In Jim Garrison's 1988 memoir, On the Trail of the Assassins, the former DA spends several pages responding to the sharp criticisms leveled against him by NBC television in June 1967, in a White Paper entitled, "The Case of Jim Garrison," characterizing the broadcast as an "assault on the case we had developed"(1) and an "effort to smear my office"(2) consisting of one "outright lie" after another.(3)
Buried in a footnote is Garrison's observation, "One [lie] that my staff particularly enjoyed was the network's solemn description of one of its witnesses, William Gurvich, as 'the Chief Investigator of the District Attorney's office.'(4) A private detective, Gurvich had volunteered to help the investigation but had disappeared from the office months before. He had never been a regular investigator, let alone the chief investigator, of my office."(5)
As usual, it is Jim Garrison who is lying, not his critics.
There is no evidence that William Gurvich ever had the official title "Chief Investigator" but also no evidence that he ever claimed such a title for himself. However Gurvich had indeed "served as one of Garrison's chief aides for six months, handling interrogations and extraterritorial aspects of the investigation."(6) As author Patricia Lambert succinctly observes, William Gurvich was repeatedly referred to as Garrison's "chief" investigator by the press during his six months with the DA's office, he was treated as such by Garrison, and he was identified as Garrison's "chief investigative aide" in the earliest book on the case, Plot or Politics? by Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw.(7)
The fact that the press repeatedly referred to him this way reflects something obvious to the reporters following the story: Gurvich was in a central and key role. Why Garrison's staff would "particularly enjoy" hearing him described in the exact way the New Orleans media had repeatedly referred to him is obscure.
As Lambert notes, Gurvich was one of the select six investigators who received copies of the DA's "master file" on the JFK investigation. He had been given "a full set of keys" to the district attorney's office, had been allowed the use of Garrison's car, and "shared" Garrison's desk.(8) When Garrison held the first press conference on his JFK probe in February 1967, William Gurvich described by Big Jim as an "extremely competent private detective" was the only aide singled out by name in DA's the statement describing his JFK task force.(9)
Garrison is also being blatantly disingenuous when he states that Gurvich was never a "regular investigator" of the NODA. Gurvich, one of three owner-operators of New Orleans' prestigious Gurvich Detective Agency, was a private detective respected both nationally and internationally, who donated his time and resources to the District Attorney's office for a token fee of a dollar a year.(10)
Most obviously, Gurvich did anything but "disappear" from the DA's office. He remained a member of the DA's staff even after the June 19, 1967, NBC broadcast.(11) He soon resigned, however, and went public with his belief that Garrison's investigation, and, in particular, the prosecution of Clay Shaw, had "no basis in fact."(12)
Prior to his resignation, Gurvich met with Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Washington and told him, "Senator, Mr. Garrison will never shed any light on your brother's death."(13) Though Gurvich had intended his comments for Senator Kennedy's ears alone, word of the meeting was soon leaked to New York Newsday publisher and RFK confidante Bill Moyers. The story quickly made headlines nationwide, as Gurvich's revelations about the DA's conduct threatened to derail the investigation.(14)
Despite Garrison's attempt to downplay the episode in his book,(15) the loss of Gurvich and the ensuing publicity came as a terrible blow.(16) Stung by Gurvich's defection, Garrison quickly drafted a press release, stating, "I am sure that almost everyone will recognize Mr. Gurvich's statement as the latest move from the eastern headquarters of the establishment to attempt to discredit our investigation into the true facts of the Kennedy assassination."(17) Garrison also falsely claimed that "Mr. Gurvich's role in the investigation was principally concerned with regard to photographic work . . . He was assigned to a limited amount of investigative work."(18)
From the time Gurvich came aboard in December 1966, he had played a major role in investigating two of the DA's key suspects, David Ferrie and Sergio Arcacha Smith. For example, as Patricia Lambert states, "William Gurvich was given the job of proving that on the day of the assassination David Ferrie was in Dallas, sitting in a plane at the end of a runway, engines running, waiting to fly Oswald to safety. Gurvich was supposed to find the airfield. A pilot himself, Gurvich rented a plane and flew from one small field to another, examining records, talking to workers, and showing Ferrie's picture. No one recognized him."(19)
When Garrison focused on a tiny airport called White Rock (where a mechanic said maybe Ferrie looked familiar),(20) "Gurvich obtained its gasoline receipts for September, October, and November 4,000 of them, which Garrison ordered photocopied and checked," writes Lambert. "Again, no one found anything."(21)
In January 1967, it was William Gurvich who flew to Dallas and located Sergio Arcacha Smith, and attempted to interview him on behalf of the NODA.(22)
When Garrison became curious about the July 31, 1963, seizure of a cache of arms in nearby St. Tammany Parish, north of Lake Pontchartrain, it was William Gurvich who investigated the incident.(23) Along with Assistant DA Alvin Oser, Gurvich also investigated an anti-Castro activist training camp that had briefly been active in St. Tammany Parish in the summer of 1963.(24) It was Gurvich who flew to Houston and located Ricardo Davis, one of the organizers of the training camp.(25) Garrison would always maintain that the 1963 goings-on by Lake Pontchartrain were highly relevant to the death of John F. Kennedy.(26)
On March 1, Gurvich was privy to Garrison's decision to arrest Clay Shaw, and it was Gurvich who announced Shaw's arrest to the media.(27) Garrison subsequently sent Gurvich to San Francisco to check Clay Shaw's 1963 hotel records and conduct research on "gay hangouts" in that city.(28) The following week, Gurvich participated in Clay Shaw's preliminary hearing and was one of three NODA investigators who interviewed key witness Vernon Bundy upon his last-minute emergence.(29) Gurvich was present shortly thereafter at a critical meeting between Garrison, Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra, and journalist James Phelan, concerning the DA's star witness, Perry Raymond Russo.(30) Amidst all this activity, it was Gurvich's agency that conducted most of the polygraph tests ordered by Garrison, some of which are cited as evidence by Garrison advocates to this day.(31)
Gurvich continued to interrogate witnesses and conduct investigations for the DA's office right up until the time he resigned.(32) Garrison advocate Joachim Joesten refers to Gurvich's defection as the DA's "most serious setback" to date, characterizing Gurvich as one of Garrison's "closest collaborators" up until that point. "His defection," Joesten writes, "came as unexpected as a bolt from the blue."(33)
Garrison could hardly allow his readers to know that a key investigator a highly-respected figure who had full knowledge of his "case" against Shaw concluded the entire enterprise was bogus. So he did again what he had done so frequently in On the Trail of the Assassins. He lied.
1. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), p. 196.
2. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), p. 196.
3. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), p. 197.
4. Actually, Gurvich neither appeared in the broadcast, nor contributed to it in any way. He is mentioned by Saturday Evening Post reporter James Phelan in connection with a pivotal meeting Gurvich had witnessed between Phelan, Garrison and Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra. See also the Shaw trial testimony of James Phelan.
5. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), p. 197 fn.
6. Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992), p. 193. Gurvich joined the JFK probe on or about December 23, 1966 (cf. US District Court civil action, Clay L. Shaw v. Jim Garrison, Decision of Judge Herbert Christenberry), went public with his misgivings about the investigation on June 23, 1967 (cf. Paris Flammonde, The Kennedy Conspiracy [New York: Meredith, 1969], p. 315), and left the probe shortly thereafter. (Cf. Lambert, pp. 117-18.) Gurvich always said that he joined the JFK probe at Jim Garrison's invitation (cf. House Select Committee interview with William Gurvich, November 7, 1978), while Garrison always maintained that Gurvich had volunteered for the position. At the time that Gurvich came aboard, however, virtually no one outside the DA's office knew about the then-secret JFK probe. Gurvich told the HSCA that Garrison had invited him "to join his staff as an investigator on 'a very important project.' Gurvitch [sic] agreed to do so and was soon told by Garrison that it involved a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy."
7. Lambert, p. 313 fn. 26, citing Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw, Plot or Politics? (New Orleans: Pelican, 1967), p. 149. According to Sergio Arcacha Smith, Gurvich presented himself to Arcacha as Garrison's "Chief Executive Aide." (Affidavit of Sergio Arcacha Smith, May 22, 1967, Dallas.) Gurvich's NODA memoranda tend to bear the title "Special Aide" or "Investigative Aide." (William Davy, Let Justice Be Done [Reston, Virginia: Jordan, 1999], p. 62.) Media accounts predating Gurvich's resignation refer to the detective as Garrison's "chief aide" (Harold Weisberg, Oswald in New Orleans [New York: Canyon, 1967], p. 371; John R. West, Death of the President: The Warren Report on Trial in New Orleans [Covina, California: Collectors Publications, 1967]), and "special aide." (George Lardner, Jr., Washington Post, Outlook, April 2, 1967.) Garrison advocate Joachim Joesten called Gurvich one of the DA's "closest collaborators." (Joachim Joesten, The Garrison Enquiry [sic]: Truth and Consequences [London: Hills and Lacy Limited, 1967], p. 141.) Depending on which of Garrison's statements one consults, either Lou Ivon was his chief investigator (Flammonde, p. 317), Frank Klein was his chief investigator (Garrison, p. 36), or "there was no such position" on Garrison's staff at that time. (Garrison, Playboy interview, October 1967.) During his interview with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Gurvich "was asked at the outset to provide a running account of his work as Garrison's chief investigator during the early months of the Garrison probe . . ." (House Select Committee interview with William Gurvich, November 7, 1978.)
8. Lambert, p. 117 fn.
9. Film footage from Garrison press conference at Fontainebleau Motor Hotel, February 20, 1967, featured in the History Channel documentary, Time Capsule: False Witness, and cited in Lambert, p. 117 fn.
10. Lambert, p. 118. The Gurvich Detective Agency, run by Gurvich and his two brothers, Leonard and Louis, was one of New Orleans' largest private detective agencies, employing 200 people. (Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, [New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992], p. 193; 200 employees: Orleans Parish Grand Jury testimony of William Gurvich, July 12, 1967, p. 70.) Gurvich and the DA had been acquainted for some years, and Gurvich had assisted Garrison in a number of prior investigations. (James and Wardlaw, p. 149; House Select Committee interview with William Gurvich, November 7, 1978.)
