In the fall of 1992, Marilyn Colman and I traveled to New Orleans to visit our friend Suzanne White ,who recently relocated from the Monterey Peninsula to take the position of Program Directer for the University of New Orleans public radio station. Prior to that, She held the same position at public radio station KAZU FM in Pacific Grove, California.
Marilyn and I produced and co-hosted a weekly investigative news program entitled The Lighthouse Report on public radio station KAZU FM for 8 years. Perry Russo was only one of many we interviewed concerning the JFK assassination.
We wish to express our appreciation to Ms. White for helping us to make to following interview possible.
Perry Raymond Russo may have been the most important witness in establishing the knowledge of a plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, prior to November 22,1963.
Perry Raymond Russo was born on May 14, 1941, to Francis Raymond Russo and Morie Kimbrell Russo. Perry spent most of his early years in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. He attended Our Lady of the Sea elementary school, maintaining about a C + average, and then went on to Colton Junior High School. In 1959 he was graduated from McDonogh High School. Noting that he was very active in school affairs, his brother recalled that Perry once outpolled a fellow student 400 to 70 votes for the class vice-presidency. First enrolling at Tulane university, Russo remained for two years and then, because his Catholic father wished it, he transferred to Loyola University and took his political science degree there in 1964. Perry's mother died in 1963. Francis Russo, his father, lived at 4607 Elysian Fields and was employed as a machinist at the Champion Rings Service. His brother Edwin, twenty-eight years old, took a master's degree at Tulane, and became an engineering instructor at Louisiana State University while studying for his doctorate. Married, he had three children. Perry Russo worked for a financial division of the General Electric Company, but when he left his father's residence in 1966 to move to Baton Rouge he took a position as a salesman with the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Taylor Bernard, his superior, regarded Russo as one of the better newer sales persons, saying he was reliable and had done his job well. The Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964 drew Russo into his initial affiliation with the Republican party and he supported the Senator's Presidential efforts, although he has indicated that he might have been a little more at home with a more liberal candidate.(1)
It is unfortunate that, due the Mr. Russo's untimely death August 16th ,1995, the five-member Assassination Records Review Board established by the JFK Act, signed into law by President George Bush and sworn in on April 11, 1994, which came to New Orleans just one month and nineteen days earier to research and collect Jim Garrison files on the assassination investigation he conducted for the shaw trial and its aftermath, would be unable to call him as a witness based on the testimony he gave in the Shaw Trial.
Perry Russo testified about a "gathering" at David Ferrie's apartment. Russo stated that when he dropped in at Ferrie's place, "some where around the middle of September 1963," an informal gather ing – which he described as "some sort of party" – was just breaking up. Some of Ferrie's usual bevy of youngsters were there but soon left. Russo said a former girlfriend of his, Sandra Moffett, was also there for a while. After she departed, there remained, according to Russo, a scattering of anti-Castro Cubans – a group which occasionally came by to visit Ferrie. A few of them stayed on for a little while. Also there was a tall, distinguished-looking man who had what Russo described as "white hair."Ferrie introduced the man to Russo as "Clem Bertrand." Russo remembered having seen the tall, white-haired man once before, when President Kennedy was in New Orleans for the dedication of the Nashville Street Wharf. Russo had noticed the man because he was the only one not looking at Kennedy. The man had kept studying the crowd, and Russo had concluded that he was a Secret Service agent. At the gathering at the apartment, Russo recalled, Ferrie introduced him to a young man who was called "Leon Oswald." But Russo could not firmly identify this man as the same man he later saw on television as the suspect in the assassination, I,ee Harvey Oswald. After the others departed, only "Oswald," Bertrand, Ferrie, Russo, and several of the Cubans remained.(2)
As described in James DiEugenio's book, Destiny Betrayed(JFK,Cuba and the Garrison Case), "The group", reported Russo, discussed Cuban-American politics and everyone expressed their distaste for both Castro and Kennedy. Then, the assassination of Fidel Castro was raised, but Bertrand noted that there would be a real problem getting at him inside Cuba.
