Accuracy in Media

Investigative reporter and five-time Emmy Award winner Peter Lance has investigated government cover-ups in some of the biggest stories—9/11, TWA 800 and the Oklahoma City bombing cases. His recent work has been probing the office of Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) for The Santa Barbara News-Press, in a case that reaches all the way up into the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. House.

Lance is facing obstacles in this case, like many others he’s covered, but is determined to reveal the complete truth, and demand justice for the family of a young woman whose death was caused by a congressional staffer employed by Capps.

Lance tells Accuracy in Media that he is troubled by the general failure of the national press to cover the unfolding corruption scandal.

He is not new to controversy. Former Chicago U.S. Attorney and Valerie Plame Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent 20 months, beginning in 2007, trying unsuccessfully to kill Lance’s HarperCollins FBI counter-terrorism book Triple Cross. Lance had argued in his book that Fitzgerald and other senior Department of Justice and FBI officials failed to properly follow up on hard evidence about al-Qaeda activities on U.S. soil.

In this case, Mallory Rae Dies, a 27-year-old University of California, Santa Barbara graduate, was struck and killed by one of Capps’ district representatives, Raymond Morua, after he had been drinking heavily. Morua fled the scene, after stopping his vehicle and looking down at the body, and finally crashed after an 80-mph chase.

The Office of General Counsel of the House of Representatives took the position, as Capps did, that she had no responsibility for the actions of her aide on the night of the hit-and-run murder.

Yet, the facts show that Morua was an Iraq War vet who made dozens of public appearances with Capps and handled “constituent liaison,” and other matters, for the congresswoman. One photo shows Capps and Morua together in a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle during the 2013 4th of July parade in Santa Barbara. Appearing in uniform, as he often did at such events, Morua carried his signature Captain America shield. 

It is understandable why Capps would want to distance herself from Morua, considering the horrendous nature of what he did. But she employed him. What’s more, citing incriminating documents and messages, the Lance series makes it absolutely clear that Morua was indeed working on the congresswoman’s behalf when he got drunk and killed Mallory Rae Dies.

The record, as documented by Peter Lance in his five-part series of articles, is that these efforts took the form of maneuvers to first protect the staffer from prison time, and then to completely avoid legal responsibility for what is obviously official business on Capp’s behalf.

The case represents some of the sleaziest conduct ever alleged and documented about the actions of a member of Congress and her staff, who were clearly determined to protect the representative from negative fallout and bad press.

They didn’t count on a journalist with Lance’s reputation to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Incredibly, the congresswoman continues to deny any official role and responsibility for Morua’s conduct, and further claims that she was unaware that Morua had two prior DUI convictions and a hit-and-run on his record, not to mention a conviction for grand theft embezzlement. From now on, she insists, employees will undergo criminal background checks—as if this is supposed to take care of the problems in her office.

The case even includes sensational allegations of forged documents, stemming from accusations that Capps’ District Director Mollie Culver forged official VA forms to get Morua into a treatment facility, in order to avoid jail time for him.

The stench of corruption surrounding the case has gotten so strong that the Dies family is asking Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley to allow a special federal prosecutor to get to the bottom of the growing scandal. Dudley is considered so close to Capps that she may be unable to investigate the case thoroughly, and without favor, to the congresswoman.

Since last Wednesday the Dies family has gathered nearly 1,000 names on a petition to have an independent probe.

The facts, as uncovered by Peter Lance, show that Morua downed eight drinks in the space of five hours, and got into his Dodge Caliber with a blood alcohol level of 17—more than twice the legal limit—only to strike and kill Mallory Rae Dies as she was crossing the street in a legal crosswalk.

Because the death occurred after he attended a holiday party for Capps last December, Lance says that the Capps’ office seemed to accept responsibility, at least in part, by arranging to get Morua into a VA treatment facility. But after Morua took personal responsibility for the crime and pled guilty, Capps’ office claimed he wasn’t working for her the night of the murder. This change in approach was made in order to avoid the prospect of the congresswoman being sued to recover the costs of the medical bills for the Dies family. Morua faces 20 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.

