Did the CIA Pay the Lawyers of Garrison's Witnesses?
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
Garrison believed that the CIA was paying the lawyers of several witnesses. In June 1967, Garrison appeared on NBC:
Question: We now find three people who are outside Louisiana who are fighting their return to the state in connection with your investigation—Gordon Novel, Sergio Arcacha Smith, and Sandra Moffit. Could you briefly discuss these three people and their role in all this?
Garrison: The point that you’re going for is that we are in private difficulty for getting them back. That, of course, is because of the intercession of the U.S. government, not necessarily the administration at the topmost level, but certainly, through the intercession of the CIA which has great power because of the millions of dollars, it spends and for other reasons. Sandra Moffit, for example, who has no money, is represented by the very successful lawyer who is Chairman of the 13 State Democratic Regional Committee. Gordon Novel not only has a very successful lawyer in Ohio he also has a lawyer down here. Mr. Arcacha seems not to have a problem with representation either. He initially announced that he was represented by the Chief Assistant of the District Attorney of Dallas, but he now seems to have private counsel. Similarly, Beauboeuf, who has never been regarded as a crucial witness by us, nor ever been regarded as a great value by us, is represented by a successful and high price lawyer here too. It is obvious that these lawyers are being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, that the money is being diverted to either people and then coming to them.
Many conspiracy theorists have repeated the accusation. For instance, James DiEugenio, in his book Destiny Betrayed, asked "How could the out of work itinerant Novel afford to finance an expensive civil suit against both a large company like Playboy, and a veteran attorney like Garrison?" He then quotes testimony from Novel where he said that his lawyers "refused fees for this matter, but it my understanding that they were clandestinely renumerated by a party or parties unknown to me."
DiEugenio then alludes that it was the CIA who paid the bills.
But, did they? I went to the Library of Congress to look through the papers of Elmer Gertz, Novel's attorney in his civil case against Jim Garrison and Playboy Magazine (Garrison had claimed in a Playboy interview that Novel worked for the CIA). The reality is that Gertz had to fight to get paid - here are just a handful of letters he sent Novel.
And, here is a letter that Gertz sent to Edward Wegmann, one of Clay Shaw's attorneys. I love his advice for Wegmann!
And, here's another letter from Gertz to Wegmann - this time asking if Wegmann knew where Gertz could find Novel.
The fact is is that Gordon Novel was a con man. He lost his libel case against Playboy and Jim Garrison. You can read more about him in my book, On The Trail of Delusion, and you can click here to get more information.
And, Gordon Novel himself made fun of the Garrison allegation by sending this telegram to CIA Director Richard Helms.