U.S. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., and two other former members of the U.S. Senate will go “on trial” in Washington, D.C., for their alleged roles in the 1954 suicide of Sen. Lester C. Hunt of Wyoming. Sens. McCarthy, Styles Bridges, R-N.H., and Herman Welker, R-Idaho, all deceased, are “charged” with a criminal conspiracy to blackmail Hunt, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Senate office in 1954.
The mock trial of the three senators will be held at All Souls Church Unitarian on Oct. 23.
The “trial” is a readers’ theater presentation based on research conducted by Rodger McDaniel for his book "Dying for the Sins of Joe McCarthy-The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt." Retired U.S. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming will open the proceedings with an address to the mock court, jury and audience. Simpson's father Milward L. Simpson, also a U.S. senator and a governor of Wyoming, was a close friend of Hunt.
Alan Simpson wrote the foreword to McDaniel’s book, saying it offers "a level of empathy to Lester Hunt’s life story that he richly deserves. The result is this book that finally offers Lester Hunt’s remaining family some form of justice – though belated."
The Mattachine Society of Washington is sponsoring the event. MS president Charles Francis said, “What these men did to Lester Hunt was not just sharp-elbowed politics. This is the true story of a long covered-up criminal conspiracy to blackmail a sitting U.S. senator and take over the leadership of the United States Senate. It is time for this conspiracy to go before a jury – even in a mock trial – in Washington, D.C.”
McDaniel’s book includes never-before published evidence of the conspiracy against Hunt. He said, "This mock trial will leave no question a serious crime was committed. This was not an ordinary attempt to blackmail. This was an attack on our democracy and the U.S. Senate itself. The goal of the perpetrators was not simply to force a colleague to resign. It was a political take-over of one of the most important and revered institutions of our government. In some countries it would have rightly been called a 'putsch.'
“In 1954 there was no investigation of the facts leading to Sen. Hunt’s death. Although nearly six decades have passed, newly discovered evidence calls for a formal review of the matter by the US Department of Justice."
Retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden will preside over the trial.
Trevor Potter, the Washington attorney widely known for the creation of the Colbert Super PAC, will play the part of the prosecuting attorney. Potter was general counsel for the 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns of U.S. Sen. John McCain. He was deputy general counsel for the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush.
Mindy Daniels, a prominent Washington criminal defense lawyer and a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance of Washington, D.C., will serve as defense counsel for the three former senators.
A jury of local citizens will hear the case and render a historic verdict. Robert Raben, former U.S. assistant attorney general and longtime counsel to retired U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, will play the role of jury foreman. Verizon legislative affairs executive Ed Senn will play McCarthy.
The public is invited to attend free of charge.
Some more background on the case: Lester Hunt, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948. He was twice elected governor and twice elected secretary of state after serving in the Wyoming legislature. He committed suicide on June 19, 1954, a year after his son and namesake was arrested in Lafayette Park for soliciting sex from an undercover male policeman. McCarthy, Bridges and Welker attempted to leverage young Hunt’s arrest into Sen. Hunt’s resignation at a time when the shift of one seat would give control of the senate to the GOP.
Alan Simpson, in the foreword for McDaniel’s book, wrote, “When Lester Hunt arrived in Washington in 1949, he witnessed the rising tide of McCarthyism. His was one of the few early voices to call it for what it was.” Speaking of the events leading to Senator Hunt’s suicide Simpson wrote, “What was done to Lester Hunt passed all boundaries of decency and exposed an evil side of politics most would always seek to avoid.”
McDaniel said, “Holding the mock trial in Washington finally allows long-hidden senate history to be revealed. Homophobia combined with the stigma of suicide to hide the facts surrounding Senator Hunt’s suicide for six decades. The legacies of Senators Bridges, Welker and McCarthy are incomplete unless the shameful history of the scar they inflicted on the integrity of the United States Senate is told in the nation’s capitol where these events took place in 1953 and 1954.”
Sen. Simpson said, “This book finally offers Lester Hunt’s remaining family some form of justice – though belated.”