Video: New Mexico attack

updated 6/10/2005 8:40:58 AM ET 2005-06-10T12:40:58

Authorities say the beating of a Los Alamos nuclear lab auditor outside a topless bar last weekend was an "isolated incident" unrelated to his status as a whistleblower.

Tommy Hook, 52, suffered a broken jaw, a herniated disc and missing teeth in the attack outside the nightclub in Santa Fe.

He, his wife and other supporters have claimed the beating was carried out by thugs intent on keeping him from talking about alleged financial irregularities at the nuclear lab.

But investigators disputed that account Thursday, saying the attack occurred after Hook struck a pedestrian while leaving the club.

"Facts, evidence and information obtained during the course of this investigation has led investigators to believe that the altercation involving Mr. Hook is an isolated incident and is in no way related to Mr. Hook's whistleblower status at the Los Alamos National Laboratories," Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Eric Johnson said in a prepared release.

Case to prosecutors
Johnson said an argument occurred after Hook struck the pedestrian and exited his vehicle, "at which time the confrontation escalated into a physical attack."

Police said they have identified people involved in the attack and were sending the case to prosecutors. They did not release the identities of anyone involved in the beating.

"It's going to go to the D.A. and they're going to have to decipher who should be charged with a crime," Johnson said.

Hook, a lab auditor, oversaw fraud and waste investigations at the nuclear weapons lab. He has a lawsuit pending against the University of California, which runs the lab for the federal government, alleging retaliation against him as a whistleblower.

Hook was scheduled to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee this month. Hook and fellow whistleblower Chuck Montano met with a committee staffer Wednesday night in preparation for a hearing.

Hook said he drove to the bar at the request of an informant who wanted to hand over information there. But the informant did not show, Hook said, adding that as he left he was beaten up by men who told him to keep quiet.

Hook did not return calls on Thursday. Montano said Hook secluded himself to recover from his injuries.

'Incentive' to make up pedestrian incident?
Montano said Hook stands by his version of how the attack happened despite the conclusion of authorities.

"What's unfortunate about this is that it appears to be Mr. Hook's word against the word of four or more assailants," Montano said. "These individuals involved would have every incentive to portray a different scenario than what Mr. Hook portrayed. That says volumes about how difficult it is as whistleblowers to bring issues to the surface."

If Hook had actually hit or nearly hit a pedestrian, Montano said witnesses could have held him down until police arrived.

"You don't beat someone to a pulp and leave them for dead because they hit you or almost hit you," Montano said. "That, to me, is a ludicrous alibi that is being given."

Peter Stockton, senior investigator for the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C., questioned whether police looked for any evidence of a connection between the beating and Hook's status as a whistleblower.

"Did they get the phone records to determine who called that Saturday night? They did not get the phone records. Did they do background checks on the assailants. No, they did not. Did they conduct polygraph tests? No, they did not," Stockton said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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