Bill Bowden of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on the filing of a lawsuit seeking to suppress footage of the Perry County scene where Mark Middletona business executive and former aide to Bill Clinton in the White House, was found dead May 7 of an apparent suicide.
The lawsuit, filed May 23 by Middleton’s widow, Rhea, and her brother, Larry, both representatives of her estate, seeks to prohibit the sheriff and coroner from disclosing photographs, videos or other depictions of the stage. They could otherwise be compelled to release the case file under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, but the lawsuit said the family’s privacy interest outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of “media content”.
The lawsuit cites references to the death in various internet outlets and says the family was “harassed by outlandish, hurtful, unsupported and offensive online articles regarding Mr. Middleton, his death and his family”. They shouldn’t have to put up with “internet conspiracy theorists,” the lawsuit says.
Middleton, 59, who had been CEO of a joint stock company and a heating and air company, was a fundraiser for Bill Clinton who lost unlimited access to the White House after using his private business relationships in the early 1990s. News of the lawsuit was first reported at least four days ago by internet media outlet Radaronline and later the Daily Mail, among several news outlets following the death of Middleton and mentioned his role in allowing visits to the White House by Jeffrey Epstein and having appeared on the list of people who had flown on Epstein’s jet.
Scott Montgomery, Perry County Sheriff and his chief investigator last month refused my request for basic information about the case, beyond acknowledging Middleton’s death by unspecified means in Perry County. They maintained that the matter was still under active investigation and therefore all documents, including a written report of the initial discovery, were protected from disclosure. However, Montgomery is quoted in a May 13 article as giving an interview to RadarOnline in which he said Middleton’s body was found at the Heifer International Ranch, his death resulting from a self-shot shotgun blast. inflicted on the chest. It was also hanging from a tree by an extension cord, Montogmery also reportedly told RadarOnline. A spokesperson for Heifer confirmed the body was found at the ranch, but said the international aid organization was unaware of any connection between Middleton and Heifer.
The lawsuit seeks to ban publication of the “media content” only, not the other recordings of the investigation.
Here’s the sad truth, though not a legal argument against the family’s petition: Protecting the records won’t deter conspiracy theorists, it will only encourage them. The written stuff already goes to great lengths to tie Middleton’s death to the old Clinton death list and other Clinton-era fables. An example: Heifer’s headquarters is next to the Clinton Presidential Center. Another: the Middletons are represented by the law firm Rose. Any good conspiracy theorist can fill in the gaps. The family’s fears are, in short, not unfounded.
The case was assigned to Judge Alice Gray. She scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Middletons filed this brief in support of media content protection.