Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DOJ Lawyer Was Found Hanging in his Basement

Nicholas Marsh

A Department of Justice lawyer who reportedly committed suicide last month was found hanging in his basement, according to a press report.

Information about the death of Nicholas A. Marsh has been sketchy, at best. Numerous media outlets reported on September 27 that Marsh, the subject of an investigation for possible misconduct in the prosecution of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), had killed himself during the previous weekend. The news was released by Robert Luskin, Marsh's attorney who also has represented Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Early news reports left many questions unanswered. Where was Marsh's body discovered? How did he kill himself? What did medical examiners and police officials have to say about the case? What evidence supported a finding of suicide?

A report at mainjustice.com answers some of those questions. A profile about Marsh includes a brief description of the circumstances surrounding his death. It quotes Beverly Fields, of the D.C.. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, saying that Marsh committed suicide by hanging. He was found unconscious in his basement at about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 26.

There is no mention of Ms. Fields' credentials and no indication that the reporter has checked official documents regarding Marsh's death. We also have no information about evidence that supports a suicide finding. We have only Beverly Fields' word--and we have no idea who she is.

In our research, we found a brief reference to Marsh's hanging at NPR, the outlet that broke the news of his death. Other than that, we've seen no sign that any news organization has done followup reporting on Nicholas Marsh's death--nothing from The Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS . . . zip.

Should we be skeptical about the finding of suicide in Nicholas Marsh's death? Given the extraordinarily flimsy reporting on the story, there are questions in my mind. And given that Robert Luskin apparently was intent on getting the suicide angle out there before we had official confirmation--seemingly as a way to close off any serious inquiry--that raises questions, too.

Did Luskin have a strategy for releasing the story or did it come out that way by coincidence? Either way, it worked. No one in the press seems to be asking serious questions.

Here is something interesting about the "journalism" on this story: Carrie Johnson, a justice correspondent for NPR, broke the news about Marsh's death--and immediately labeled it a suicide, based on Robert Luskin's word. Until a few months ago, Johnson covered the Justice Department for The Washington Post. That means she almost certainly was well acquainted with Luskin, who has been involved in a number of high-profile cases while representing well-known politicos such as Karl Rove. Our guess is that Johnson and Luskin have done favors for each other over the years, and in this case, Luskin needed one from his reporter friend. He needed her to "frame" the story as a suicide before any official word came out about cause of death in the Nicholas Marsh case.

Why was that important to Luskin? Does he get his jollies from dropping tips for his reporter friends? Or did he have some other motive in mind? That is the crucial question that is going unasked in the mainstream press. And we suspect that is exactly how Luskin planned it.

Marsh's death has some disturbing similarities to that of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the D.C. Madam. Palfrey reportedly committed suicide in May 2008 after she had been convicted on racketeering charges. Her body was discovered hanging in a shed at her mother's home in Florida.

Marsh undoubtedly had access to sensitive information about the inner workings of the DOJ during the George W. Bush years. Palfrey's escort service attracted a number of powerful figures in Washington. Several press outlets have reported that former Vice President Dick Cheney was one of her clients. And ABC News reportedly helped cover up that part of the story. From OpEd News:

Among Palfrey's known clients were current Louisiana Senator Vitter, former AIDS Czar Randall Tobias, Dick Morris and military-industrial wonk Harlan Ullman, but Dick Cheney's McLean, VA phone number, reported earlier was summarily un-reported after a turnaround by ABC News.

ABC anchor Sam Donaldson has also been a rumored client, along with a law partner of Rudy Giuliani, associates of Jack Abramoff and many more Pentagon, DC and corporate insiders on a list of over 10,000 numbers.

According to early accounts, ABC News correspondent Brian Ross had the exclusive scoop because Palfrey turned over years-long call lists for his staff to verify. After Cheney turned up on the list, the story, already on the ABC website and poised to run on 20/20, suddenly went away.

Dick Cheney, Sam Donaldson, and associates of Jack Abramoff and Rudy Guiliani probably were among her clients? No wonder ABC News backed off the story. No wonder the D.C. Madam no longer is among the living.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, who was Palfrey's attorney, has written Why Just Her: The Judicial Lynching of the D.C. Madam. It's an inside account of what appears to have been a political prosecution. Sibley concludes that Palfrey indeed committed suicide, but he provides plenty of information that raises questions for the curious reader.

We can't help but ponder similar questions about Nicholas Marsh. The Stevens investigation certainly had put him in a stressful place. But he apparently had a lot to live for. His wife, Navis Bermudez, is a member of the professional staff for the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A recent committee press release states:

Navis Bermudez has joined the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment as Professional Staff. Bermudez brings significant water quality experience to the Subcommittee, and she will focus on the areas of vessel discharges, regional watershed plans, and wetlands issues.

A Yale University graduate, Ms. Bermudez has a serious interest in environmental issues. She and her husband also apparently were serious about their faith.

They were active members of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. In fact, a recent church publication includes a picture of them as worship leaders. (See page two at the link below.)

First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, D.C.

That picture was taken in early July. The thoughts and actions of those who commit suicide remain a mystery to many of us; in many instances, suicide cannot be explained by a rational thought process. But I can't help but look at that picture and ask, "Does this look like a man who is about to kill himself in a little more than two months' time?"


MaxShelby said...

I guess being a Coroner is good job security right now. (no disrespect intended)
Good grief! The body count just keeps rising...

mikkrikk said...

Washington has no regard for those who fail. It has been reported (TPM for one) that Marsh felt that he was being singled out in some way, while Welch and Morris were assigned new jobs in other cities. We do not know what was going on in his head, but life can be very difficult for those considered "damaged goods" in DC.

Cirze said...


Showing that almost no one looks like a suicide (among these political movers anyway), but could be "found" as one any day.

Cheney and Rather clients?

The plot thickens. This screams for a fictional treatment, doesn't it?

"Made In the Shade" perhaps?

Jump in anytime!

Thanks for covering this.


legalschnauzer said...


Just to make clear: It was Cheney and Sam Donaldson as possible clients. To my knowledge, Dan Rather never has been connected to this, or anything like it.


Cirze said...


How did Danno's name jump into my typing?

Of course, it was Sunday Morning Regular SAM!