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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

RFK Jr. on the JFK Assassination and Jim Garrison

A couple of years later, like I guess ’66 or ’67, he [Robert Kennedy] was walking through the National Airport with Frank Mankiewicz and Walter Sheridan. And he said there was a magazine stand there that had a lot of magazines with James Garrison on the cover. And he pointed to Garrison, who was then investigating my uncle’s death and thinking that the CIA was involved.
And he said to them, “What do you think about him? Does he have anything?"
And they said, “We think he does."
And Daddy said to them, “Will you look into it quietly?"
So they went down, or Sheridan went down there. And what he came back with is that he got a look at Jack Ruby’s telephone records right before the assassination. And he was struck that virtually everybody that my dad had subpoenaed and convicted who was in the Mafia had been in touch with Ruby a month before.

I doubt that Sheridan or Mankiewicz ever said, "we think he does."

Walter Sheridan did go down to New Orleans and ultimately produced an hour-long documentary "The JFK Conspiracy: The Case of Jim Garrison," which aired on June 19, 1967: (transcript is here)

Sheridan concluded that Garrison's investigation was a complete sham. This is NBC's conclusion:

Now, we cannot say that the murder of John F. Kennedy did not happen the way Jim Garrison says it did. We cannot say he does not have the evidence to prove it. We can say this. The case he has built against Clay Shaw is based on testimony that did not pass a lie detector test that Garrison ordered, and Garrison knew it. One prospective witness admitted in advance he was going to lie. Members of Garrison's staff, in trying to strengthen the case against Shaw, have threatened and offered inducements to potential witnesses. The results of this four months of public investigation have been to damage reputations, to spread fear and suspicion, and, worst of all, to exploit the nation's sorrow and doubts about President Kennedy's death.
Jim Garrison has said, "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall. We seek the truth."
So do we. Good night.

I find it interesting that RFK Jr. doesn't tell the interviewer about what Walter Sheridan really found out.

RFK Jr. also doesn't tell his interviewer that William Gurvich, one of Garrison's major investigators, quit his investigation and went to visit Robert Kennedy.

The story broke in the June 23, 1967, issue of Newsday:

The story then hit other newspapers in July, when Gurvich, after he had quit the Garrison investigation, was a little clearer about what he had told Robert Kennedy:

James Kirkwood interviewed Gurvich for his book American Grotesque, and he asked him about the meeting with Robert Kennedy: (pages 540 -541)

Kirkwood: How did you happen to get to Kennedy?

Gurvich: Through one of his emissaries. I was asked if I would see the Senator. I didn't know for sure what he wanted to see me about, what he had to say. But I went, I paid my own way. They offered to buy my ticket, but because it was Kennedy and because Kennedy was on the other side -- although I didn't believe in Garrison any more at this point, I was still on his payroll and I'm a firm believer in loyalty. That's why I never -- they wanted me on NBC on the white paper, but I said, "Regardless of how I feel or what I believe, I am still working for him, I haven't resigned, therefore I can't say anything against him.

So when I saw the Senator it was quite obvious he was more interested in hearing what I had to say than he was in telling me anything.

Kirkwood: In other words, he contacted you?

Gurvich: Yes, I talked to his emissary at the Royal Orleans Hotel.

Kirkwood: What was his reaction to what you told him?

Gurvich: I don't think he ever thought the guy had anything. And I've never really discussed our meeting with anyone. He's dead, it was confidential - whether he honored it or not, I don't know. But basically what I told him was, the exact words were, "Senator, Mr. Garrison will never shed any light on your brother's death." What he wanted to know most was, and I'll quote him, "Then why is he doing this?" At the time, I told him I did not have the answer to it That if I had the answer to that I'd have the answer to the whole damn thing. Was it political? Was it insanity? Was it for money? Was it revenge? What was it? But I don't believe anybody could actually say at the time. I didn't try. I just simply said, "I don't now. I wish I did."

I also don't believe RFK Jr.'s statement about Ruby's telephone records. Sheridan did not have to go down to New Orleans to check on them. I'd like to know RFK Jr.'s source for the allegation.

