Danny Casolaro's body was found at 12:30 p.m. in a blood-filled bath tub by a hotel maid who called the Martinsburg police. The body contained three deep cuts on the right wrist and seven on the left wrist, made by a single edge razor blade, the kind used to scrape windows or open packages. At the bottom of the bathwater was an empty Milwaukee beer can, a paper glass coaster, the razor blade and two white plastic trash bags, the kind used in wastepaper baskets. On the desk in the hotel room was an empty mead composition notebook with one page torn out and a suicide note which read:
"To those who I love the most, please forgive me for the worst possible thing I could have done. Most of all, I'm sorry to my son. I know deep down inside that God will let me in."
There were no other papers, folders, documents of any sort, nor any briefcase found in the room. Danny's wallet was intact, stuffed with credit cards. The body was removed from the tub by Lieutenant Dave Brining from the Martinsburg fire department, and his wife, Sandra, a nurse who works in the hospital emergency room. The couple, who often moonlighted as coroners, took the body to the Brown Funeral Home where they conducted an examination. Charles Brown then decided to embalm the body that night and go home, rather than come back to work the next day, Sunday.
No one in Danny Casolaro's family had been notified of his death at that time, nor had they requested the body be embalmed. When Casolaro's family learned of the death, they insisted it was not a suicide and called for an autopsy and an investigation. Though the body had already been embalmed, an autopsy was performed at the West Virginia University Hospital by a Dr. Frost. The findings indicated that no struggle had taken place because there were no recent bruises on the body. The drugs found in Casolaro's urine, blood and tissue samples were in minute amounts but they were also unexplainable by his brother, Tony, who is a medical doctor.
According to Tony Casolaro, Danny did not take drugs or have any prescriptions for the drug traces of Hydrocodone and Tricyclic antidepressant that were found in the body. No pill boxes or written prescriptions were found. Dr. Casolaro searched through his brother's Blue Cross records and found no record of the prescriptions or doctor visits.
During the autopsy of the body, Dr. Frost had found lesions within the brain which were characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis. It was possible that Danny was having blurring of vision, but Dr. Frost downplayed the possibility that this contributed to any suicide. Of particular interest, was Frost's observation that the deep razor wounds on Danny's wrists were inflicted "without any hesitation marks." However, the lack of hesitation did not indicate one way or the other whether they were or were not self-inflicted. Investigators and police never found Danny's missing briefcase.
On August 6, 1991, Casolaro's housekeeper, Olga, helped Danny pack a black leather tote bag. She remembered he also packed a thick sheaf of papers into a dark brown or black briefcase. She asked him what he had put into the briefcase and he replied, "I have all my papers ..." He had been typing for two days, and as he left the house, he said, "Wish me luck. I'll see you in a couple of days."
By August 9th, Casolaro's friends were alarmed. Noone had heard from him and Olga was receiving threatening phone calls at Danny's home. On Saturday, August 10th, Olga received another call, a man's voice said, "You son of a bitch. You're dead." After learning of Danny's death, Olga recalled seeing Danny sitting in the kitchen on August 5th with a "heavy man ... wearing a dark suit. He was a dark man with black hair he turned towards the door, I saw he was dark skinned. I told police maybe he could be from India."
At 3:00 p.m. on Friday, the day before Danny's death, Bill Turner, a friend and confidante, met Danny in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel to deliver some papers to him. The papers allegedly consisted of two sealed packages which Turner had been keeping in his safe at home for Danny, and a packet of Hughes Aircraft papers which belonged to Turner.
Danny had appeared exuberant to most of his friends before his death, noting that he was about to "wrap up" his investigation of The Octopus. Casolaro was trying to prove that the alleged theft of the Inslaw computer program, PROMISE, was related to the October Surprise scandal, the Iran-Contra affair and the collapse of BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International).
