He volunteered the following information regarding Jim Phelan and Perry Russo. Phelan interviewed Perry Russo in Baton Rouge after the Preliminary Hearing. Also present at this meeting was Russo's room-mate and Matt Herron.
Phelan asked Russo twice during this interview if it was true that he, Russo, had not mentioned a meeting between Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald until he came to New Orleans. According to Matt Herron, Russo agreed that he did not mention such a meeting until his arrival in N.O. Herron seemed to remember Russo saying something like "I guess not" in response to Phelan saying was it not true that the meeting didn't come up until he was questioned in New Orleans. Matt Herron also said to me, "I think you've got the wrong man, Tom." He was referring to Clay Shaw, and the group of people with him seemed to be unanimous in believing that Shaw was innocent.
(March, 1969: Herron later changed his mind. I saw him in the court room on the last day of the Shaw trial with Vincent Salandria. At the end of Dymond's closing argument I saw Matt standing alone and I asked him if he believed that Clay Shaw was guilty. He simply said "Yes".)
Herron added (June 25 ‘67) that Phelan is "still working on the case", and that he, Phelan, would submit affidavits at the trial testifying to the above mentioned meeting. I asked Herron why Phelan was still working on the case in view of the fact that his article had been published and he said that Phelan "is interested in detective stories."
Herron also stated that it was his impression from talking to Phelan that Bill Gurvich was now collaborating with Phelan. Matt said that if called upon to testify to this meeting he will do so as he was there; however, he said he was not prepared to "put anything in writing" at this stage. He was passing this information on to me because he wants the assassination probe to be successful in its outcome.
Alcock went on to say that it was the first name "Clay" that was the initial lead as far as Clay Shaw was concerned. I suspected that this was true but this was the first time anyone in the office had admitted it. He said that Shaw had refused to take a lie detector test, and that he feared Shaw's lawyers were soon going to publicise the results of a test which he believed Shaw had taken in Illinois somewhere. He said he would like to subpoena and question Marina Oswald. Mainly he wanted to know if Oswald was ever away at night. Alcock also said he was worried about the business about the beard.
He added that he thought the arrest of Clay Shaw was possible a case of mistaken identity, and that he had qualms about taking the case. I mentioned that we should make a formal request of the FBI that we be allowed to see the classified FBI reports of David Ferrie. I said that otherwise there was a danger that the defense would produce them at the trial, that they would contain nothing of interest, and moreover that the defense would establish that we hadn't even requested to see them. Alcock agreed that we should do this.
She soon launched into a lengthy discourse about her personal misfortunes, explaining that she had spent a great deal of money on her own investigation, including phone bills as high as $500 a month, and that although she had made about 200 TV appearance[s] she had only been paid $100 on 3 of them. She added that she had recently been wondering where the next meal was coming from and at this point momentarily broke into tears. However, she soon recovered and said, "I hold all the cards, I am the mother, you've got to bring the family into this."
Nevertheless, it was her contention that it would be unwise for ger to reveal any of her significant data to us, as the best way to do it would be in a book, which she seems to want to write, (and later added would be as big as, and considerably more important than, William Manchester's book.) It soon became clear that Mrs Oswald was unable to distinguish between us and newspaper reporters, and although Boxley carefully explained to her that we represented the DA's office in a case which might exonerate her son from having fired any shots, she plainly still regarded us as reporters trying to get a story.
Mrs Oswald showed no interest whatsoever in the New Orleans investigation, and asked no questions about it, as I should have thought she might. In particular, it was striking that she at no stage inquired if we had obtained any evidence which would exonerate Lee Harvey Oswald and it was clear that her interest was not to "clear his name", as she had maintained. She wanted to be at the trial though. "I should be at Shaw's trial, just for the prestige, have the mother there fighting for her son." She just seemed to imagine herself on the witness stand, "with Shaw", in some vague but important capacity. I told her that she could not be a witness unless she had previously told us something of sufficient importance to merit it, but she made no response.
She then went into a diatribe against reporters who had cheated her. Overall, Mrs Oswald gave us no significant information and the whole trip was a waste of time. We also saw Mrs AC Johnson at 1026 N. Beckley, and she showed us the layout and told us that Oswald was quiet and near, and on most days called someone from the payphone in the house, speaking in a foreign language, which she since surmises was Russian. She said he would call twice and sometimes 3 times a day.
