What Did Perry Russo Tell Sciambra in Baton Rouge?

Richard Billings' Account

By far the strongest testimony against Clay Shaw was that of Perry Raymond Russo, who took the stand at the trial and described Shaw, and David Ferrie, and Lee Oswald present at an "assassination party" planning the killing of Kennedy. Unfortunately for the prosecution, the earliest accounts of Russo's testimony failed to mention any such "assassination party." Particularly embarrassing was the "Sciambra Memo," in which Garrison's assistant DA Andrew Sciambra described his attempts to get Russo to identify Shaw. Russo said he had seen Shaw twice, and described the circumstances. Neither instance was the "assassination party."

Under oath in the Clay Shaw trial, Sciambra insisted that Russo had mentioned seeing Shaw a third time -- at the "assassination party." Sciambra explained that he had simply neglected to mention that in the memo.

But when Sciambra first returned from Baton Rouge, having just questioned Russo, he reported to Garrison in the presence of journalist Richard Billings. See, for example, James Kirkwood's American Grotesque, p. 145.

The following is from Richard Billings article "How 'JFK plot' exploded in press" in the April 16, 1968 Chicago Daily News.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra talked to Russo in Baton Rouge on Feb. 25. Back in New Orleans the next day Sciambra gave the following account of what Russo told him:

Russo said, he had known Ferrie since 1962, when they made a deal to market pornographic films. Ferrie, who often hung around with tough-looking Cubans, talked openly of an assassination during the summer of 1963, but President Kennedy was not named as the target.

Then, at Ferrie's apartment in September, Russo was introduced to a roommate. He described this roommate as "a man in his middle 20s with dirty blond hair and a scrubby beard, a typical beatnik." At the meeting an assassination was discussed, and Kennedy was to be the victim.

Shaw identified

Sciambra showed a picture of Shaw to Russo, who said he had seen the man, though he was unable to identify him, at two different times: once in 1962 when Kennedy spoke at the dedication of a new warf in New Orleans, and once with Ferrie in a service station. He did not say he had ever seen Shaw at Ferrie's apartment.

Shown a picture of Oswald, Russo said it looked a little like Ferrie's roomate, but only after a beard was drawn on the photograph, could he confirm the "identification."

So when Sciambra first returned from Baton Rouge, the account he was giving of Perry Raymond Russo's testimony was consistent with the "Sciambra Memo," but inconsistent with what he later testified that Russo had told him.

Return to Kennedy Assassination Home Page