This is the third part of a four part series dealing with the Sedgwick County grand jury investigation of abortionist George Tiller in the death of Christin Gilbert. A confidential source inside the grand jury process has spoken to Operation Rescue on condition of anonymity.
“Part One: What Really Happened To Christin Gilbert?” deals with the irregular events surrounding the third trimester abortion and death of a young Down syndrome teen last year, from the perspective of the grand jury.
“Part Two: Inside the Grand Jury” covers the grand jury process and their frustrations with being prevented from accessing important information from records and witnesses, and how that lack of information narrowly prevented them from issuing indictments.
Today’s segment, “Part Three: The Cover-up” explores the four areas of obstruction that the grand jury faced and how a “fraternity” of officials have protected Tiller.
The fourth and final segment will focus on unanswered questions about the grand jury’s inability to gain access to information and witnesses, and what must now be done to bring justice for Christin Gilbert and her baby.
For interviews contact:
Troy Newman: 316-841-1700
Cheryl Sullenger: 316-516-3034
Part Three: The Cover-up
Wichita, KS — There is little doubt in the mind of the grand jury source that a cover-up of the true facts in the death of Christin Gilbert is underway. The grand jury investigation was obstructed at every turn from access to information and witnesses that would have helped the jurors make more informed determinations during their investigation.
This obstruction came in four areas:
1. Kansas State Board of Healing Arts’ lack of cooperation in sharing details of their so-called investigation.
2. The lack of ability to subpoena and compel testimony from abortionists George Tiller and LeRoy Carhart.
3. Fifth amendment stonewalling by Tiller employees, and a suspected arrangement with the Gilbert family.
4. The “hands off” approach by the prosecutor that kept the grand jury not only from accessing witnesses and information, but understanding the implications of the information they did have.
Two representatives from the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts (KSBHA) appeared before the grand jury. One was attorney Mark Stafford and the other was an unidentified woman. Their testimony did little to answer questions about the care Christin received, especially during the 45 minutes she was at the clinic on the day she died.
“These people all had attitudes,” said a confidential source inside the grand jury process that spoke with Operation Rescue. “The people involved from the Healing Arts, those people were arrogant, ‘We’re better than you.’ Their attitude was, ‘We can do no wrong.’”
The KSBHA representatives did not reveal details of their investigation to the grand jury. It seemed that they expected the grand jury to simply accept their findings, without question.
“‘You know what this is, just normal protocol,’ were the words they all kept using,” said the source. “‘This is standard protocol, and we had our own investigator, and he found no fault in what was going on.’ It was just the whole attitude from all these people that are in — in my opinion — a small fraternity.”
But details that have surfaced indicate that Christin’s third-trimester abortion was anything but “standard protocol.” Irregular treatment included a gross misuse of RU 486, which is approved only for use in early abortions under six weeks gestation. Abortionist LeRoy Carhart instead used the dangerous drug, which is responsible for at least 6 U.S. deaths since 2001, as an “insurance policy” to make sure the contents of the uterus were expelled in case Carhart left something behind after the D&C.
“If a doctor cannot competently perform a D&C, he is incompetent to practice medicine,” said Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman. “There is just no gray area here or any question. Carhart’s misuse of RU 486 put Christin’s life at risk and may have killed her. That is not ‘standard protocol’ in anyone’s book.”
Also irregular was the lack of notation as to the amount of fluids Christin received for dehydration on the second and third days of her abortion, and the lack of documentation of the treatment Christin received during the 45 minutes she was at Tiller’s clinic on the day she died.
“Is it standard protocol to pump someone’s stomach when she hasn’t been breathing or had a heartbeat for 40 minutes? Is it standard protocol not to call 911 for 40 minutes after someone has gone into cardiac and respiratory arrest? Is it standard protocol to omit from a patient’s chart the care received, especially during a fatal incident?” asked Newman. “These questions were not answered by the KSBHA or any other witness.”