Turner later admitted to police that he had indeed met with Danny on August 9th, but at that time he refused to specify what time and would not describe what was in the papers he delivered to Danny. I later learned that Turner had been investigating discrepancies involving his former employer, Hughes Aircraft Company. The documents he had delivered from his safe to Danny had been sealed, with Casolaro's name written across the seal, and he claimed not to have known what they contained. Nevertheless, it is feasible to assume that Turner may have known who Danny was preparing to meet that evening at the Martinsburg Hotel because, for reasons of his own, Turner apparently wanted Danny to show the Hughes Aircraft documents to whoever he was meeting with.
Turner later noted to reporters that he was "scared shitless" about information he had seen connecting Ollie North and BCCI. "I saw papers from Danny that connected back through the Keating Five and Silverado [the failed Denver S & L where Neil Bush had been an officer]," he said.
To his friend, Ben Mason, Danny showed a 22point outline for his book. Included in the information he shared with Mason were papers referring to Iran-Contra arms deals. Photocopies of checks made out for $1 million and $4 million drawn on BCCI accounts held for Adnan Khashoggi, and international arms merchant and factotum for the House of Saud, and by Manucher Ghorbanifar, an arms dealer and Iran-Contra middleman, were presented.
"The last sheet," noted Mason, "was a passport of some guy named Ibrahim." Casolaro had emphasized that Ibrahim had made a big deal of showing him (Casolaro) his "Egyptian" passport. "Ibrahim" was obviously the informant whom Olga, Casolaro's housekeeper, had seen sitting in the kitchen with Danny on August 5th. Hassan Ali Ibrahim Ali, born in 1928, was later identified as the manager of Sitico, an alleged Iraqi front company for arms purchases. Casolaro had obtained these papers from Bob Bickel, who in turn obtained them from October Surprise source Richard Brenneke.
Ari BenMenasche, a self proclaimed Israeli military intelligence officer, was responsible for the tipoff to an obscure Lebanese magazine about what later became known as the IranContra scandal. After Casolaro's death, Menasche called Bill Hamilton, the president of Inslaw Company and creator of the PROMISE software. (Hamilton had been in daily contact with Casolaro until about a week prior to his death).
Menasche claimed that two FBI agents from Lexington, Kentucky, had embarked on a trip to Martinsburg to meet Casolaro as part of their investigation of the sale of the PROMISE software to Israel and other intelligence agencies.Ben Menasche told Hamilton that one of the FBI agents, E.B. Cartinhour, was disaffected because his superiors had refused to indict high Reagan officials for their role in the October Surprise. Ben Menasche claimed the agents were prepared to give Casolaro proof that the FBI was illegally using PROMISE software.
It is highly unlikely that the two FBI agents were en-route to Martinsburg to GIVE anything to Casolaro, but they may well have been on their way to obtain HIS documents and those belonging to Bill Turner. If, in fact, Danny had disclosed to any one of the many "sources" he had developed during his investigation, that he was turning over his documents to the Lexington FBI, that may well have alarmed a few of them.
Casolaro was also investigating Colonel Bo Gritz's expose of CIA drug trafficking, and had requested to meet with a former police officer who had information on Laotian warlord Kuhn Sa's Golden Triangle drug trade proposal to the U.S. He had learned through a Sacramento Bee newspaper article, dated June 2, 1990 that Patrick Moriarty, the Red Devil fireworks magnate convicted of laundering political contributions and bribing city officials in Sacramento, had been subpoenaed to testify on behalf of Gritz at his trial in Las Vegas where he was tried for using a false passport. Gritz was acquitted of the charges.
Moriarty's lawyer, Jan Lawrence Handzlik, told the Bee that Moriarty had paid Gritz to make business trips to China, Singapore and other parts of Asia. Gritz said his business trip to Asia in July 1989 was for the purpose of negotiating an oil interest that he and Moriarty had set up between the People's Republic of China and Indonesia.
It is noteworthy that Patrick Moriarty is the longtime (30 years) partner of Marshall Riconosciuto, Michael Riconosciuto's father. They owned several California businesses together, two of which were Hercules Research Corporation, of which Michael was a partner, and Pyrotronics Corporation.
