassed by the federal government, Dr. Jordan
answered: “I don`t think there`s any question I was
harassed by the Department of Justice from the very
beginning of this, the 21st of August when we were
denied access to do a job we`d been summoned to do.”

A believer in the system, Jesse
Trentadue has not given up. He has brought a Freedom of
Information Act suit against the DOJ. Trentadue`s suit,
rather than a rediscovery of integrity by the DOJ,
probably explains the recent CNN report that the DOJ is
reopening the case. By reopening a criminal
investigation, the DOJ does not have to release the
documents demanded by Trentadue`s civil suit.

It has always been a puzzle why a
man picked up on a parole violation would be murdered in
his cell by federal agents. Recently an explanation has
turned up.

Kenneth Trentadue might have been a
victim of mistaken identity. Misidentified as the
missing John Doe, Tim McVeigh`s alleged accomplice in
the Oklahoma City bombing, he might have been beaten and
tortured in an effort to obtain a confession. The
autopsy report shows Trentadue with a highly elevated
caffeine level, amounts certainly not available to a
person held in isolation.

High doses of caffeine are used to
increase pain under torture.

In trying to find the truth, Jesse
Trentadue is a brave man. In the last of a five-part
series on the Trentadue case in the McCurtain Daily
, J.D. Cash

that FBI agents, desperate to silence the
Trentadue family, have been conducting a criminal
investigation into Jesse Trentadue for several years.
Mr. Cash writes:

“Contained in an internal FBI investigation report
obtained by this newspaper, a FBI agent discusses legal
strategies to use against one of their most vocal and
effective critics: `by listing Jesse Trentadue as
subject in another investigation, that would place him
as a target of one of our investigations and this would
also prohibit Jesse Trentadue from testifying before the
Federal Grand Jury.`”

Law and order conservatives, who
believe that the only wrong ever done by the criminal
justice system is to under-punish the guilty, have much
to learn from the Trentadue case.

For more information on the case
and for photos of the brutally beaten body of Kenneth
Trentadue, visit


Paul Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M.
Stratton of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice
. Click

for Peter Brimelow`s

Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the
recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.