When Carl Derek Cooper confessed last March to the July 1997 slayings of one-time Clinton intern Mary Caity Mahoney and two other workers at a Washington, D.C., Starbucks, suspicions of a White House connection quickly evaporated.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Cooper's trial. He recanted his confession, the primary piece of evidence police had linking him to the crime.
And if that wasn't enough to set off a fresh round of frenzied speculation, now a new investigation suggests Mahoney could have been an extremely inconvenient witness in the Monica Lewinsky case.
"I swear on my father's grave and my son's life that I didn't do Starbucks," Cooper told the FBI shortly after he admitted his guilt to local police, according to courtroom testimony reported by the Washington Post last week.
Now it emerges that Cooper told police several different stories about the Starbucks murders, once blaming an acquaintance for the killings, another time claiming he was merely a lookout.
But after 54 hours of questioning, Cooper's lawyer says he buckled.
"No matter how many times Mr. Cooper denied his involvement, they kept pressuring him. They kept pressuring him until they got what they wanted," attorney Steven Kirsch told U.S. District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green, according to Thursday's Washington Times. Kirsch wants Green to rule the confession inadmissible at trial on the grounds it was coerced.
The motive in the Starbucks massacre was supposedly robbery, though none of the $10,000 cash on hand was taken even after Mahoney and her two co-workers were felled by a fusillade of bullets. Casting further doubt on the robbery theory: five of the 10 shots fired hit the former Clinton intern, including an execution bullet fired into the back of her head.
The same week Cooper recanted, new information emerged about Mahoney's background and her possible ties to the Monica Lewinsky case.
Author David M. Hoffman, who spent a year investigating Mahoney's murder, tells Globe magazine's Tom Kuncl that the Starbucks massacre came just three days after Monica told Clinton she was going to tell her parents about their relationship.
According to Monica, Clinton reacted angrily, telling her, "It's a crime to threaten the president."
Hoffman's claim is corroborated by the "Starr Report."
"Monica took the threat seriously," Hoffman told Globe, "telling Linda Tripp that she feared for both their lives if her affair with Clinton ever became public."
"I don't want to wind up like Caity Mahoney," Monica is rumored to have told friends.
The Tripp tapes amply document Monica's fears for her own physical safety, featuring no fewer than four exchanges where the Clinton girlfriend voices sentiments such as: "I would not cross these people for fear of my life."
Hoffman claims to have uncovered new details about Mary Mahoney's time at the White House, which, if true, suggest the White House alum could have played a key role in the Clinton sex scandal despite her own homosexuality:
"For many months, Mary, an outspoken lesbian and good-hearted den mother for other young White House interns, had been listening to tearful stories from them about alleged sexual passes made at them by Bill Clinton. She'd begun to tell others she planned to do something to help them."
Also, reports Hoffman, "a blockbuster piece of gossip swirling through Washington [at the time of Mahoney's death] was based on a columnist's blind item that a former White House intern whose name began with the letter M was about to reveal news of a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton."
Was it Mahoney, Clinton damage controllers no doubt wondered?
Meanwhile, the fuse had been lit on another White House sex bombshell just two days before the Starbucks killings. That's when cyberscribe Matt Drudge first reported that Clinton had put the moves on a then-unnamed White House volunteer.
It would be three more weeks till the world knew her name: Kathleen Willey. But by early July 1997 White House damage controllers knew they had a serious intern problem on their hands.
Carl Derek Cooper is scheduled to go on trial for Mary Caity Mahoney's murder on April 10.
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