Casolaro at one time considered the title of "Indio" for the book he was writing about "The Octopus." His death occurred just days before he planned to visit the Cabazon Indian reservation near Indio, California. Though his notes did not divulge what role the Cabazons may have had in the conspiracy, Casolaro listed Dr. John Phillip Nichols, the Cabazon administrator, as a former CIA agent.
A source of information which Danny may have read is entitled, "DARK VICTORY, Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob," by Dan E. Moldea. Moldea named this unholy alliance "The Octopus" in his book.
Numerous publications reporting on Casolaro's death corroborated that one of his sources included Michael Riconosciuto, a "44yearold former hightech scientist who had connections with Wackenhut Corporation ..." What brought Casolaro to Riconosciuto was an affidavit signed by Riconosciuto claiming that when he worked on the WackenhutCabazon project, he was given a copy of the Inslaw software by Earl Brian for modification. Riconosciuto also swore that Peter Videnieks, a Justice Department official associated with the Inslaw contract, had visited the WackenhutCabazon project with Earl Brian.
Earl Brian was a businessman and Edwin Meese crony who served in Governor Ronald Reagan's cabinet in California. The $6 million in software stolen from William and Nancy Hamilton, coowners of Inslaw Company, was allegedly sold by the Justice Department through Earl Brian to raise off-the-books money for covert government operations.
On May 18, 1990, Riconosciuto had called the Hamiltons and informed them that the Inslaw case was connected to the October Surprise affair. Riconosciuto claimed that he and Earl Brian had traveled to Iran in 1980 and paid $40 million to Iranian officials to persuade them NOT to release the hostages before the presidential election in which Reagan became president of the United States.
Riconosciuto's information created a domino effect in Washington D.C., opening numerous investigations and causing a media blitz. At that time, Casolaro headed the Hamilton's private investigation of the theft of their software and he had regular communication with Riconosciuto.
Former U.S. Attorney General Elliott Richardson, the Hamilton's attorney, subsequently sent Riconosciuto an affidavit to sign, to be filed by Inslaw in federal court in connection with Inslaw's pending Motion for Limited Discovery. The affidavit, Case No. 8500070, entered into court records, resulted in Riconosciuto's arrest within days. It read as follows:
"I Michael J. Riconosciuto, being duly sworn, do hereby state as follows:
"(1) During the early 1980's, I served as the Director of Research for a joint venture between the Wackenhut Corporation of Coral Gables, Florida, and the Cabazon Band of Indians of Indio, California. The joint venture was located on the Cabazon reservation.
"(2) The Wackenhut-Cabazon joint venture sought to develop and/or manufacture certain materials that are used in military and national security operations, including night vision goggles, machine guns, fuelair explosives, and biological and chemical warfare weapons.
"(3) The Cabazon Band of Indians are a sovereign nation. The sovereign immunity that is accorded the Cabazons as a consequence of this fact made it feasible to pursue on the reservation the development and/or manufacture of materials whose development or manufacture would be subject to stringent controls off the reservation. As a minority group, the Cabazon Indians also provided the Wackenhut Corporation with an enhanced ability to obtain federal contracts through the 8A Set Aside Program, and in connection with Government owned contractor operated (GOCO) facilities.
"(4) The Wackenhut-Cabazon joint venture was intended to support the needs of a number of foreign governments and forces, including forces and governments in Central America and the Middle East. The Contras in Nicaragua represented one of the most important priorities for the joint venture.
"(5) The Wackenhut-Cabazon joint venture maintained close liaison with certain elements of the United States Government, including representatives of intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies.
"(6) Among the frequent visitors to the Wackenhut-Cabazon joint venture were Peter Videnieks of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and a close associate of Videnieks by the name of Earl W. Brian. Brian is a private businessman who lives in Maryland and who has maintained close ties with the U.S. intelligence community for many years.