The NBC program seems to have misfired from a publicity point of view. Quotations from letter to Garrison:
"My heart goes out to you in your fight for justice. . ."Alcock said something about Santana the other day. Can't remember his exact words but they were to the effect that Santana was just a Cuban fisherman who happened to be in jail at the time, and knew nothing whatsoever about the assassination.
"I ask that you not be discouraged by this horrible unfortunate abomination . . . may God bless you."
"The poor ignorant public (me) is searching for a champion, so don't let us down. I recall Frank McGee solving the Kennedy affair on TV the first day so how could we expect any change out of him."
(Letter to NBC, copy to Garrison:) "It is evident from your recent broadcast on the Garrison investigation that your true purpose was to create a doubt about any activity which might tend to throw light on the assassination of our beloved President Kennedy."
Cynical thought for the day: Ferrie and Oswald are both dead. It's surprising therefore that we don't have a few witnesses who say that they knew one another as neither is around to rebut it. I think that's what Garrison wanted to get out of Brownlee. (Ferrie's godson)
Life was in on the investigation early, as was CBS. Neither was going to break the story until Garrison wanted them to.
Volz made a trip to Dallas in late January to investigate the 3128 Harlendale story mentioned by deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers. He came back with a negative on it, which he said didn't please Garrison too much. There was a lot of kidding of Volz about this later, and when people saw him in the office they would say, "There's nothing there, chief," which was what Volz apparently had told Garrison. Volz stopped working on the case about a month after his trip to Dallas. Too many of the legal staff were getting tied up, he said.
I asked him how Gordon Novel became involved in the case, He thought for a moment and said Novel came in and offered to help with electronic equipment, on the proviso that they didn't implicate him as a result of what he told them. Garrison agreed to this and Novel told about the Houma burglary episode and his connections with Ferrie. Garrison then found out, he said, that Novel had been taking pictures inside the DA's office and selling them to Walter Sheridan. He then reneged on his agreement with Novel.
I asked Garrison what he thought about David Lewis as a witness; he didn't seem to have much of an opinion. I then pointed out that Lewis was one of the few linking Oswald and Ferrie. He didn't know this, or at least pretended not to realize it, and I then pointed out the trouble with the dates. (When David Lewis was originally interviewed in the DA's office, Dec14, 1966, he had been quite positive that the date he saw "Lee Harvey" at Mancuso's restaurant was in 1961, when Oswald was in Russia. I was in Ivon's office with Lewis on that day, the day I was hired.) Garrison then said something about Lewis later correcting the date.
I stressed to Garrison the importance of a Ferrie-Oswald link- in my opinion, I said, the most important connection in the case. He said maybe he would have to "re-evaluate" Lewis as a witness.
There was a discussion of the Pizzo exhibit. I asked Garrison if he had identified the other man passing out leaflets in the picture and he said: "What do you mean, have we identified him? That's Manuel Garcia Gonzalez." He then qualified this in some way.
The role of Life magazine was discussed. Sciambra was in favor of breaking off diplomatic relations. However Garrison and Ivon are evidently in favor of "keeping channels of communications open." I pointed out it seems they must be holding back some information on Hall, Howard, and Seymour, as they seem so interested in them. Sciambra said he got the impression from Boxley that Life weren't giving us everything. Problem with Life, as Sciambra pointed out, and Ivon later confirmed, is that they have a copy of our files whereas they have given us very little.
Note: What leads was Garrison working on when he began his investigation?
At Felix's, Land and I were discussing the Dean Andrews case and Lane had started to say something about Prentiss Davis when we were advised by someone sitting at the next table (very crowded together) that he was one of Shaw's lawyers -- Panzeca. Had never seen him before.
Lane is playing a quiet game and not asking me any embarrassing questions!
Wednesday evening I went out to dinner with him, Boxley, and Mrs Mae Brussell. Mrs B., from Carmel, Calif. has done vast research on the Russian community in Dallas , nearly all of it a complete waste of time it seems to me. She has cross-indexed it to the point where her notes on DeMohrenschildt, for instance, are almost valueless as being more voluminous that his original testimony.
Next: Part Two