The grand jury source indicated that the jurors were given the run-around by KSBHA witnesses. “‘No, no, no, we had our own investigator, Mr. So-and-so, da,-da, da-da, da-da.’ And that’s really how this thing went,” said the source. The KSBHA representatives expected the grand jury not to question their findings, and addressed questioning with condescension.
“The thing was just — from the Healing Arts people we interviewed — it’s like there is no ‘wrong.’ But yet, there’s someone dead over this,” said the source.
“Three and Out”
The grand jury was told that the KSBHA has a “three and out” policy, meaning if a doctor appears before the Board three times and is convicted, he loses his license.
It was asked how many times Tiller had appeared before the Board. The response was seven times.
“We asked, ‘Well, what happened to your ‘three and out’ policy?’ ‘Well…’ and they go into their little justification of Tiller,” the source said.
When the source was asked if he believed that the KSBHA was covering for Tiller, the source said, “That’s right! That’s exactly what it is.”
KSBHA Investigation Farce
Operation Rescue filed a complaint with the KSBHA against Tiller in Christin’s death on January 25, 2005, and received confirmation that an investigation had been initiated. At this time a bill was working its way through the Kansas legislature, which would have set minimum standards for abortion clinics and would have placed their oversight in the hands of the State Health Department. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was the recipient of large campaign contributions from George Tiller, strongly opposed the bill.
Operation Rescue widely publicized the tragedy of Christin Gilbert’s death and a number of other incidents of botched abortions requiring emergency hospitalization that had occurred at Tiller’s abortion clinic within the previous few months. As the bill gained support due to outrage over Gilbert’s death, Sebelius issued a letter to the KSBHA, asking that agency report their findings directly to her.
KSBHA members, including Executive Director Larry Buening, are appointed by the governor, who has direct oversight over the agency. Buening’s wife, Vicki, serves as Gov. Sebelius’ head of constituent services.
Then on March 25, 2005, just two days before an important vote on the clinic regulations bill, Larry Buening publicly released a politically motivated letter to Sebelius indicating that the KSBHA’s preliminary findings were that the care Gilbert received was “standard and accepted medical practice” in spite of the fact that the autopsy report had not been released, nor had an official cause of death been determined. Buening’s letter was full of factual inaccuracies, such as a statement that Christin died on the second day of her abortion, when she actually died on the fourth day. (Read Buening’s 03/25/05 letter: Page 1, Page 2)
Sebelius had hoped that the Buening “findings” would erode support for the clinic regulations bill and take some of the heat off her campaign benefactor, George Tiller. In the end that bill was passed by a stunning two-thirds majority in both houses, but was vetoed by Sebelius. The veto was sustained by two votes.
Finally, on November 23, 2005, Buening issued a letter to Gov. Sebelius indicating that the case against Tiller had been closed. He indicated that the previous committee’s findings in March were what he relied upon to determine that the standard of care had not been violated in Gilbert’s death. After new evidence was presented in the autopsy report that Gilbert’s death was a result of complications to her abortion, the KSBHA did not reevaluate the issue. (Read Buening’s 11/23/05 letter: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.)
Because of this apparent miscarriage of justice, a grassroots citizen’s coalition in Sedgwick County, Kansas, gathered signatures to force a grand jury investigation, hoping that process could bring justice for Christin and her baby.
However, the KSBHA simply continued their defense of Tiller and their stonewalling of the truth during the grand jury process.
Abortionists are “no-shows”
Also obstructing the grand jury from obtaining the information they required was their inability to interview abortionists George Tiller and LeRoy Carhart. Jurors were told that they could not interview Carhart, the doctor who was responsible for Christin’s abortion because he did not come to Kansas the day the subpoena was to be issued. Carhart lives outside Omaha, Nebraska.
Tiller evaded testimony by pleading the Fifth Amendment through his attorneys, and using the threat of drawing out the grand jury process up to eighteen months to convince the jurors to give up trying to get his testimony.
“We took a vote. If he did show up, would we ever get any information out of him? No,” said the source.
