Murdered DNC staffer's family send PI legal letter
The family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich sent a private investigator a cease and desist letter threatening legal action after he claimed that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.
The family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich sent a private investigator a cease and desist letter threatening legal action after he claimed - and then recanted- that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks before he was gunned down in July.
Rich, 27, was shot dead in the city's affluent Bloomingdale neighborhood in the early hours of July 10 in what police claim was a 'botched robbery'.
Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor whose investigation into Rich's death was funded by Fox News regular Ed Butowsky, told Fox5 on Monday: 'My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.'
Wheeler's claims fanned conspiracy theories surrounding Rich's death, but he made a dramatic reversal the next day, telling Buzzfeed he had no first hand evidence that Rich sent emails to a contact at WikiLeaks.
Wheeler's contract prohibits him from making public statements about Rich's death without the approval of his family, and Attorney Joseph Ingrisano sent him a letter on Friday calling his behavior 'deliberate, intentional [and] outrageous,'NBC reported.
Rich, 27, was shot dead in the Washington DC's affluent Bloomingdale neighborhood in the early hours of July 10 in what police claim was a 'botched robbery'
Fox News regular Ed Butowsky recommended Rich's family hire a private investigator and recommended Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler (above). Butowsky payed for Wheeler's fees
While police claim Rich's death was the result of a 'botched robbery', conspiracy theories have developed online
Ingraisano sent a letter to Wheeler on Friday that read: 'Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress.
'Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family.'
The letter also accused Wheeler of damaging Rich's reputation and defaming his family members, before demanding he cease and desist from making any additional comments about his death.
In an interview on Monday, Fox5 asked Wheeler: 'You have sources at the FBI saying that there is information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?'
Wheeler responded: 'Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed.'
He also said: 'My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.'
Fox News also cited an anonymous federal investigator who said an FBI investigation found Rich was in contact with Gavin MacFadyen, who was attributed in the report as the director of WikiLeaks.
Rich's family slammed the reports and issued a statement in response, saying: 'We see no facts, have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no evidence and only learned about [Wheeler's claims] when approached by the press.'
Less than 24 hours after his comments to Fox, Wheeler backtracked and recanted his statements, saying the report on Fox5 was 'inaccurate'. He later explained that he got his information from a Fox news reporter and other media reports.
Newsweek then reported that the FBI was not involved in the investigation into Rich's death. Furthermore, a current FBI official told NBC the police never handed Rich's computer over to the federal bureau.
Wheeler claimed Rich (left, at a sports event) had emailed a contact at Wikileaks, only to reverse his story the next day, saying he had no first hand evidence to support that claim
WikiLeaks published thousands of hacked DNC emails, which included missives from seven key staffers, less than two weeks after Rich's death
WikiLeaks published thousands of hacked DNC emails, which included missives from seven key staffers, less than two weeks after Rich's death.
The site then offered $20,000 to anyone who could provide 'information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.'
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange implied Rich handed over the emails before clarifying he was not the source.
Assange has also insisted that Russia had nothing to do with the leak, even though the US intelligence community later concluded that Russian operatives were behind the hack and had further meddled in the US elections.
Rich was gunned down after a night of heavy drinking at Lou's City Bar, while talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone.
Rich was gunned down after a night of heavy drinking at Lou's City Bar, while talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone
He was also said to be depressed after an argument with his girlfriend that night, which some claim made him a prime target for violence in DC's high crime north west region.
However GOP lobbyist and DC lawyer Jack Burkman formally appealed to Congress to investigate the death after claiming he had evidence that Russia may be behind Rich's murder.
'Nothing was taken from Seth - not his wallet, gold chain, credit cards or a sizeable amount of cash,' He told DailyMail.com in February. 'So you know there's no robbery gone awry.'
He said he was contacted by a man in his 60s, claiming to be a former US intelligence officer, who claimed 'it [the murder] was arranged by the Russian government at a very high level'.
Burkman went on to say: 'He just said he had knowledge it was arranged by the Russian government and stressed that it was at a high level.
'I've met this person and he seems very credible. We're now investigating the allegations he has made.'
Rich's family offered a reward for any information leading to how and why he was shot in the back after a night of heavy drinking at Lou's City Bar
However GOP lobbyist and DC lawyer Jack Burkman (left) formally appealed to Congress to investigate the death of Rich (right)
Burkman claimed to have been contacted by a former US intelligence officer who claimed 'it [the murder] was arranged by the Russian government at a very high level'
Another conspiracy theory claimed the DNC staffer was assassinated or on his way to an FBI meeting
A timeline of Rich's final hours was independently compiled through a Daily Mail Online investigation.
It cut against conspiracy theories which claimed the DNC staffer was assassinated or on his way to an FBI meeting when he was killed – although the crucial minutes leading up to his death are still unaccounted for.
Since then the murder has set off a flurry of international speculation and conspiracy theories including claims that Rich, who worked in the voter access department, was about the blow the whistle on Democratic voting fraud.
According to staff at Lou's City Bar, a sports pub Rich frequented five or six nights a week, it started off as any typical Saturday.
He showed up alone that evening and sat at his usual leather stool in the corner of the bar.
He was a regular at the pub, often showing up straight from the office in a shirt and tie and lugging his laptop bag.
By closing time, around 1.45am, Rich was unusually drunk.
He would normally throw back Bell's beer for hours without a problem, but that night he was uncharacteristically unsteady on his feet as he made his way out the door.
Another theory claimed that Rich, who worked in the voter access department, was about the blow the whistle on Democratic voting fraud. Pictured: Burkman, right, campaigning in Washington
Police responding to the sound of multiple gunshots found Rich lying on the street with bullet wounds at around 4.19am.
Rich's father said he was told by investigators that his son was shot in the back, and that he still had his cell phone, wallet and watch on him when he was found.
Rich was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 6am.
The coroner's office said it does not publicly release reports, but confirmed that cause of death was gunshots to the torso.