"(7) In connection with my work for Wackenhut, I engaged in some software development and modification work in 1983 and 1984 on the proprietary PROMIS computer software product. The copy of PROMIS on which I worked came from the U.S. Department of Justice. Earl W. Brian made it available to me through Wackenhut after acquiring it from Peter Videnieks, who was then a Department of Justice contracting official with responsibility for the PROMISE software. I performed the modifications to PROMIS in Indio, California; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Miami, Florida.
"(8) The purpose of the PROMIS software modifications that I made in 1983 and 1984 was to support a plan for the implementation of PROMIS in law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide. Earl W. Brian was spearheading the plan for this worldwide use of the PROMISE computer software.
"(9) Some of the modifications that I made were specifically designed to facilitate the implementation of PROMIS within two agencies of the Government of Canada; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS). Earl W. Brian would check with me from time to time to make certain that the work would be completed in time to satisfy the schedule for the RCMP and CSIS implementations of PROMIS.
"(10) The proprietary version of PROMIS, as modified by me, was, in fact, implemented in both the RCMP and the CSIS in Canada. It was my understanding that Earl W. Brian had sold this version of PROMIS to the Government of Canada.
"(11) In February 1991, I had a telephone conversation with Peter Videnieks, then still employed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Videnicks attempted during this telephone conversation to persuade me not to cooperate with an independent investigation of the government's piracy of Inslaw's proprietary PROMIS software being conducted by the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"(12) Videnieks stated that I would be rewarded for a decision not to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee investigation. Videnieks forecasted an immediate and favorable resolution of a protracted child custody dispute being prosecuted against my wife by her former husband, if I were to decide not to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee investigation.
"(13) Videnieks also outlined specific punishments that I could expect to receive from the U.S. Department of Justice if I cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee's investigation.
"(14) One punishment that Videnieks outlined was the future inclusion of me and my father in a criminal prosecution of certain business associates of mine in Orange County, California, in connection with the operation of a savings and loan institution in Orange County. By way of underscoring his power to influence such decisions at the U.S. Department of Justice, Videnieks informed me of the indictment of these business associates prior to the time when that indictment was unsealed and made public.
"(15) Another punishment that Videnieks threatened against me if I cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee is prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice for perjury. Videnieks warned me that credible witnesses would come forward to contradict any damaging claims that I made in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, and that I would subsequently be prosecuted for perjury by the U.S. Department of Justice for my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee."
It is noteworthy that in January, 1992 when I obtained boxes of Michael Riconosciuto's hidden documents, included in those documents were handwritten pages of telephone numbers belonging to various Washington D.C. dignitaries. One number, "(202) 4260789" was listed as belonging to "PV," but it was no longer in service.
Danny Casolaro was, of course, intent on interviewing Peter Videnieks. A strange coincidence occurred during the week prior to his death. While sitting in a pub, having a beer, a man named Joseph Cuellar approached him and they began talking. At some point during the conversation, Danny disclosed the contents of his investigation and expressed a desire to interview Peter Videnieks.
To Danny's astonishment, Cuellar, claiming to be a Special Forces operative, said he could arrange a rendevous between Peter Videnieks and Casolaro. Cuellar's connection to Peter Videnieks allegedly came through Videnieks' wife, Barbara, who was the executive assistant to the powerful West Virginia Democratic Senator, Robert Byrd. Byrd played a major role in the effort to have the CIA move some of its administrative offices to Charlestown, 20 miles from Martinsburg, on the Virginia border. It was apparently through Barbara Videnieks that Cuellar intended to arrange the interview.
Casolaro confided to friends that he was unnerved by this supposedly chance meeting. He met with Cuellar at other times that week, but it is unknown whether he ever spoke with Videnieks. To date, that question remains unanswered.
Significantly, Elliot Richardson, the respected former U.S. Attorney General representing Inslaw, called for the appointment of a special counsel to look into the death of Casolaro.
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