James Files Mug Shot from Stateville Prison (click on image to see larger version)
The Assassin From Blockbuster Video
The James Files "Confession"
It's not that unusual, really. Somebody "confesses" to to being involved in the assassination. David Perry's essay "Rashomon to the Extreme" lists all those who have come to the attention of assassination "researchers." Guys hanging around a bar with too many drinks under their belt spinning tall tales don't make Perry's list although there must have been thousands.
But what if the fellow doing the confessing is a talented con artist? And what if the story is promoted by a talented promoter? You're likely to see it at your local Blockbuster Video store!
Thus it is with James Files, a prisoner in Stateville Prison in Illinois serving a sentence for shooting a policeman. His story has been promoted by the late Joe West, and more recently by Bob Vernon.
But is Files really an assassin? Or is this another of the crackpot "confessions" in the mold of Chancey Holt, Robert Morrow, and others whose claims to have participated in the assassination have failed to stand up to scrutiny?
- Martin Shackleford is a conspiracy-oriented researcher with a reputation for not blindly accepting every new piece of "conspiracy evidence" that comes down the pike. His review of the video carefully scrutinizes Files story. The review is on Deanie Richard's JFK Place web site.
- John Stockwell is a long-time critic of the CIA, and an associate of Bob Vernon when he worked on the Files story. As such, he had an insider's view of the Files "confession" as it developed. The following series of messages, originally posted on the Internet, are a "tell all" memoir, and fascinating account of how the video came about, as well as a critical commentary on Files story.
- In Part 1 Stockwell give some background information on Joe West, Bob Vernon, and his own involvement in the project.
- Part 2 has further background information on Vernon, and how Joe West first came into contact with Files.
- Part 3 covers the death of Joe West, and how Bob Vernon took up the project.
- Part 4 discusses some of the ups and downs of the project over a 4 year span.
- Stockwell gives a detailed summary of Files published "confession" in Part 5.
- Part 6 continues the summary of Files story, and begins a detailed critique.
- Part 7 is a further, detailed (virtually line by line and statement by statement) critique of Files story.
- In Part 8, Stockwell completes his critique.
A Story that "Improves" Over Time
In his critique of the Files "confession" (see above) Stockwell notes an interesting pattern in the development of the convict's story (quoting Stockwell):
There seemed to be a pattern of misstatements by Files that were later
corrected after I (and probably others) pointed out to West and Vernon
solid factual errors.
- Files initially said he and Oswald were "palling" around New
Orleans with shipments of fake Thompson's submachine guns in 1961. Oswald
was still in Minsk, that was a full year before he returned to the United
- Files originally said that Nicoletti used a Marlin 7.62 when he
fired into Kennedy's head from the DalTex building. . . . I recalled that 7.62 would
seemingly be a military weapon. And I did not recall Marlin ever
producing a military weapon. So I called the Marlin factory. They
confirmed that no such weapon had ever been made by them....but their
30.06 hunting rifle could be reconfigured, I believe they said to hold 5
rounds. I relayed this to Vernon and, a week or so later, sure enough, I
was told, Files reported that he had reflected and remembered that
Nicoletti used a Marlin 30.06 with a modified chamber....
- Initially, Files was adamant that he was just a kid, a nobody, and
that the CIA had nothing to do with the "hit" on Kennedy, although he said he
had trained Cubans for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and that David
Atlee Phillips was his "controller." As the story seemed to grow, he
"palled" around with Oswald in Dallas during the week before the
assassination. Phillips set up the contact.
- Over the years, as first West, then Vernon read more deeply into
the assassination and related controversy, Files's alleged CIA legend grew
dramatically. . . . Later, Files repeatedly
hinted that he was more important in the CIA than the researchers might
have realized. He said that he had been in direct contact with Dick Helms
and with the "Joint Chiefs of Staff." He said he had hand-written notes
from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (ordering hits and what-not.)
And More than Just a Little Help
Files' story has few defenders even among conspiracy-minded researchers. Finding holes and logical inconsistencies has been a favorite sport among assassination buffs. David Perry is a conspiracy-oriented, but critical-minded researcher. Here is his The Top Ten Reasons The Jim Files' Story Needs Help (with apologies to David Letterman, of course).
Perry's web site, in fact, is a treasure trove of information on Files.
Do two spent cartridges found in Dealey Plaza proves Files story to be accurate? That's what his (very few) supporters say. But researcher Allan Eaglesham has found that the cartridges, supposedly left in the Plaza by Files in 1963, in fact could not have been manufactured before 1971.
Basically, Nobody Believes This Guy
Deep Politics Quarterly is a well-established conspiracy-oriented JFK assassination journal. Edward Bell wrote their critique of Files story. You can read it from the Deep Politics web site by
Could a Con Con You?
We would all like to think not. But Martin Shackleford, an assassination researcher who is a social worker by profession, has a different perspective.
Such a con would be relatively easy, especially for a veteran like
Source: Newsgroup alt.conspiracy.jfk.moderated, post of 2/6/97
For the past eighteen years, I have been working with delinquent
teenagers, relatively much clumsier con artists than someone of Files'
background. Even knowing that there's a good chance they might be trying
to con me, I still fall for something from time to time, at least until
I can check it out.
The Files Hustle
Producer Bob Vernon has spent over a decade trying to arrange a "big score" from the James Files story, and the closest he's gotten was serious interest from NBC. But NBC was cautious, and refused to air the files story without checking it out. They hired author and assassination expert Edward J. Epstein to vet the story. The following is Epstein's account of what happened, from an April 24, 2001 e-mail written to Barb Junkkarinen (which Epstein gave Junkkarinen permission to post on the Internet):
In brief, NBC retained me as a consultant for their planned
story on Files. I hired the detective firm of Jules Kroll. JK
established from telephone records Files was in Chicago, not Dallas,
on November 22,1963. We then placed a call to Files from Dick Clark's
office (DC was producer), and I interviewed Files about Kroll
findings. He said he had a twin brother, who no one knew about, and
whom he met shortly before November 22, and who he murdered after
November 22. He said it was his twin brother in hospital with his
wife, not him. His wife, however, said there was no twin, and Kroll
confirmed there was no twin. My view then and now is that Files
invented the story for the money it would earn him.
Epstein's account is corroborated by other sources. A story in the New York Post discusses this episode.
NBC like other networks likes to take the high-minded stance that it doesn't pay for news and looks down on what it derisively refers to as "checkbook journalism."
But the Peacock Network recently considered airing a special two-hour documentary about the assassination of President Kennedy, which would have put NBC in the position of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the story of a man who claimed to be an accomplice of Lee Harvey Oswald.
. . .
The only reason the documentary won't be airing during the cricial May sweeps rating period is that NBC wisely hired an outside consultant, writer Edward J. Epstein, who determined that the supposed Grassy Knoll Shooter was a fraud.
. . .
"NBC was talking to Dick Clark Productions. We did hire a consultant," NBC spokeswoman Pat Schultz said. "On his advice and that of others we decided not to go forward."
. . .
The scary thing is, it almost worked. While NBC was skeptical, Dick Clark and his producers were said to be gung-ho. As one source put it, "The amazing thing is how stupid they were." (Richard Johnson, "Peacock tempted to buy news," New York Post, May 9, 1994. Emphasis in original)
Return to Kennedy Assassination Home Page