Around this time the Cubans left, and only Ferrie, Oswald, Bertrand, and Russo remained. Ferrie continued the conversation saying that if they could not get at Castro, they certainly had access to Kennedy. Russo said this was characteristic of Ferrie. Since he had known him, Ferrie had become more and more embittered at the President. Russo had no liking for Kennedy either. He was a Republican and a Goldwater supporter. Joined by their stated hatred of JFK, the men now turned to the details of a plot to do away with him. Ferrie became intense. Pacing the floor, he expostulated on the way to do it: in a "triangulation of crossfire" – shooting at Kennedy from three directions. Ferrie insisted this would ensure that one of the shots would be fatal. As Ferrie became more excited and voluble, Bertrand remained calm, smoking, and added, coolly, that if it happened, they had to be away from the scene. Ferrie said he would be at Southeastern Louisiana campus in Hammond. Bertrand said he would be on a business trip to the West Coast. Russo realized that the discussion had now transcended the hypothetical. They were talking about where they would be when it occurred. Indeed, on his way back from Texas the weekend of the assassination, Ferrie did go see a friend at the university in Hammond. And on November 22, Shaw did have a speaking engagement in San Francisco. Ferrie kept on talking about a triangulated crossfire. But Russo was now tired and his memory weak. Ferrie drove him home that night.(3)
There has been quite a lot of controversy regarding the testimony and the character of Perry Russo. It is unfortunate that Perry Russo has never had the opportunity publicly respond to many of the so called critics other than through sound bite interviews etc.
For this reason and because,as radio journalist, we feel one should be allowed to tell their story in their own words; we wish to share what we believe may be the last complete interview given by Mr. Russo for the record. That is why it is entitled:
New Orleans :October 10, 1992
Marilyn Colman :
Will Robinson :
Perry Raymond Russo:
I think one of the questions that has always been in my mind in studying the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is... why New Orleans?"
Well, New Orleans in the early sixties was, for two reasons, a hotbed of anti-Kennedy sentiment. The first and least organized of the sentiment were the people that were the segregationists of the fifties thirties and forties. These people hated Kennedy with a passion. He had fought with Governor Wallace, he fought with the other civil rights things he had visited in 1960. Martin Luther King in one of the jail houses in Alabama and he represented a drastic change to the social fabric of the South. New Orleans was historically the leader of the South of opinions, of style, of tradition and so on and most of the other cities attempted to emulate it. So the concept of Kennedy as a "nigger lover" was very profound here... was a very impressive feeling...we don't want to vote for the "nigger lover" and so Kennedy was despised in that regard. However there was an ambivalence here. In this particular city (it's a Catholic city and he was the first Catholic president) and those that were racists or segregationists hard core - that fought tooth and nail for the continuation of the old system - Kennedy represented nothing but an anathema to the system here. And at the same time I guess he was appreciated for being a Catholic president. There was a group here and it was probably the intelligencia of the Cuban exiles at this time located here in New Orleans, as opposed to the vast majority of the Cuban exiles who are congregated in southern Florida and in the very tips of southern Florida. These were the masses of the Cuban who have come out of Bastista in 1958,'59 and '60 and then settled in the United States. These people were anxious to return. Each day that passed made it more and more difficult and each child that they had made it more and more difficult for these people to return. They did not want to remain in the United States. They did not want to become US citizens. They had no affinity or love for this country, except a respect and an appreciation of what had gone on, with the help and assistance given to those people who had been kicked out or had left Cuba because of the Batista overthrow. So as time passed these people saw children growing up learning to play American baseball, learning to go to American teenage clubs, going to American schools learning English and, learning Spanish somewhere in high school they could possibly get back to their heritage. These people, the adults, became more and more disoriented and became disillusioned with the United States' inability to do something as regards Fidel Castro. The Bay of Pigs occurred and everybody in the United States including the Cuban movement here knew what had happened. We had in fact turned coward. And that cowardice had fallen on Kennedy's shoulders for having waited until supposedly the Cubans had reached the beachhead and then said, "well we don't want to have a third world war". He can't offer the support, fulfill the agreement he made of the support. The Cubans came back bitter and very determined that they would mount a second invasion and they would do it on their own. They had no use for the United States' promises made through either the CIA or made through the Kennedys' statements. They had no use for that. And so these Cubans began working hard. It was the ethic in the Cuban community to work as hard as possible and as much as possible with which to gather up money to buy guns and munitions and store them. And these guns and munitions would later then be transhipped to another location with which to made an invasion. That concept of a second invasion was chosen somewhere in '62 I guess, or early 63, to be Guatemala. And there was to be an invasion into the western side of Cuba from Guatemala. The Cuban movement, or the Cubans that I encountered here in New Orleans were hell-bent on making sure that they would have that opportunity. These people were very determined. They saw their children growing up and each day, as I said before, passed. Each day made it harder. At that time that they would have the opportunity to return to their home country because now they would have the difficulty of not only