Veterans Administration documents indicate that Administrator Thomas K. Turnage was urged by subordinates last November to contact his friend, Attorney General Edwin Meese III, about a potentially embarrassing Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of alleged police brutality at the VA medical center in Cincinnati.
A month later, Turnage wrote to Associate Attorney General Stephen S. Trott, saying the VA hoped that the FBI probe would be wrapped up quickly because it was hurting worker morale.
Trott's response was made two weeks later: The FBI had turned up new leads and, once they were investigated, Justice Department attorneys would decide quickly whether the case would go to court.
In March, the Justice Department announced that it would not seek prosecution of the hospital's police chief, Daniel Wilson. In testimony before Congress, police officers at the medical center had accused Wilson of hurling racial epithets at blacks as he beat them bloody for such transgressions as begging on the premises and parking in unauthorized places.
A spokesman for Turnage said he never contacted Meese. And we have found no further communication with the Department of Justice other than Turnage's letter to Trott.
We can't say with certainty that a cover-up is afoot, but our associate, Stewart Harris, has dug up additional evidence that, in our opinion, tends to support the theory. It is:
At a recent hearing, Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) waved a secret FBI report that he said does not exonerate Wilson. The Justice Department is resisting efforts to make the report public, although usually such reports are released with deletions of the portions protected by privacy laws.
The Government Accountability Project (GAP), a public-interest group, filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the FBI report. Even though some of the witnesses interviewed by the FBI have signed affidavits supporting GAP's access to their testimony, the FBI is stalling release of the report.
VA officials considered prosecution of two officers who blew the whistle on Wilson. According to VA records, agency officials met with the U.S. attorney in Cincinnati on Nov. 18, 1986, and asked that Paul Headley and John Berter be prosecuted for making "false statements." The meeting was held before the FBI had concluded its investigation. Cathy Brinkman, the assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the case in Cincinnati, declined comment. Headley and Berter have not been prosecuted.
The day after the Cincinnati meeting, a regional VA official in Chicago wrote a memo recommending that Turnage "make the appropriate contacts at the Department of Justice to facilitate an end to the FBI's investigative activities." It was another official's memo that suggested that Turnage could raise the issue with his friend Meese.
In Senate testimony, VA center police officer Harold Hipple said Wilson had bragged about being sent in to "clean up" the Cincinnati hospital. He said Wilson claimed that James Fasone, chief of security for the VA, and the director of he Cincinnati hospital were "completely behind him."