MCM: There's a lot of speculation about Mike Connell's death. You've been following his story very closely for some time. Do you consider his death suspicious? If so, why?
LA: Certainly, when any witness in a high-profile case has a fatal accident, it has to be investigated--especially if that witness had been getting threats, as is alleged in Connell's case.
But in the end, my personal opinion on what actually happened is not relevant or helpful.
We have to deal with facts. It's not helpful to assert that this was murder--or that it was just an accident. The fact is that we don't yet know what happened. So, especially given the circumstances, we have to ask questions, and the investigation has to be transparent, so that the public feels that things were handled properly.
MCM: We've heard that Connell had been signaling a willingness to talk, beyond his deposition. Is that true, as far as you know?
LA: Yes--certainly before his deposition. In late 2007 and early in 2008, there were discussions behind the scenes with some of Conyers's people, and some of Kucinich's people, among others. Connell was going back and forth emotionally, which is a common thing with whistleblowers. At first he was interested in simply appearing as an expert on election issues. But then, as more stuff came to light from several researchers--in my case, it involved the White House emails, and their connection to the [Don] Siegelman and [Paul] Minor cases--Connell started to pull back.
I don't know if he made those overtures in order to secure immunity, or what transpired there. But one member of Conyers's staff did confirm to me that Connell had been interested in talking to them, and I was provided, by a separate source, with some of the back and forth communications.
He seemed to want to talk again toward early summer, but when Stephen Spoonamore went public, a great deal of pressure, including the alleged threats, made him waver. (The threats were said to come to him through several different channels.) Ultimately, Conyers's staff decided that Kucinich ought to be the one to handle Connell, when and if he should come forward. I don't know what happened, but I think they dropped the ball, and he never made such overtures again. It's really unfortunate.
I have my own sense of things, which I cannot yet get into other than to say that pressure also came from others who encouraged him to talk and made it known to him that he'd be safer in the light of day--if he was concerned about threats--than as a witness behind the scenes, or even as a person who knew something but did not talk. In any case, his conscience was bothering him. I think that, had those Congressional leaders met with him, he would have talked to them early last year and possibly as late as last summer.
MCM: How did you come in contact with the Connell family? Heather Connell, Mike's widow, has now claimed that you've been stalking her, and otherwise attempting to coerce her into opening up about her husband's doings--which, she claims, were wholly honest, and that there's just no story there. What do you say to all of that?
LA: The Cleveland Scene article attributing those claims to Heather Connell is, I think, regrettable. The reporter, James Renner, should have spoken to me, given me a chance to comment, but he never did, and then he refused to listen when I tried, through my editor, to set the record straight. "This is why I don't talk to online reporters," was all he said. I guess his contempt for online journalism sort of trumped his ethical responsibility to hear my side of the story.
He also cast me as a stalker. So let me put that charge to rest by telling you what happened between me and Heather Connell.
On September 25, 2008, I drove to Akron, where I met with several sources; and, while there, I also hoped to talk to Heather Connell. There are only two names listed on the incorporation documents for Mike Connell's companies. One is Heather Connell (and the other is Tom Synhorst, an associate of Karl Rove's). So I was very interested in talking to her, as I was following a lead from the Don Siegelman and Paul Minor cases--a lead that pointed straight to GovTech, Connell's company, and Mike Connell himself, through a fellow named Dan Gans.
MCM: The same Dan Gans who, according to Glynn Wilson, fixed the numbers electronically to "beat" Gov. Don Siegelman in Alabama in 2002?
LA: Yes, that Dan Gans. So, armed with those incorporation documents, I did what investigative journalists do: I worked the shoe leather. I went to the Connells' home on September 25. There was a young boy, maybe 14, playing basketball outside the house. Before I could even stop the car, these dogs came out of nowhere, and literally slammed into the car, barking and growling. I couldn't even open the car door. The boy tried to restrain them, but he couldn't. It was clear to me that I was not going to be getting out of the car as those animals were very aggressive. So I wrote a note saying who I was, and asking Heather to come meet me at a park near the house. I cracked the window open, and asked the boy to give his mom the note,