Gut Feeling: “Major cover-up”
The third area of obstruction was the Fifth Amendment stonewalling of Tiller’s employees. Because they would not testify, the grand jury was left in the dark as to what really happened to Christin Gilbert at the abortion clinic, especially on the day she died.
“What is the use of having a grand jury if you can’t get anything out of anybody,” the source asked.
Again, the source indicated that the Tiller employees had an arrogant “you can’t touch me” attitude, and believes there is a cover-up in place inside the clinic.
“I can just tell you my gut feeling. There is a major cover-up from his clinic, without a doubt. There’s no question. When you don’t speak about — when you tell your people to take the Fifth” it has to be to cover the truth, said the source.
“We observed several meetings taking place at Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services that were attended by Tiller’s cadre of attorneys and his staff while the grand jury was in session,” said Newman. “We are sure they all got their ducks in a row before being called to testify.”
“Innocent, honest people with nothing to hide do not plead the Fifth Amendment,” said Newman. “The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination. If there was no wrong-doing they would simply testify. Why the secrecy? It is because there were incriminating actions that the clinic workers can’t talk about, or they might be indicted as well.”
A family affair
The source also indicated that he believes strongly that an agreement had been reached between Tiller and Christin’s parents, Jack and Paula Gilbert, of Keller, Texas. The nature of that agreement is unknown.
“I’ll tell you my personal opinion. I think there was money exchanged, and he’s [Tiller] got the money to do it,” said the source.
“Tiller, his exact writing was, after all this took place that he took and got [the parents] a room at the Marriott,” the source said.
An Operation Rescue eye witness observed Tiller and clinic worker Edna Roach leaving Women’s Health Care Services together in Tiller’s private van on January 14, 2005, the day after Christin’s death. They were observed going to the Marriott Hotel. Tiller and Roach, who was carrying manila file folders, entered the Marriott and stayed for about twenty minutes before returning to the abortion clinic.
“We always suspected that Tiller and Roach met with the Gilbert family at that point, but now, our source from the grand jury confirms this,” said Newman. “We can only wonder what kind of arrangement they have.”
The source was disturbed by the behavior of the family and noted, “There was no concern.”
“These people went to court to get guardianship of their daughter. They made a decision that killed her. They need to be held responsible for it. She couldn’t make a decision. Mom made the decision, Dad made the decision that killed her. There needs to be liability there.”
Appearance of impropriety at the DA’s office
The final area of obstruction was perhaps more subtle. The manner in which prosecutor Ann Swegle handled the grand jury prevented them from getting and assimilating information.
“She was very good with putting things together, but we did not get the right information. She was totally ‘out here’ [gesturing away from the group] and we were either going to figure it out ourselves or we were not going to figure it out,” said the source.
The lack of access to witnesses, and the inability to fully assimilate the implications of the vast amount of legal and medical terms prevented the grand jury from making informed decisions.
“Why would the District Attorney’s office handle the investigation into the death of a disabled girl in this manner? Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston is a well-known abortion supporter and a personal friend of George Tiller. Did Foulston order Swegle to take a ‘hands off’ approach in the investigation of her long-time friend?” asked Newman. “These questions should be answered, otherwise, the grand jury will remain tainted with the appearance of impropriety.”
Lack of indictment is not exoneration
From the confidential grand jury source, it appears that anything but justice was done. Legal wrangling, stonewalling, and a conspiracy of cover-up were clearly evident to the source in the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, with the clinic employees, and with the “hands off” approach of the prosecutor.
“It is important to note that Tiller and his staff were not exonerated — they simply weaseled out of indictments using legal loopholes and technicalities,” said Newman. “There is still the unknown, unspoken, and incriminating truth that the Fifth Amendment was used to protect. The KSBHA is covering it up. Tiller and his staff are covering it up. The family is covering it up. The DA’s office is covering it up. A girl is dead, we are not going to just let that go.”
NEXT! PART FOUR: Unanswered Questions and What Must Be Done