Skip to main content

TDS TCR

A Death in the Congressman's Office
By Denis Wright and Chris George, American Politics Journal
August 8, 2001

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.
...
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.
...
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.
...
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.

An update from the same article-
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?

Markos Moulitsas Banned From MSNBC After Twitter Feud With Joe Scarborough
Jack Mirkinson, The Huffington Post
Updated: 05/25/11 06:00 PM ET
Writing on his blog, Moulitsas said that he felt Scarborough was inflating a non-story. So he shot back on his own Twitter feed, writing, "Like story of a certain dead intern," a reference to the death of Scarborough's staffer, Lori Klausutis, in 2001, when Scarborough was still in Congress.

This only escalated the Twitter war. Scarborough fired back, writing, "Unbelieveable. You have a long history of spreading lies suggesting I am a murderer. This is the 3rd or 4th time by my count." Moulitsas responded, "I've never suggested you're a murderer. I've noted media hypocrisy in going after [Congressman] Gary Condit [whose intern, Chandra Levy, was murdered in 2001]. But he was Dem. You aren't."

The back-and-forth led MSNBC President Phil Griffin to email Moulitsas, telling him that the network would not be booking him on its shows for the time being:

After I became aware of the ugly cheap shot you took at Joe on Twitter, I asked the teams to take a break from booking you on our shows for a while. I found the comments to be in poor taste, and utterly uncalled for in a civil discourse.

I'm hoping this will be only temporary and that the situation can be resolved in a mature fashion, but until then I just don't know how one could reasonably expect to be welcomed onto our network while publicly antagonizing one of our hosts at the same time.
...
Greg Sargent chimed in also casting doubt on Griffin's rationale.

"I don't recall the chief of MSNBC publicly banning Liz Cheney from appearing on the network when she cut an entire Web video 'publicly antagonizing' Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews for allegedly being too frightened to debate her about terrorism," Sargent wrote. "See, conservatives are expected to demonize the media, and can always count on being granted a platform by the same major networks they hammer publicly on a regular basis. It's all part of the game, get it? But it seems Markos got publicly dressed down and banned by the president of the network, no less, all because he got under Scarborough's skin with a few nasty little Tweets."

So that's the kind of asshole Joe Scarborough is, you know outside of his constant humiliation and abuse of Mika Brzezinski for which I hope she is well compensated, though some forms of degradation are not worth any amount of money.

Oh and Joe, if you're reading this, I don't tweet nor will I get in a pissing contest with you on this site or any other.  These are all direct quotes from reputable and highly rated sources, if you have a problem take it up with Google.

David Gilbert Christian (born 1946) is an Anglo-American historian and scholar of Russian history notable for creating and spearheading an interdisciplinary approach known as Big History. He began teaching the first course in 1989 which examined history from the Big Bang to the present using a multidisciplinary approach with assistance from scholars in diverse specializations from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The course frames human history in terms of cosmic, geological, and biological history. He is credited with coining the term Big History and he serves as president of the International Big History Association. Christian's best-selling Teaching Company course entitled Big History caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates who is personally funding Christian's efforts to develop a program to bring the course to high school students worldwide.
The rest of the week the line up looks like this-

The Daily Show

* Wednesday 11/13: Key & Peele
* Thursday 11/14: Geoffrey Rush

The Colbert Report

* Wednesday 11/13: Blind Boys of Alabama
* Thursday 11/14: Alexis Ohanian

It would be awfully nice if someone more familiar with Key & Peele and Blind Boys of Alabama handled tomorrow because I know nothing about them at all.

Well, I can dream can't I?

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site