The decision by the Office of General Counsel to take Capps’ side in the legal dispute does not mean that the congresswoman is off the hook, however. Indeed, the denial of the legal claim by that office has led to a full-fledged lawsuit against Capps, Morua, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lance counts three cover-ups: (1) an ongoing cover-up by Capps herself who, as the person in charge of her office, hired Morua and supervised his actions; (2) stonewalling now by the VA, which was involved in the initial scheme to get Morua out of jail and into a VA-funded treatment facility, and (3) interference in the case by a lawyer from the U.S. House’s Office of General Counsel, who allegedly tried to tamper with evidence.

While outside media interest is starting to build, Lance tells Accuracy in Media that there has been surprisingly little national attention for his explosive findings.

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  • ScienceGal

    Mr Kincaid. I understand that this story might sound quite juicy the way it is presented by Mr. Lance. But I would like to offer you a strong piece of good advice. Before running too far down the road you appear to be on with this—check some of the information presented in the Lance story with other more objective sources—or heck, just look again at the information presented by Lance himself and ask yourself if with that same info a different journalist could draw different conclusions. Don’t get me wrong. I actually am not a Congresswoman Capps supporter, nor am I a democrat. What I am is an “old school” journalist —and I want my profession to retain some standards. My old journalism professors would turn over in their graves at some of the stuff passing as journalism these days…. but I digress. I might suggest that before you begin parroting as fact some of the statements in the Lance series, that you think first. For just one example, you state, “because the death occurred after he (Morua) attended a holiday party for Capps.” WHOA! The idea Morua was attending that party on her behalf is NOT a proven fact. There exists evidence to the contrary. You might want to dig for it. Also, you might want to dig for some conflict of interest aspects regarding Mr. Lance even writing on this topic at all. I sincerely hope that neither you nor I ever have the misfortune to be tried and convicted on the basis of one man’s suppositions.

  • Peter Lance

    As the investigative reporter who researched and wrote the five part series in the Santa Barbara News-Press that this anonymous critic “ScienceGal” refers to, I urge you to go to my website and read the series for yourself.

    First of all I have no “conflict of interest” when it comes to covering this story honestly and fairly. Read the Introduction to the series here: and you’ll see that I first began investigating corruption in the Santa Barbara Police Department in 2011 after I was falsely arrested for a DUI by a corrupt police officer who not only perjured herself to the DMV in my police report but witnessed a blood test waiver in which my signature was forged.

    The case was dismissed and I was fully exonerated but an initial 13 part series I wrote on the SBPD led the Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury to call for the installation of video in all 28 SBPD patrol units. The result was not surprising: a 48% drop in DUI arrests by the SBPD’s dedicated “Drinking Driver Team” once the dash cams forced the police to conduct honest field sobriety tests — suggesting that up to half of the previous arrestees had been framed for DUI crimes they didn’t commit.

    But as I noted for my latest series on the cover-up surrounding Congresswoman Lois Capps this is “the other side of the DUI story,” one that underscores the importance of honest and vigorous DUI enforcement.”

    If you read: DEATH ON THE AMERICAN RIVIERA, available here; you’ll see that in Parts II and IV I prove by a preponderance of the evidence — a civil standard — that in the hours before he struck and killed 27 year-old Mallory Rae Dies in a horrific DUI hit-and-run, Raymond Victor Morua III — Mrs. Capps District Rep., consumed eight cocktails at multiple events when he was representing the congresswoman as her specialist on veterans affairs.

    And while now Mr. Morua has taken responsibility and pled guilty to crimes that will keep him in prison for 17 years, Mrs. Capps continues to hide behind multiple “no comments” while, at the same time saying “my heart goes out to the (Dies) family.”