11. Lambert, pp. 117-18. See also Epstein, p. 246; Paris Flammonde, The Kennedy Conspiracy (New York: Meredith, 1969), pp. 299-318; James & Wardlaw, pp. 137-38; James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), pp. 540-41.
12. New Orleans States-Item, June 24, 1967, cited in Flammonde, p. 315. Gurvich told New Orleans' WWL-TV that Garrison's master file, to which Gurvich had been privy, contained no evidence whatsoever indicating that a conspiracy had taken the life of John F. Kennedy, nor that Clay Shaw had any involvement with such a conspiracy. (History Channel documentary, Time Capsule: False Witness, original air date: November 13, 2000.) "The truth, as I see it," he told CBS, "is that Mr. Shaw should not have been arrested." (Epstein, p. 246.)
13. Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (Baltimore: Bancroft, 1998), pp. 407-08.
14. Lambert, p. 117. The Gurvich-RFK meeting took place on June 8, 1967, and the story broke in Newsday on June 23rd. A spokesperson for Senator Kennedy confirmed that the meeting had taken place. (Joesten, p. 142.) Gurvich's revelations: cf. House Select Committee interview with William Gurvich, November 7, 1978; US District Court civil action, Clay L. Shaw v. Jim Garrison, Decision of Judge Herbert Christenberry.
15. Gurvich is also completely omitted from Garrison's first book on the assassination, A Heritage of Stone (New York: Putnam, 1970).
16. Lambert, pp. 117-19.
17. Flammonde, p. 317.
18. Flammonde, p. 317.
19. Lambert, p. 55. Gurvich's investigation of White Rock Airport is mentioned in Richard Billings, investigative notes, January 25, 1967. More on Gurvich and Ferrie investigation: Richard Billings, investigative notes, February 11, 1967 and March 29, 1967.
20. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), p. 538.
21. Lambert, p. 55. "From the outset Gurvich was troubled by the conspicuousness of a 'waiting getaway pilot.' His doubts were confirmed when he discovered that Ferrie was telling the truth about his whereabouts on the day of the assassination. But when Gurvich first told Garrison he had learned from a federal marshal that Ferrie had been sitting in a federal courtroom in New Orleans, Garrison dismissed the idea. You know who they work for, he said." See also Kirkwood, p. 538.
22. Richard Billings, investigative notes, January 25, 1967, February 11, 1967, and February 26, 1967. Assisted alternately by NODA investigator Lynn Loisel and Assistant DA James Alcock, Gurvich made several return trips to Dallas, where he made several unsuccessful attempts to interview Arcacha. (Richard Billings, investigative notes, January 25, 1967, February 11, 1967, and February 26, 1967; Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case [New York: Potter, 1969], pp. 183-84; Harold Weisberg, Oswald in New Orleans [New York: Canyon, 1967], p. 359.)
23. Richard Billings, investigative notes, February 11, 1967. See also Memorandum from William Gurvich to Jim Garrison, February 14, 1967, JFK Record No. 180-10085-10396; Memorandum from William Gurvich to Jim Garrison, April 7, 1967, JFK Record No. 180-10070-10316.
24. Memorandum from Alvin V. Oser to Jim Garrison, January 30, 1967, JFK Record No. 180-10070-10346; Memorandum from William Gurvich to Jim Garrison, February 14, 1967, JFK Record No. 180-10076-10086; Memorandum from William Gurvich to Jim Garrison, March 22, 1967, JFK Record No. 180-10076-10099.
25. Richard Billings, investigative notes, February 26, 1967 and February 27, 1967.
26. Cf. Jim Garrison, Playboy interview, October 1967; Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), pp. 37-49. Gurvich was also instrumental in developing information about an alleged 1961 arms burglary in Houma, Louisiana, that involved Arcacha, David Ferrie and Gordon Novel, among others.
27. Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Potter, 1969), p. 87; History Channel documentary, Time Capsule: False Witness, Lambert, p. 6.
28. Richard Billings, investigative notes, March 7, 1967.
29. Vernon Bundy, Jr., interview at Orleans Parish Prison, by William Gurvich, Charlie Jonau, and Cliency Navarre, March 16, 1967, cf. Lambert, p. 100.
30. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), pp. 163-64.
31. Epstein, p. 246. Cited as evidence by Garrison advocates: cf. William Davy, Let Justice Be Done (Reston, Virginia: Jordan, 1999), pp. 287-88 fn. 20.
32. Cf. Richard Billings, investigative notes, April 15-16, 1967; Grand Jury testimony of William Gurvich, June 28, 1967, pp. 19, 24-25; Grand Jury testimony of William Gurvich, July 12, 1967, p. 52. On June 10 two days after his meeting with RFK Gurvich was in New York interviewing a witness in the case.
33. (Joachim Joesten, The Garrison Enquiry [sic]: Truth and Consequences [London: Hills and Lacy Limited, 1967], p. 141.)