Were Garrison's Witnesses Surveilled, Harassed, Attacked and Intimidated?
Updated: Oct 11
James DiEugenio makes the following allegation in his book, Destiny Betrayed: (page 294)
"Before and during the trials, Garrison's witnesses were being surveilled, harassed, and physically attacked."
Ok, let's go over his evidence. First up is Richard Case Nagell: (page 294)
"For instance, Richard Case Nagell had a grenade thrown at him from a speeding car in New York. Nagell brought the remains of the grenade to Garrison and told him he did not think it was wise for him to testify at Shaw's trial."
DiEugenio's source is page 436 of Dick Russell's book The Man Who Knew Too Much:
There are several problems with this story. First, Richard Case Nagell had serious credibility issues. Over the years, he repeatedly claimed to have secret evidence regarding the assassination, and nothing ever turned up. Second, there is no corroboration for this grenade story from anywhere - no press stories, no memos, and no one associated with the Garrison investigation talked about this. Third, Jim Garrison himself has a very different story about Nagell and the Shaw trial in his book On The Trail of The Assassins.
Garrison claims that Nagell arrived "shortly before the trial, willing to testify against Shaw." After talking with Nagell, Garrison decided not to use him as a witness: (page 229)
"However, he was also as inflexible as ever about identifying the intelligence agency with which he had been associated - and might still be associated. I understood his concern about the non-disclosure agreement which he apparently had signed with his parent agency. But it was all too clear to me what a field day the defense lawyers would have when they discovered on cross-examination that he would not disclose his affiliation. In short order they would be coming at him just as the sharks had come at Santiago's fish. By the time they finished with Nagell, the jury would have been left with the impression of a crackpot. One such incident, one such discrediting, is all it takes to undo an entire case. I decided that with Nagell we could not take the risk."
I certainly don't take anything Garrison writes as the truth. So we have two different stories from two people with credibility issues.
One thing is for certain - Nagell's name did not appear on the memo listing trial witnesses that Tom Bethell leaked to the Shaw defense team.
The next witness that DiEugenio mentions is Clyde Johnson: (page 294)
"Even though Garrison had spirited Clyde Johnson out of town, and very few people knew where he was, the FBI's total surveillance evidently paid off. He was brutally beaten on the eve of the trial and hospitalized."
One of the crazier stories to come out of the so-called Garrison investigation was that of Slidin' Clyde Johnson. In 1963, he was a fringe candidate running to be Governor of Louisiana. He claimed that he met Clay Shaw, who was using the pseudonym of Alton Bernard, in a hotel room in Baton Rouge. There were two other men in the room - Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald, and 'Alton Bernard' gave envelopes of cash to Oswald, Ruby and Johnson. It was all part of a ridiculous scheme to lure Kennedy to the south.
Sound far-fetched? I tell this story in Chapter 13 of my book, On The Trail of Delusion - Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser. Jim Garrison believed the story and actually included Clyde Johnson's meeting with Ruby, Shaw and Oswald in a list of overt acts during the jury selection of the Shaw trial. Mysteriously, the overt act vanished, when the trial actually started.
There is no way Garrison was going to put Clyde Johnson on the stand. He was a drunk, and a complete fraud - he whole campaign for Governor was a con; he never actually filed the proper documents to run.
Here is what really happened just before the start of the Clay Shaw trial:
New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 21, 1969.
Joan Mellen's book, A Farewell to Justice, also claims that "on the day before he was schedule to testify, Clyde Johnson was beaten up so badly he had to be hospitalized." Her source is the New Orleans Times=Picayune of July 24, 1969. Here is that article:
The article does not corroborate the allegation. It just refers to Johnson being jailed for not paying his hotel bill.
James DiEugenio references Mellen and Davy as his sources; and Davy does not have a source at all. In DiEugenio's critique of my book, On The Trail of Delusion, he finally gives us a source:
"In fact, the source for this is an unpublished manuscript by a former Garrison volunteer named Jim Brown. His manuscript, titled Central Intelligence Assassination, was full of inside information on the workings of Garrison’s office, including the fact that Garrison was so worried about Johnson being attacked before his appearance that he hid him outside the city at a college dormitory."
So the only source for this allegation is an unpublished manuscript by a former Garrison volunteer. But that's enough for DiEugenio, Davy and Mellen. And that manuscript is nowhere to be found on the internet. I suspect it's probably in the files of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), which is currently closed. I can't wait until I can get a copy - I have a feeling there are probably many more ridiculous allegations in the manuscript as well.
Conspiracy theorists ignore the good Reverend being jailed for not paying his hotel bill.
And, James DiEugenio would never tell his readers what Irvin Dymond told James Kirkwood about Clyde Johnson:
Kirkwood: Now Slidin' Clyde, they didn't use, just because it was too much.