Of course, does he really think that the quantity of phone calls is indicative of the mob ordering Ruby to kill Oswald? One phone call would be sufficient - wouldn't there be a need to keep the so-called conspiracy closely held?

Here is what Gerald Posner wrote about Ruby's phone calls in his book Cased Closed: (pages 425 - 427 in the Kindle edition)

Ruby’s long-distance telephone activity jumped significantly during the months when he tried to resolve the AGVA dispute, and some of those he telephoned were people connected to organized crime. Were such calls evidence of a mafia conspiracy to kill JFK? The House Select Committee did an extensive computer analysis of Ruby’s five home and business telephone numbers for all of 1963. The Committee checked each number he telephoned, as well as the records of those he called, and determined that most of the increases in his long-distance bill were due to his AGVA problems.

But three of those calls, said the Select Committee, raised the possibility that they might be of significance in the Kennedy case. However, the author’s investigation reveals the calls were not as mysterious as the Select Committee assumed.

The first was to Chicago bail bondsman Irwin Weiner, who often represented mob figures. The Committee feared he may have been a link for Ruby to crime bosses. Weiner had refused to cooperate with the FBI in its Warren Commission investigation. “I gave Irwin Weiner’s number to my brother,” Earl Ruby told the author. “I had gone to school with Weiner; we graduated high school together. I used to see him on visits to California. He was a big bondsman for everyone, and he handled the mafia. It was in the newspapers—you could read about it. I thought he might be able to help Jack with the union. Jack didn’t even know Weiner, for God’s sake.” Weiner later admitted that Ruby called him once, about his AGVA problem; however, Weiner did not offer him any assistance.

The second call was to a trailer park in New Orleans, to the office of Nofio Pecora, a lieutenant to New Orleans godfather Carlos Marcello. This October 30, 1963, call worried the committee since it appeared to be a Ruby contact with a high-ranking aide to Marcello less than a month before the assassination. However, the call was not even intended for Pecora. Harold Tannenbaum, a fellow nightclub owner and friend of Ruby’s, lived in that trailer park, the Tropical Court Tourist Park. Tannenbaum had arranged the deal that allowed Ruby to bring Jada from New Orleans to Dallas, and Ruby often called him at his trailer-park home and his French Quarter nightclub to complain about his contractual problems with the temperamental dancer. In 1978, Pecora told the Select Committee that he did not know Ruby, nor did he remember ever speaking to him. However, Pecora, who ran the trailer park from his one-man office, admitted he occasionally took a message for someone in the park, but did not remember doing so for Ruby. But apparently that is exactly what he did. There is no way to know if Ruby first telephoned Tannenbaum’s home, since if no one was there, there would be no toll record. The call to Pecora’s office lasted less than one minute. Within the hour, Tannenbaum had apparently received the message from Pecora and returned Ruby’s call, collect, for twenty-one minutes.

The third call that stumped the Select Committee actually comprised three calls, two on November 7, and one on November 8, all to Robert “Barney” Baker, an aide to Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. Baker had only been released from prison in June 1963. The committee was concerned since Hoffa had such a well-known hatred for both John and Robert Kennedy. However, Baker and Ruby did not know each other before Ruby called him on November 7, 1963. When the FBI contacted Baker in 1964, he spoke to them openly. He told the agents that on November 7, Ruby had telephoned, but Baker was not in and his wife had taken a number in Dallas. When Baker got home, he called the number collect. Ruby introduced himself, explained his labor-union problems with his club, and sought Baker’s assistance. Baker did not help, nor did he remember the last call the following day. What is critical is that at the time he spoke to the FBI and talked about Ruby’s AGVA problems, it was independent of knowing that Ruby had also told the police that the conversations were about union problems. Moreover, Baker, who thought the FBI tapped his phone lines (most Hoffa associates assumed the federal government had them under constant surveillance) reportedly challenged the agents to check their tapes and listen to the conversation if they had any doubts. Unfortunately, there apparently was no surveillance of his line.

Of course, these phone calls were made before the assassination. Bugliosi notes that "all of Ruby's contacts by phone with unsavory mob figures took place in the many weeks before the assassination. There is no evidence of any taking place between the assassination on November 22 and Ruby's killing of Oswald on November 24." (page 1,770 of the Kindle edition)


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