by WorldTribune Staff, March 16, 2018
Federal agents were slow to respond to the Texas hunting ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead, according to documents obtained by a watchdog group.
U.S. Marshals Service agents did not arrive on scene until 2:38 p.m., two hours after they were alerted by local sheriffs, and almost four hours after Scalia was found dead, Marshals Service records obtained by Fix the Court, a judicial transparency group, show.
Upon arriving, the records show, marshals secured the facility and the justice’s remains, while transferring his personal effects to an agency safe.
The documents “present new information on how federal agents responded to a momentous event in an isolated part of the country and for the first time reveal the formal policies, and underscore the shortcomings therein,” said Gabe Roth, Fix the Court’s executive director.
The U.S. Marshals are the federal agency charged with protecting members of the Supreme Court and justices opt-in to protection when traveling or socializing.
The records show Scalia declined to bring protection to the Cibolo Creek Ranch where he died, though he did request the Marshals assistance when he switched planes at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston.
“It is highly likely that deputy U.S. marshals in the Western District of Texas were unaware Scalia was in their district the weekend he passed away, as the Feb. 12 airport transfer occurred with the help of deputies from the Southern District of Texas,” according to Fix the Court.
The documents establish a timeline for Feb. 12, 2016, the day Scalia passed away:
“One of Scalia’s companions attempted to enter his resort suite at 8:15 a.m. At 11 a.m., the unnamed companion entered the justice’s room with the assistance of a housekeeper, and found Scalia unresponsive.
“The associate attempted to contact the Marshals and the local FBI field office, but they were unable to establish contact with the relevant officials. Local law enforcement was notified. At 12:41 p.m. – almost two hours after Scalia was found dead – the Presidio County Sheriff reached the local Marshals office.
“At 1 p.m. the west Texas Marshals office called the agency’s communications center and relayed that ‘a member of Justice Scalia’s party was dead.’ “
Marshals Service official David Musel, in a Feb. 14, 2016 email, expressed concern that the media would take interest in the agency’s response to Scalia’s death.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t grow legs,” he said.