Dymond: Too much, that's right.
Kirkwood: Was it true that right around the time of the trial, he was put in jail for non-payment of a hotel bill?
Dymond: Well that's a matter of public record. And during the jury selection, I received several phone calls from Slidin' Clyde.
Kirkwood: Did you!
Dymond: wanting to testify for us.
Kirkwood: Why would he want to do that?
Dymond: . . . loaded every time he called. And -- the wee small hours of the morning, every time.
Kirkwood: Did you ever try to see him in person or talk to him?
Dymond: No. Didn't figure it was worthwhile.
Source: Papers of James Kirkwood, Boston University.
DiEugenio's next intimidated witness was Aloysius Habighorst: (page 294)
"Aloysius Habighorst, the man who booked Shaw and heard him say his alias was Bertrand, was rammed by a truck the day before he testified."
DiEugenio claims that Garrison had put Habighorst under protective surveillance, but that it was lifted on Mardi Gras since he would be "guarding the parade." On his way home, a "yellow truck pulled out of an alley near his house and tried to ram him. Habighorst suffered facial lacerations in his attempt to avoid the truck."
DiEugenio's source is Habighorst's widow.
And, indeed Habighorst was in a hit and run accident - here is an brief excerpt from his testimony at the Clay Shaw trial:
He broke his glasses. And, Habighorst did testify.
The next witness was Clinton witness Edwin McGehee: (page 294)
"After he testified, Edwin McGehee found a prowler on his front lawn. He called the marshal, and the man was arrested. At the station, the man asked to make one phone call. The call he made was to the International Trade Mart."
Now, usually the intimidation occurs before you testify, not after. In this case, the source is McGehee who told this to DiEugenio. If this is true, it hardly sounds intimidating - the prowler was arrested after a phone call.
Bill Davy, in his book, Let Justice Be Done, elaborates on the phone call:
"Shortly after this testimony at the Shaw trial McGehee was at home one night when he noticed someone furtively trespassing on his property. He call the Marshall who arrested the man and took him to the local police station. McGehee followed them to the station and recalled that the man was unusually dressed in that he was wearing a business suit and carried a briefcase. The arrested suspect then asked that he be allowed a phone call. Surprisingly, he called the International Trade Mart in New Orleans. McGehee could only hear one end of the conversation of course, but he remembered the person the other end of the phone loudly admonishing the caller."
Does this sound convincing? Since the man was arrested, you'd think there would be something on file, no?
The last witness on the intimidation list is Clinton resident Reeves Morgan: (page 294)
"After he testified, Reeves Morgan had the windows shot out of his truck."
DiEugenio's source is Bill Davy who interviewed Morgan: (page 301)
"Morgan also said that not long after his appearance at the Shaw trial, someone blew out the windows of his truck with a shotgun. Morgan was not in the truck at the time."
So, Morgan is yet another witness intimidated after his testimony. And, he wasn't even in the truck.
DiEugenio has discussed five witnesses; three of whom testified at Shaw's trial (Habighorst, McGehee, and Morgan) and two of whom were so bat-shit crazy that Garrison could not call them to the stand (Johnson and Nagell).
But the real evidence of harassment comes from documents that cannot be found. Here is a quote from DiEugenio's Destiny Betrayed: (page 294)
"What makes all this violent witness intimidation more startling is what Robert Tanenbaum stated to the author in an interview for Probe Magazine. He said that he had seen a set of documents that originated in the office of Richard Helms. They revealed that the CIA was monitoring and harassing Garrison's witnesses. As Tanenbaum stated it, he had a negative view of Garrison up until the time he became Deputy Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Then he read 'all this material that had come out of Helm's office, that in what what Garrison had said was true. They were harassing his witnesses, they were intimidating his witnesses. The documents exist. Where they are now, God only knows.'"
Once again, the evidence has disappeared.
This post discusses other evidence that DiEugenio cites that has disappeared - the sewer system map in the possession of Sergio Arcacha Smith, the tapes of conspirators held by Richard Case Nagell, and never-before-seen pictures of Dealey Plaza held by Bernardo de Torres.
The only person intimidating and harassing witnesses was Jim Garrison. He abused the grand jury system to force witnesses to talk; he harassed anti-Castro Cubans in New Orleans like Carlos Quiroga and Carlos Bringuier (whose wife had a miscarriage because she was worried her husband was going to be arrested); he bribed witnesses; and he had David Ferrie not only under surveillance, but had an informant infiltrate his life.
An upcoming blog post will look at how Garrison misused the grand jury system.
Last but not least, was not Garrison's persecution of Clay Shaw an horrific example of harassment?