A Federal Assistant Prosecutor was stabbed and tortured in the middle of the night 200 miles from his Baltimore Maryland home. Finally, he drowned in a freezing shallow creek in the middle of nowhere in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania. This happened in 2003. In the years since it happened, the crime has not been solved. The local Pennsylvania authorities where Luna’s body was found consider it an unsolved homicide. The FBI calls it a suicide. What is going on here?
Jonathan Luna, married with two children, was a 36 year old African American Assistant U.S. Attorney, a federal prosecutor. He was clearly a rising star in legal profession. Although he was from New York, Jonathan Luna had been hired on by the United States Attorney’s office in Baltimore and entrusted with very high-profile criminal prosecutions. Lawyers toil for decades without reaching this level. Talented and well regarded assistant federal prosecutors just like Mr. Luna routinely ascend to the judiciary and other Presidential appointments. Something horrible, however, interrupted Jonathan Luna’s promising legal career before it blossomed. Either he was murdered, he killed himself in a bout of desperation or he was assassinated. All of the information about Luna’s final night alive comes from the FBI and it must be filtered carefully or that reason.
In Luna’s final days he had been humiliated in Court. A Federal Judge had excoriated him for withholding trial discovery information from the defense Attorneys for two drug trafficking murderers. The information that Luna would have been obliged to share was related to the status to the star government witness as a paid informant of the FBI. The suggestion that Jonathan Luna could have forgotten to advise the other side or that he thought he could slip by without making the disclosure is preposterous. An omission of that magnitude would have been the equivalent of appearing in Court in his boxer shorts. It is clear to me that Luna was never clued in by the FBI that his star witness had been on their payroll for an extended period of time. Apparently the FBI shares that kind of information on a “need-to-know” basis and they did not want it known that this particular witness was an active heroin trafficker and a violent criminal all during the period of his FBI employment. Luna’s case against the Baltimore heroin traffickers crumbled to pieces. He was obliged to craft a slap on the wrist plea bargain that would be passed to the defense Attorneys on a velvet pillow. The morning it was to be brought into the Courtroom in Baltimore, however, Mr. Luna was lying face down in that creek in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. His car was idling nearby and was full of blood. Luna’s final night is baffling. He had gone home after work (the FBI said) but returned to the office where he stayed until 11:30 PM.
There are already several questions raised by this scenario. How did he intend to be in Court in front of a Jury at 9:00 AM if he was going to be dragging home around midnight. Lawyers are careful about time. I do not think he was working until 11:30PM. The people who found his body in the creek said he was dressed in a suit. Why? If he had truly returned home after work would he not have changed his clothes and relaxed a bit? It seems more likely that he never made it home. If this is true why can’t his wife just confirm that fact of describe his state of mind when he may have returned to the office for some late night research. Why is she silent in the entire case?
The more disturbing events concern his departure from the Courthouse at 11:30PM. The FBI reports that his Court papers for the next day were still incomplete and that his glasses and cell phone were left at his desk. Wow. He was about to go on a 200 mile sojourn through four states but he did not bother to bring his phone or even wear his glasses that he required for driving. One might infer that he left the Courthouse unexpectedly or under duress. Why hasn’t the FBI produced the surveillance video that would show him in the hallways and elevators of the Federal Court house either alone or with a gun in his ribs. There is no way on earth that Courthouse is not wired for video coverage of every floor, office and broom closet. They obviously know how he left the building but choose not to show the tape. The only reason for hiding the tape is that he was either with an FBI agent or he was with a woman with whom he did not work.
It is at this point in the story that we can dismiss the notion that the drug traffickers bumped him off. Criminal defendants respect the system. They know the prosecutor is just a guy doing a job and a guy who might eventually help them deal with their charges. Killing a young prosecutor would not change anything for a criminal already on trial except it would expose them to a death sentence for no good reason. Furthermore why would they abduct the guy from the Courthouse and drive him 200 miles. If they really wanted him dead they would do it on their territory. A quick and simple ambush on the street a few miles from the high security of the Federal Courthouse. Thugs are unlikely to leave town to do their crimes.
What I am getting at here is that there is only one type of person who could have lured Luna to the Courthouse and taken him out of the building against his will and that type of person carries an FBI shield. At this point the story diverges into two theories. The homicide theory that seems to implicate the FBI and the suicide theory that blames Luna for his own death.
Let us weigh them both. What type of person kills themselves at the height of a successful career. The FBI says that a twisted desperate tortured soul might do that and drops some hints that those terms describe Luna. The FBI reports that Luna had $25,000 in “secret” credit card debt. He also had posted an internet sex ad. They further say that he had some “porn” on his home computer. The FBI also describes Luna’s tumultuous relationship with his boss and an unresolved issue about $36,000 in currency that was missing from an evidence locker.
