By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 14, 2016
The facts surrounding the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, are in a state of continual flux. The question is why?
The highly controversial Justice is reported to have died sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning at an isolated 30,000-acre luxury resort, Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas. The ranch is 30 miles from civilization. Scalia was initially reported to have gone there with “a friend” to quail hunt but that has been called into question. The name of the friend has not been released, raising more questions as to why the public has been denied a full accounting of the matter.
The owner of the resort, John Poindexter, a Houston multi-millionaire, told NBC News that Scalia arrived at the ranch at around noon on Friday on a charter flight from Houston. As for the quail hunting, Poindexter says that after Scalia arrived on Friday, he “didn’t exert himself at all.” ABC News is reporting today that a local County Judge spoke with Scalia’s personal physician in Washington D.C. who indicated that he had seen Scalia last week for a shoulder injury – raising the likelihood that Scalia would not have been risking further injury by using a rifle to hunt. Scalia would have turned 80 next month.
According to the Austin American Statesman, Scalia “was staying at the invitation and expense of Poindexter.” The paper quoted George E. Van Etten, a public relations consultant for the ranch, who said that Scalia was part of a larger weekend group at the ranch that included a number of “high profile” individuals. Van Etten would not provide those names either.
Mainstream media reported yesterday that Scalia had gone to bed early after dinner on Friday night, telling the other guests he was not feeling well. When Scalia did not come down for breakfast on Saturday morning, according to the reports, the rest of his hunting party left without him. That also raised the question as to why friends would not have checked to make sure he was okay before going off to hunt, particularly after he had reported not feeling well the evening before.
Today, NBC News reported that it has received this version of events from Poindexter: On Saturday morning, “when Scalia didn’t come to breakfast, Poindexter said he ‘forcefully’ knocked on Scalia’s door, but didn’t get an answer.” According to Poindexter, he returned with Scalia’s unnamed friend around 11 a.m. and entered the room to find him in bed, cold and unresponsive.
The events surrounding Scalia’s death took an even stranger turn when an area newspaper, the Big Bend Sentinel, provided these additional details:
“U.S Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, on an outing at an upscale ranch getaway near Shafter, died of natural causes Saturday, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara ruled…
“Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Juanita Bishop received the initial call, but called Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 David Beebe to handle the vague call about a body at the ranch. No name was mentioned. Bishop was in Fort Stockton at the time and Beebe was getting ready to head to Alpine to attend a political forum in Alpine.
“County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead by telephone at 1:52pm after she was called by Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez, who was at the ranch resort. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedures allows Justice of the Peaces to make this call if it’s deemed reasonable.”
In the dozens of media reports on Saturday and Sunday concerning the death of a pivotal conservative vote on the U.S. Supreme Court that has restructured American democracy into ever greater amounts of corporate control in serial 5-4 decisions, there has not been one report that a physician was called to the scene to conduct an examination of the body.
At midday today, the Washington Post noted the “conflicting accounts” and that “details of his final hours remained opaque.” The article said that after Scalia’s body was finally found in his room “It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, she pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body and decided not to order an autopsy. A second justice of the peace, who was called but couldn’t get to Scalia’s body in time, said she would have ordered an autopsy…”
Let that sink in: no inquest, no autopsy ordered for a highly controversial sitting U.S. Supreme Court Judge who died after eating a meal with 35 to 40 strangers in a remote resort 30 miles from civilization.
According to the Washington Post, the “U.S. Marshals Service has not issued a statement about the events surrounding Scalia’s death.”
The San Antonio Express-News was the first news outlet to report the story on Saturday afternoon. They had received a tip and sent one of their reporters in the area to verify it. The reporter was ordered off of the ranch property but remained stationed across the road and saw a hearse arrive. The paper reported the following:
“A gray Cadillac hearse pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m. The hearse came from Alpine Memorial Funeral Home.”
The logo “Alpine Memorial Funeral Home” can be clearly seen on both the hearse and the SUV leading the hearse in the photographs included with the San Antonio Express-News story.
Despite the local reporter at the scene reporting that the hearse “left about 5 p.m.,” ostensibly heading for the Alpine Memorial Funeral Home (since that was the name on the side of the hearse), the Washington Post reported this afternoon that a hearse arrived in the wee hours of the morning, about 2:30 a.m., at the Sunset Funeral Home in El Paso to deliver Scalia’s body. That funeral home, according to the Post, is only 3 ½ hours from the ranch and yet it didn’t arrive until 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, suggesting that the first hearse that left at 5:00 p.m. was not carrying Scalia’s body.
To tidy up that loose end, the Los Angeles Times is now reporting the following:
“A gray hearse arrived Saturday — a decoy, Van Etten said, to distract the news media. It wasn’t until about midnight that a van arrived to spirit the body away.”
Why did the news media need to be distracted? Besides, it was only the tiny San Antonio News-Express sitting outside the ranch.
Why John Poindexter was hosting a gala for a conservative justice gathers more intrigue from his past political contributions. Wall Street On Parade has learned from filings at the Federal Election Commission that Poindexter donated $1,000 to the Al Gore campaign in 1999 and over $15,000 over a series of years more recently to the Pete Gallego for Congress campaign. Gallego is a Democrat who pledges to support Social Security and “oppose efforts to raise the retirement age, to slash benefits, or to privatize it.”
Today, Poindexter is the Chairman, CEO and sole owner of J.B. Poindexter & Co., a manufacturing company in Houston with revenues of approximately $1 billion. It is one of the world’s largest producers of commercial truck bodies. Prior to his current work, Poindexter was an investment banker at Salomon Brothers in the early 70s and later became a partner at Smith Barney Venture Corporation.
As of now, it is not known if an autopsy will be conducted or when the public will get a competent and credible reporting of the events surrounding the death of Scalia. That a sitting Supreme Court Justice was mingling with this gathering of “high profile” people, who thus far remain anonymous, and with the tab picked up by a multi-millionaire, brings to mind previous charges of conflicts of interest lodged at Scalia.
Common Cause has previously lodged complaints that the Federalist Society was picking up the travel tab for Scalia to speak to private groups, including a Charles Koch dinner in 2007. Common Cause also notes that the Federalist Society “has received at least $2.8 million from the Koch family foundations and over $11.2 million from the secretive Koch-lined Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund groups.”
The Koch dinners, based on leaked tape recordings and invitation lists, are considered right-wing political strategy meetings, attended by the super wealthy, corporate CEOs, and even journalists who lend their prestige to the event. It is considered unseemly by many for a sitting Supreme Court Justice to taint the reputation of the U.S. Supreme Court by lending his name to such events. (Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has also been criticized for attending an invitation-only Koch event.)
Scalia also came under fire in 2004 for refusing to recuse himself from a Supreme Court case involving Vice President Dick Cheney after he had been duck hunting with him. Cheney had been sued by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch over his meeting with energy industry lobbyists in private while serving on a Federal energy taskforce. The groups charged that Cheney had violated a 1972 law that mandated that Federal officials had to obtain their outside advice in public settings, not behind closed doors.
After a lower court agreed with the plaintiffs, Cheney appealed the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2003, the Supreme Court accepted the case. (It typically accepts less than 1 percent of cases.) Three weeks later, Scalia was sitting on Air Force Two with Dick Cheney, on their way to a duck hunting outing in Louisiana. Despite an outpouring of protest over the conflict, Scalia sat in on the case and the decision went in Cheney’s favor.