Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Like so much of the Chris Benoit double murder/suicide investigation, second-by-second analysis of the Stamford police interrogation of Benoit Wikipedia hacker Matthew Greenberg is tantalizing. It supports the idea that the authorities in two states were indifferent to the 30-hour gap between Chris Benoit’s final text messages and the discovery of the bodies. They should not have been so indifferent. The existing evidence suggests, as an explanation, laziness or incompetence as much as it does corruption.
There is now a streaming YouTube version of the three-part Greenberg interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S76u_yvvbQs, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW701C7MS8w, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeGkjMm4Vsg), as well as the downloadable version at this site (http://muchnick.net/INTERROGATION_PART_1.wmv, http://muchnick.net/INTERROGATION_PART_2.wmv, and http://muchnick.net/INTERROGATION_PART_3.wmv).
PART 1, at 2:45
“I was reading rumors and speculation online.”
“Like, on forums. I forget the exact, like sites.”
This was on June 29, 2007. The notion that Greenberg had zero memory of the sites he had trolled for Benoit rumors less than five days earlier is not credible. At no point does Detective Tim Dolan effectively follow up on this. See also PART 2, at 0:05.
(At 4:00, Dolan expresses confidence that a forensic exam of Greenberg’s computer will get to the bottom of the mystery. At 7:10, Dolan reiterates that the forensic exam will “tell where the rumors all started.”)
PART 1, at 7:42
“I have, like, no connection whatsoever to WWE.”
This statement is never followed up. See also PART 2, at 4:45.
PART 2, at 0:05
“I want you to try to remember what sites you were at.”
As soon as Detective Dolan says this, the conversation again gets sidetracked to the upcoming forensic exam of the computer. Dolan never picks up the thread of jogging Greenberg’s memory. Dolan works to recreate, willy-nilly, the timeline and substance of the rumors, but not to determine the sites carrying them.
PART 2, at 4:45
The most bizarre passage of the video. Detective Dolan has wrapped up the interrogation and is about to go to another room to get a consent form. Greenberg’s father, off camera, asks, “Is he in trouble?” Dolan says, “I don’t think so.”
The senior Greenberg then says, “You know, I was thinking that, because he’s from Stamford there might have been a concern that he had some connection to WWE.”
Dolan: “Well, I’m sure there was some of that. That’s what I thought originally. And then I talked to the, uh …”
Dolan is interrupted by the senior Greenberg’s remark that they live practically around the corner from WWE headquarters. Dolan never finishes his thought. Whom had he talked to? Dolan appears to have been starting to explain that, before the interrogation, he had become so thoroughly disabused of the notion of a connection to WWE that he did ask even a single perfunctory question or two about it for the record. So who or what led him to that conclusion?
Oddly, Dolan at this point sits back down and resumes the interview with other questions he forgot to ask – most importantly, establishing Greenberg’s alibis for his whereabouts over the weekend (lest anyone might seriously think that he might be a suspect in the Benoit crimes). But, again, Dolan never returns to his dismissal of a possible WWE connection in Greenberg’s report on the Nancy death rumor.
Here Dolan also suddenly remembers that he was supposed to grill Greenberg about his pattern of Wikipedia vandalism – which, by the way, is at odds with his earlier answer, “No, not really,” when asked if he posts a lot to Wikipedia (PART 1, at 7:50).
But to say that Dolan used kid gloves with this line of questioning would be an understatement. He brings up Greenberg changing the name of the mayor of Naugatuck, Connecticut, at Wikipedia. The detective says nothing about the racist and sexist rants at the Wiki pages of Ron Artest and Stacy Kiebler. Nor does he mention – as was reported in the same online journalism citing the Naugatuck prank – that Greenberg was responsible for removing ethnic slurs from the page for Chavo Guerrero, one of Benoit’s best friends and a recipient of his farewell text messages.
Adding up these lapses, it is impossible to regard the Stamford investigation of the Wikipedia matter, on behalf of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, as a conscientious effort to probe that angle.
PART 3, at 2:15
With Dolan out of the room, Greenberg’s father again raises far better questions than the detective did; the senior Greenberg at least presses his son a little bit to remember the online sites he had browsed. He also underscores that the upcoming forensic exam will be the key.
PART 3, at 3:40
Greenberg’s father asks Detective Dolan whether his name will get published.
Dolan: “Good possibility…. The press is all over this. There’s going to be Freedom of Information stuff….”
Stamford’s four-month-long stonewall of my request for a copy of this video – all the way up to last week’s settlement of my complaint before the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission – was a disgrace.
The report on the forensic exam of Greenberg’s computer, conducted by Detective Chester Perkowski of the Darien police, would give new meaning to the word “terse.” (The document is viewable at http://muchnick.net/DarienGreenberg.pdf.) The report states that the exam “revealed no information that was posted about the homicide prior to June 25, 2007.” That’s all.
But the question is not whether Greenberg’s computer had “information that was posted about the homicide prior to June 25, 2007” (whatever that means). The question is what the Internet history on the computer showed about the sites he had visited and the language and sources of the rumors he viewed there on June 24.
I am asking the authorities in both Georgia and Connecticut to explain why they did not ask Greenberg the right questions or produce a credible forensic report.