Lets look at those things. The internet sex ad is troubling for a man of his stature but there does not seem to be any known evidence that it led to any relationship or proof that it was even the same “Jonathan Luna.” The same with the so called “porn.” The FBI did not say that it was child porn or gay porn so I guess it consisted of garden variety dirty pictures. So what. Is this supposed to be enough to make him go haywire and stab himself 37 times? Maybe it could be enough to push him over the edge but I would have to know a lot more about it and about him. The same thing with the work place pressures. Supposedly the boss U.S. Attorney didn’t like Jonathan but nevertheless he seemed to trust him with the biggest cases in the district. The boss himself, by the way denies that he was trying to get rid of Luna at any point in time. The other thing about the missing money was kicking around the office for weeks. Guess who else had a key to that evidence locker. Yes, the FBI. Luna had even hired a personal lawyer to handle his work situation. That seems kind of extreme but we have to appreciate that this was a high pressure atmosphere. Luna was swimming with big sharks in the Justice Department and its not unusual for public employees to be in litigation with their employers while they continue to work.
I think the strongest support for the FBI’s suicide theory is that no one, apparently including toll booth employees, will say they saw anyone with Luna that night that he drove through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I also don’t know, however, if anyone will say they saw him alone. The surveillance video from two separate ATM machines is conveniently missing. Again, the FBI controls all that information. The other strength of the suicide case is the end of the strange ride. If Luna was abducted where did the kidnapper go when the car crashed into the ditch and Jonathan Luna bleeding from thirty-six stab wounds fell into the the creek? Did the guy just walk away in to the Pennsylvania farm country at 4 AM or was there another car on the bloody turnpike tour?
I don’t know if an insane man can stab himself thirty-six times while he drives on a turnpike. It seems very unlikely on its face. It also seems bizarre that a man could stab himself in the scrotum over an over again. If Luna did those horrible tings then I guess it proves the proposition.
If, on the other hand, we bypass the bizarre suicide theory we have have to ask who would in the world kill somebody in this particular long drawn out tortuous manner. If it was a contact killing it just seems needlessly bloody and complicated. It just has the look of a revenge killing. We are left with two divergent theories.
First we have to ask straight out if the FBI killed him. The FBI definitely had motive, means and opportunity. He would have hated the agents who exposed him to sanctions by the federal judge that week in regards to the informant episode. Furthermore, the missing drug money still had not been found. Luna would have known that if he had not taken the drug money then he would have known the name(s) of the FBI agents who probably did. Ordinarily he would protect the FBI agents no matter what they did but in this particular week he was at war with the FBI. It would have been easy for the FBI to decide to pull the plug on Mr. Luna before he went off the reservation. It also would have been easy for them to grab Jonathan at the Federal Courthouse where they both worked and to drive him to Pennsylvania in the middle of the night. The killing would have solved some big problems for the FBI. I think, however, that there are two things that point away from the FBI.
The first incongruity is the fact that he stopped in Delaware to withdraw $200.00 from an ATM machine at a rest stop. If he had a gun to his head whey would he need $200.00. The FBI sure didn’t need gas money and they would be unlikely to allow him to converse with a teller machine in the middle of a kidnapping. I think the ATM visit clears the FBI. I also can not imagine a cold business- like FBI guy stabbing a guy in the scrotum! For who, for what?
What remains is the possibility that some kind of secret lover or jealous boyfriend went off in a blind rage and coerced Luna into driving him to Pennsylvania and killed him at the end of the journey. Assuming that the killer was from Lancaster, this would explain the ride and account for the missing killer at the crime scene. He just killed Luna and then walked home in the dark. The jealousy theory would explain Jonathan’s strange behavior of the night of his death. He would have stayed at the office where he could talk with his stressed out lover out of earshot of his wife and kids. The hours fly by while emotional issues are laid bare and desperate plans are hatched. He would have been able to bring his lover or her accomplice into his office in the shank of the evening with total privacy. They could have talked, agonized and tried to work things out. By the time the night would have ended Jonathan Luna would have been emotionally wrung out and totally unprepared for Court. He also would have been disgusted with his investigators for destroying his case and in that frame of mind he could have likely said “the hell with Court.” Let them try to do it without me. He would have decided to deal with the emotional crisis that had been laid in his lap that night even if it meant a long drive to Lancaster.
The likelihood that there was an element of infidelity connected with his murder would also help explain the silence of Mrs. Jonathan Luna. She would have known a lot of what was going on in her husbands desperate personal life at that time. I am sure she was devastated when he was killed but also felt somewhat vindicated by her belief that he had been playing with fire and that he got burned. She has nothing to gain by having his murder solved except a dose of public humiliation. She may have seen the tapes of the person in the elevator with her husband and she may have been sickened by them. If the death is considered a suicide she doesn’t fundamentally disagree that he destroyed himself with his compulsive unfaithful behavior.