    However, it’s her very denial that Mr. Morua was “on the job” for her that night that will prevent the Dies family from ever recovering for the $100’s of thousands in medical bills and the loss of their daughter who was beloved in the Santa Barbara community.

    I voted multiple times for Mrs. Capps and I stated that in the sidebar to Part I of the series… So if there is any “conflict of interest” it was that I once believed that she was an honest public servant and now, after four months of research and writing, I’ve come to change my mind. But only after I had dispassionately gathered the facts and offered Mrs. Capps and her press secretary Chris Meagher, multiple chances to tell their side of the story.

    In a scandal full of ironies consider this: the center at UCSB set up to honor the memory of Mrs. Capps’ husband who preceded her in Congress, is called The Walter H. Capps Center For The Study of Ethics, Religion, And Public Life.” The odds are that they won’t be doing any seminars there on the thorny ethical issue that now faces Lois Capps as she seeks re-election

  • Matt Dies

    Science Gal, I have seen you a few times pontificating on why Mr. Lance series on the tragic death of my daughter is some fraught with misinformation and that somehow Mr. Lance has not held to professional journalistic standards. This sounds a lot like the noise coming from Capps’ office with the “full of inaccuracies” statements from Capps and Chris Meagher that are never delineated. You posit evidence that points to Morua attending the party other than on Capps’ behalf, but fail to say what that evidence might be. I would suggest that since Mr. Morua attended this function with a political acquaintance, rather than with his betrothed that this might indicate that the function was one of his official duties and not a private affair of his own. When you claim not to be a Democrat or a Capps supporter, I can only think of Shakespeare and “methinks th.ou doth protest too much”

  • ScienceGal

    Mr. Lance. A self aggrandizing email to one’s own girlfriend does not prove anything beyond doubt. If you can turn up an email from someone at Capp’s office ordering his attendance that night, I would be more impressed. Perhaps you will write future series on this topic with more definitive information. But for now, the conclusions seemingly drawn, in my opinion, are premature. I don’t wish to be a critic of anyone, but I feel I must do my part to promote critical thinking skills. It is important in a free society that all of us question what information we are fed, and think for ourselves. As I previously stated, I hope that it will be none of our misfortunes to be the target of “lock step” condemnation.

  • ScienceGal

    Mr Dies. I am not your enemy. I don’t have any interest or
    business in your personal matters. But I do have a strong interest in journalism, and fairness. This matter has
    been frequently and strongly thrust into the public eye, and an accurate and fair portrayal of facts is essential to a free society. There are implications for all of us if standards of proof and fairness are not followed. I do wish you luck in getting whatever outcome is best. What I have to say is quite mild compared to much of the community’s reaction. I don’t know why, in your position, you seem to have such an interest in what people who are inconsequential to you are saying. But since you seem to be on all these blogs, I suggest you read today’s EdHat comments. There you will find comments that are
    not as kind as mine.

  • Jack Simon

    ScienceGal, are you aware that if a person gets drunk at YOUR party, YOU as the host are responsible for their actions if they are involved in a DUI accident?

    that is a Federal Law and I am surprised that the host of the party(s) this person attended aren’t facing charges as well. Be a good journalist and learn the law:

  • ScienceGal

    It’s simple, Simon. I never said anything about the host of that party, nor mentioned whether or not I think the host of any party is legally liable! Rep.Capps was not the host. I don’t mean to be rude, but how is your reading comprehension? That is just the logical question, given your “head scratching” comment. As an apparent supporter of the quest for millions in taxpayer money, perhaps you are one of the brave young men who bullied a woman walking by herself (Mrs. Capps)? That stunt made many in the community cringe. What now concerns me is what such people might do for an encore. When money is involved people can get ugly, and I don’t want to get on a list to get my knee caps broken. Don’t bother to reply with some more nonsense. I won’t be reading it, because other than myself, the only commenters here are the parties that seem to have a personal stake in the lawsuit, and the author of the series. Not exactly a place for objective discourse!