ARCHIVE 11/13/08: Stamford Police Chief Questioned on Failure of Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Investigation

ARCHIVE 11/12/08: Muchnick Analysis of Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Police Video
May 20, 2009
ARCHIVE 11/14/08: WRESTLING BABYLON Up to No. 2 Again at Amazon Canada
May 20, 2009

Below is the text of author Irvin Muchnick’s November 4 fax to Stamford Police Chief Brent B. Larrabee.

Stamford Police Chief Questioned on Failure of Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Investigation

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Below is the text of author Irvin Muchnick’s November 4 fax to Stamford Police Chief Brent B. Larrabee. The Fayette County (Georgia) Sheriff’s Office was copied. There has been no response.

Dear Chief Larrabee:

As you know, I settled my Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission complaint and today I received from the city corporation counsel a videotape copy of Detective Tim Dolan’s interrogation of Matthew Greenberg on June 29, 2007.

I will post the video at my blog in the near future without comment. Shortly thereafter, I will add my comments, which I am previewing here. I invite you, Detective Dolan, Captain Conklin, Captain Wuennemann, or anyone else in the department to respond to the questions below.

Clearly — and to no one’s surprise — young Greenberg was not involved in any way in the commission of Chris Benoit’s double homicide/suicide in Fayette County, Georgia. The insights that could be provided by the interview of him go more toward determining the sources for Greenberg’s post at Wikipedia that Nancy Benoit was dead, a half a day before 911 was called and the bodies were discovered. That information, in turn, might shed light on what people knew and when they knew it. It is also possible, of course, that the information would only reinforce the police conclusion that the incident was both a simple coincidence and one adding no value to the Benoit narrative. But on that last point I must respectfully point out that the Greenberg interview (and subsequent forensic exam of his computer by a Darien detective) did not turn up any information; worse, in my viewing of the video, Stamford PD did not even try to find such information. I am trying to figure out why.

Specifically:

1. Why did Detective Dolan not ask even a single perfunctory question for the record about Greenberg’s possible associations (beyond fandom) with World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., one of the most prominent companies in your community?

That the Wikipedia post had come from a Stamford resident was a key fuel of what the detective accurately calls on the tape a “frenzy.” Yet the question of a link to WWE comes up only at a point where he has initially ended the interrogation and is about to retrieve a release form in another room — whereupon the interviewee’s father, Steven Greenberg, interjects that the WWE office is practically around the corner from their home.

With that prompt, Detective Dolan sits back down and asks several more questions he apparently forgot to ask. The additional questions include basic ones establishing young Greenberg’s alibis for not having been in Georgia the previous weekend. However, unless I missed it, no comparable effort is made to establish Greenberg’s non-relationship with WWE. Yet the chance that he had a friend or a relative who worked for the company or one of its contractors was — I think it can be agreed — considerably greater than the chance that he was the murderer.

2. Why did Detective Dolan not ask Greenberg about WWE wrestler Chavo Guerrero?

In the “continuation” of the interview after the interjection by Greenberg’s father, referenced above, the young man is reminded that the Benoit edit was one piece of a pattern of Wikipedia vandalism. The detective mentions the change of the name of the mayor in the Wiki page for the city of Naugatuck. Detective Dolan does not also cite that Greenberg and his friends, according to Internet investigators, had posted at the page of basketball player Ron Artest, “Artest is a piece of @!$%# nigger!!!!!!!”, and at the page of wrestling personality and actress Stacy Kiebler, “People want to @!$%# her in her lovely @!$%# and whip her ass til the dawn of day. Many people fantasize about ramming their cocks up her @!$%#.” Were the Artest and Kiebler edits not known to Stamford PD?

Detective Dolan also does not mention that Greenberg was also credited with removing ethnic slurs from the Wikipedia page for Guerrero. This edit, which was benign, had a different character than the Artest and Kiebler ones, and others ordinarily associated with online vandalism. And it is especially interesting because Guerrero, one of Chris Benoit’s best friends, was a recipient of Benoit’s final text messages. Those messages were sent nearly 24 hours before Greenberg’s Wikipedia post, and according to WWE were not shared with company executives (who then alerted law enforcement) until Monday afternoon.

As part of the briefing in its request to you to interrogate Greenberg, did the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office provide Stamford PD with the background in the above paragraph and ask you to close the Guerrero loop? Were you otherwise aware of that information? If yes to either of those questions, why was Chavo Guerrero not raised in the Greenberg interview?

3. Why did neither the interrogation nor the forensic exam of the Greenberg computer yield any information about the sites and discussion boards where he says he got the seed information for the rumor he proceeded to escalate in the Wikipedia post?

In the interview, Greenberg says he doesn’t remember where he picked up Benoit discussion and rumors. He makes this statement only a few days after the fact, while the Benoit murder-suicide is a prominent media story. Is it credible on its face that Greenberg has no memory whatsoever of Internet sites he visited to learn more about a crisis surrounding one of his favorite wrestlers? Why did Detective Dolan not follow up to that effect?

One reason Detective Dolan did not follow up may be the confidence he expresses that the computer exam will provide all those answers. Yet Darien Detective Chester Perkowski’s subsequent report merely states, without elaboration, that an examination of the Greenberg computer hard drive “revealed no information that was posted about the homicide prior to June 25, 2007.” This statement does not answer the right question, which is what Greenberg might have read — not necessarily what was “posted” (impliedly, posted by Greenberg).

Did Fayette County ask you to get the Internet history from Greenberg’s computer? Did you, in turn, make that request of the Darien investigator?

If the Internet history was indeed examined, are Stamford and Darien therefore reporting authoritatively that the history showed no activity whatsoever at wrestling news, wrestling fan, or similar sites?

Chief Larrabee, with all respect I must make one final comment. Near the end of the interview, Greenberg and his father ask if his name will be published. Detective Dolan responds less than reassuringly, noting the “frenzy” and the likelihood of Freedom of Information Act requests.

As far as I am concerned, the detective has that part exactly right. Moreover, he exposes the subsequent Stamford defense against my Freedom of Information Commission complaint — a defense I have regarded as without foundation all along — to be downright frivolous, and probably prejudicial as well.

From my study of the Freedom of Information Commission, the conditions for the issuance of “declaratory rulings” are not clear; the four examples of such rulings on the website are all from requests by public officials, not private citizens. But it would make a mockery of FOI principles for the police to be able to preserve for another day a prejudicially asserted claim of an exemption of videotaped interrogations in closed cases. I will do everything I can to ensure that, in the future, a journalist in my shoes does not have to reenact my fight to break down an official stone wall whose life might have been extended in bad faith.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,
Irvin Muchnick

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