In the Luna case, the FBI gets its cake, and eats it too
This is Part 2 of Newslanc’s Luna update. Part 1 appears here.
Following my meeting with U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, I was led to believe that something might actually be done to investigate the highly mysterious disappearance of young assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna from the Baltimore federal courthouse.
It soon got back to me that the Luna investigation had been removed from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Baltimore, which was obviously a good first step. Trouble was, the Baltimore FBI field office was still the lead investigative agency.
Even so, I was told the investigation was now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia, under the command of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Pat Meehan.
This had Sen. Arlen Specter’s fingerprints all over it.
Meehan, today a U.S. congressman, once worked as special counsel to Sen. Specter. Meehan’s appointment as Philadelphia’s U.S. attorney, just a few days before 9/11 in 2001, was certainly brought about by Specter’s sponsorship.
Meehan was and remains a political animal. Meehan started his political career working on the election campaign of Republican Roy Zimmerman for state attorney general. From there Meehan went on to manage campaigns for Rick Santorum, Ron Castille, and convicted state AG Ernie Preate. He’s a party player, not a maverick. Still, I suspected, if Arlen Specter told Meehan to do something, he’d do it.
And there were plenty of indications that Specter was personally involved.
In February 2007, for example, Helen Adams, reporting for the Lancaster newspapers about the growing mysteries of missing paperwork in the Luna case, wrote, “U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., then chairman of the (senate judiciary) committee, wrote in a letter to the FBI last year that agents gave ‘conflicting stories’ to internal investigators about Luna issues.”
So, in my mind, Sen. Specter seemed to be doing something.
Still, years rolled by, and the public fascination with the Luna case only grew. This was at least partly because, in 2005, another prosecutor vanished and apparently met a mysterious and violent end in Pennsylvania: Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.
As with the Luna case, law enforcement officials strangely put out the word to the state press that DA Gricar, like Luna, had probably killed himself. Trouble was, unlike Luna’s stab-marked body, Gricar’s body has never been found.
Two prosecutors met strange ends in Pennsylvania, but progress solving either mystery seemed glacial, if that.
Lancaster DA informs me Luna’s death under a grand jury investigation in Philadelphia
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president, and a Democrat soon replaced Republican Pat Meehan in the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney’s office.
My mistaken belief that something was being done in Pennsylvania to investigate Luna’s death was reinforced in early 2009, when I filed a Right to Know Request for documents, including an autopsy report, with Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.
The paper chase for Luna’s autopsy report by then had taken on a life of its own.
In late 2004, shortly before the one-year anniversary of Luna’s death, FBI agents from Baltimore traveled to Lancaster to ask the county coroner to reclassify Luna’s murder as a suicide. The coroner refused.
The problem for the FBI, to this day, is that Luna’s death remains an open homicide investigation. Murders have no statutes of limitations. So it’s not going to go away.
In Pennsylvania, the FBI surprisingly benefits from this. Pennsylvania law seals autopsy records for open crimes and homicides, pending resolution of the crimes. The idea is that these records may help to solve an open crime, since only a perpetrator can know specific details of a murder.
All this is well and good, unless the investigators — in this case the FBI — refuse to investigate.
So the FBI, talking out both sides of its mouth in the Luna case, doubly benefits. The FBI, off the record, tells journalists that Luna’s death is a suicide. But the FBI is protected in its outlandish position because the public is forbidden to see the autopsy reports, since his death is legally classified as murder. In the Luna case, the FBI gets its cake, and eats it too.
In a letter dated May 6, 2009, Susan Moyer, Lancaster DA Stedman’s Assistant DA and Right to Know Officer, replied in an interesting fashion to my Right to Know request for the autopsy report and other records from Luna’s death.
“First, please be advised that the investigation into the death of Jonathan Luna is a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Baltimore Office and the Pennsylvania State Police,” Assistant DA Moyer wrote me. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the primary investigating agency. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office has been apprised regarding the investigation by the primary investigating agency only because Lancaster County is the jurisdiction where the death occurred. The Luna death remains an open investigation.
“Your (Right to Know) request is denied based on several reasons as detailed herein. First, regarding the autopsy report, the request is denied under the RTK (Right to Know) law and the law enforcement privilege in that this is an open and ongoing criminal investigation.
“Specifically, conversations with the Chief of the Violent Crimes Unit/Supervisor of the Luna investigation for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania have revealed that the Luna investigation is an open and ongoing federal criminal investigation in which the leads are continuously being developed and additionally that the Luna case is part of an open federal grand jury investigation afforded secrecy under federal grand jury proceedings. Furthermore, releasing the autopsy report, considering the highly confidential facts within that report, would definitively and negatively impact the Luna investigation currently and into the future.
“Moreover, because the Luna case is an open federal grand jury case, the records and materials of the case are afforded protection of the secrecy of the federal grand jury process which should preclude release under Pennsylvania’s RTK law.”
