As conspiracy theories swirled around the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, lobbyist Jack Burkman took the unusual step of launching his own private investigation. A man with military and security experience stepped up to help.
Now Burkman alleges that man, Kevin Doherty, nearly killed him.
Burkman, a conservative lobbyist who has also raised money for Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and protested gay athletes in the NFL, is used to controversy. But Doherty’s arrest Saturday by Arlington County police on charges of malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony caps a saga stranger than Burkman’s own conspiracy theories.
“It’s a horror story,” Burkman, of Arlington, said in an interview Monday afternoon. He is still recovering after being shot several times and run over by an SUV last Tuesday.
Doherty briefly worked for Burkman’s Profiling Project, which was formed to build a psychological portrait of Rich’s likely killer. While police have concluded Rich was likely shot during a random robbery, many conservatives have claimed he was killed as part of a political conspiracy. Burkman offered a six-figure reward for information on the shooting.
Burkman said Doherty presented an impressive resume — ex-Marine, ex-special agent — and did good work. But tension quickly developed. In Burkman’s view, Doherty began speaking to reporters out of turn and tried to take over the investigation.
Doherty served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1990 to 1994, rising to the rank of sergeant, according to a spokeswoman for Manpower & Reserve Affairs.
“He became somewhat angry because he thought the Profiling Project belonged to him,” Burkman said. In July, he cut Doherty loose and sent him a cease and desist letter.
“I just figured the matter was closed,” Burkman said. “But what happened is, I guess, he was simmering and simmering and simmering.”
In February, Burkman had moved on to a new investigation. He had put out a call for whistleblowers in the FBI, offering $25,000 for any information exposing wrongdoing in the presidential election.
Soon, he thought he had hit the jackpot. A man reached out, describing himself as a senior FBI official with information about then-agency deputy director Andrew McCabe, who at the time was under an internal investigation for his handling of probes into Hillary Clinton. (On Friday, McCabe was fired, after an internal investigation found he had dealt improperly with the media and then lied about it. He has denied wrongdoing.)
His source dropped off two packets of emails under a cone in a garage at the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn, Burkman said.
“I thought I had the story of the decade,” Burkman recalled. His wife, Susan, was more skeptical. She warned him that she didn’t think he was dealing with the FBI. But, he said, the emails “looked super real,” containing details about the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The last drop was supposed to be “the big one” — the full inspector general report on McCabe, which still has not been released. Instead, when Burkman bent over to pull the papers out from under the cone, he was shot in the buttocks and thigh. As he ran out of the garage with his dachshund in his arms, he was hit by an SUV.
He said the car backed up to hit him again.
“It looked like he was coming to kill me,” Burkman said. But he said a woman watching from a window of the hotel screamed. A guard came running and the SUV sped off, Burkman said.
Burkman spent three days in the hospital. His dog, Jack Jr., was uninjured.
Police would not comment on Burkman’s account of the incident.
But Burkman said authorities told him they tracked down Doherty through the SUV. Burkman said police came to him in the hospital with a photo of his former employee. He didn’t even recognize Doherty at first. When he heard his name, he was shocked.
Burkman had already met with police in January, when a masked man approached his house in an SUV and hit him in the face with pepper spray. No charges have been filed in that incident.
“We went through a thousand possibilities,” Burkman said. “Kevin was not on the list.”
Doherty does not yet have a lawyer in the assault case and is being held without bond, prosecutors said.
Girum Tesfaye, who represented Doherty on a drunken driving charge last year, also expressed surprise.
“From what I know of him it would definitely be out of character,” Tesfaye said.
Burkman said he is now traveling with security. But the experience has not soured him on conspiracy theories. His profiling project concluded that Rich was shot by a hired killer, and he wonders if Doherty was working for someone else.
He has not given up on investigating the death of Rich, whose family just sued Fox News for publishing a false story linking their son to WikiLeaks. Fox News retracted the story six days after it was published.
“This in my mind makes the whole Seth story stranger and stranger,” Burkman said.
Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.