At the time, the Chief of the Violent Crimes Unit in the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney’s Office, mentioned in the DA office letter, was Assistant U.S. Attorney David Webb.
In 2009, I telephoned Webb to ask what was going on with the Luna case. AUSA Webb responded that, by law, “I can’t comment even about the existence of a grand jury.” He did express understanding and concern for Luna’s plight. “I’m an assistant U.S. Attorney too,” Webb said.
Interestingly, in 2001, President Obama appointed Webb as U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, headquartered in Philadelphia.
In Luna’s last compromised drug case, a FBI informant, Warren Grace, was kept at a Philadelphia federal prison, and was being transported back and forth for trial in Baltimore, under the nominal care of the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
‘No Push On It’: doubts surface about supposed grand jury investigation in Philadelphia
All of this is quite interesting. And all of it keeps pointing back to the FBI.
In the intervening years, Sen. Arlen Specter died of cancer.
Ed Martino, the Lancaster businessman and political operative who arranged a meeting between myself and Sen. Specter, today says he has reason to believe that U.S. Attorney Meehan’s office never conducted a grand jury investigation into Luna’s death.
“I went to find the evidence and nobody knew where it was. The car, nothing,” Martino says. “The FBI knows, of course, but they won’t say or release anything.”
“I gave all the information I gathered to the senate judiciary committee,” says Martino. “But Specter’s chief of staff told me they shut this down. I think Arlen found out the government was up to their eyeballs on this thing, and shut it down.
“Meehan did nothing. Arlen did a little shellacking on the deal. Nothing happened to that. Think of this: this was a US attorney who was killed. The FBI took over this thing. They know who did it. One of their boys did it. One of the good-old boys did it because they wanted to get rid of Luna.”
And the U.S. Justice Department has its own sausage factory of secrets to hide. The FBI-botched drug case last handled by Luna. The unlawful plea deal. All the things that Luna knew.
When Arlen Specter was still alive, and campaigning for reelection, Martino says, “I met with Pat Meehan in Lancaster. I met him at the Central Market in Lancaster, when Arlen had some political thing. He told me, ‘There’s no push on it.'”
What about the letter I got from the Lancaster DA’s office, saying this was an active grand jury matter in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia? I ask Martino. Did the Lancaster DA’s office lie to me in a letter?
“Just smoke,” Martino says. He says he thinks that, “Arlen’s people lied to the Lancaster DA’s office.” This, coming from a Specter operative.
There’s lots to consider here, and lots keeps running through my mind.
I was reminded of this just the other day, going through notes and clippings on the Luna case. There’s lots to catch the eye.
Some years ago I was introduced to the woman who served as the undertaker for Luna’s funeral, Kim MacLeod. I wrote about it in The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna.
“I’ve seen lots of murders, but this was definitely the worst one I’ve ever seen,” MacLeod told me. She said she’d been selected to work on Jonathan’s body because she knew the pastor of the Lunas’ church, and because of her extensive experience working with badly damaged bodies.
“This was no suicide,” she smiled. There were stab wounds on his back, she explained. Turning, she placed her finger slightly below the middle of her back, off to one side. “There were stab wounds, here, in the middle of his back, slightly below the shoulder blades, and also around the shoulder blades,” she said.
Worse, said MacLeod, Jonathan’s hands had been “shredded.” “There were long cuts between all the fingers, and cuts to the front and back of each hand.” These deep cuts were like slicing razor wounds to his hands, peeling away the skin around his fingers, at places cutting to the bone, indicative of someone having slashed at Jonathan savagely with a knife, she said. To demonstrate, she held her hands up and out as if to block repeated downward stabs from a knife.
“They were clearly defensive wounds,” to his hands, she said. Jonathan had been cut savagely trying to fend off his attacker.
“I tried to sew them up as best I could but we had to put gloves on for the viewing,” she explained.
She said the federal prosecutor’s neck had been slashed open on the right side, and all the way around his throat. She drew her finger along the underside of her neck. She should know, she said. “I was the one who sewed him up.”
Had his genitals been cut? I asked her.
“It was his scrotum,” she said. Luna’s scrotum had been slashed open, she said, but it didn’t appear to be a clean slash. His scrotum looked as if his assailant had been “working on it.”
For his part, former Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Gary Kirchner wrote Ed Martino that Luna had “multiple traumatic wounds, including abrasions and contusions and knife wounds.”
In September 2007, Dr. Kirchner told the Lancaster newspapers, “If the autopsy record gets out, there’s going to be hell to pay.” Kirchner died in 2013.
Having spoken with the mortician who prepared Luna’s body for burial, I have some idea of what that hell is.
What isn’t known is why the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department continue to refuse to seriously investigate Jonathan Luna’s violent murder.