going back to their homeland, but of persuading their children who were becoming a few years older why it is that they have to go back to Havana, to go back to Cuba, if in fact they were successful in overthrowing Fidel If that were the case these children, these kids, boys and girls would have nothing to do with it. They don't know Havana. They just want to play at the local playground, the local school and go to school and go out on dates and so on. These people, the children were becoming Americanized. So the desperation was beginning to set in. Now there were a series of events in the 60's and late '62 that were read by the Cuban community differently than were read by the rest of the United States. Particularly important was the Cuban Missile Crisis that occurred in October of 1962. Here, we are told by US news that there is a standoff between Kennedy and Kruschev, and at the last minute before the blockade is breached by the Russian transport ships carrying supposed missiles, that Kruschev blinked and turned and walked away and said he would withdraw his missiles. Not so. We knew, or maybe not ourselves, but the Cuban people knew and said it very vocally that there had been a deal made. They had been betrayed. They had been sold down the river. What did they mean by that? Perhaps best revealed by Robert Kennedy in a probably 1966 US News and World Report interview. Robert Kennedy actually lists what happened because he was the negotiator or the person that dealt between John Kennedy and Kruschev in making this deal. Cubans would withdraw the missiles. And six months after the missiles were withdrawn from Cuba (which were non-functional, which were non-operational) we would then withdraw our missiles from Turkey. That was the first secret part of the agreement. Since Kennedy did not want that particular piece of information to be blasted across the newspapers, it would make him look like a very ineffectual president at best... that was kept secret. So in Turkey we lived by that, we withdrew our missiles and that six months began and...we have no missiles in Turkey. We have none. Then the second part of the agreement: we would honor the Soviet alliance with Cuba insofar as we would not allow another invasion to occur. Now every Cuban in New Orleans, every Cuban I encountered, (Dave Ferrie not being a Cuban) formulated this view. That this was a betrayal, that this was a stab in the back. This was a terrible thing that had been done.
I just want to interject one thing. OK, though you were saying that the Cubans didn't necessarily want to deal with the CIA on the whole thing or the intelligence community, why did they get mixed up with people like Guy Bannister. Obviously with the SchlemBerger arms cache you have people like Guy Bannister, people like Gordon Nobel you have...Dave Ferrie, and it was like they were still working together.
What you are saying is why didn't the Cubans want to get involved, which the Cubans did not. They no longer.. they had lost a certain amount of respect, in fact a great deal of respect, for the US pledge to get rid of communism in the Northern Hemisphere. It was not that the Cubans wanted to deal with the CIA - but the CIA wanted to deal with the Cubans. Very important difference there, because the CIA would send its people out and its contacts and its people had been in other projects over the years and it would send these people out to make contact and to help along with the movement to free Cuba. So here we have a situation where there are CIA people.. now David Ferrie, the Ace and Alliance pilot who figured prominently in the summer of '63 with Lee Oswald. Dave Ferrie is supposedly in the Bay of Pigs dropping in supplies. He's a pilot,from Eastern, dropping in supplies and ferreting in men and so on and so forth. Supposedly that was his function. Now it's not unreasonable for me to assume and to realize that contact was made through him ..."help".. The CIA was an independent agency. It was not any oversight congressional committee: "We don't approve of this agreement we don't want you to do that". The CIA formulated assassination plans at that time; tried to destabilize governments. As late as the Nixon era the CIA supposedly shot Allende in the palace down in Chile.
I think that what you are saying proves out because Cuba has been left alone these many thirty years.
Absolutely, absolutely! And no one... and now there is another point to this. It was the opinion of the Cubans here that they had been betrayed by John Kennedy. Now being a guest in a foreign country, they couldn't make that point. These were extremely patriotic people! You are not dealing with run of the mill lazy Americans who couldn't care less what happened down the block, or worse yet, in a foreign country. You are dealing with people that are out of their own country, that wanted it back dearly. Very very volatile, very very emotional people They want their country back yesterday. And they were betrayed by the United States. And yet they still saw a possibility. They felt that there were enough Cuban people inside of Cuba that once a beachhead was breached and once they had been able to accomplish that and get inland, that mere presence would force these everyday Cubans in the cities and so on to jump up and throw Fidel and all the scum out of Cuba. That was their theory. All they needed was just tolerance by the United States. The CIA people, uncontrolled by anyone not even perhaps the President of the United States, fomented that... "Yes! let's get Castro! Yes, lets get Castro!. Do anything you can"! It didn't make any difference to them. So in fact the CIA began to funnel money in here through its normal contacts. Its normal people who had been operatives for these people in the past.
And that may have been Clay Shaw?
...and that may have been Clay Shaw. Dave Ferrie claimed to have been working for them prior to this so I would assume that they would look in their files and say, "Oh Ferrie... David Woodrow Ferrie...lets contact him and see what he'll do". Ok so that occurred. It was in January of '63 that Bobby Kennedy, in this interview, states that he went to the President...maybe March of '63...and he said that the spirit of the agreement with Kruschev is that we're not to allow an invasion from the United States. However, you are facing an election in '64 and in March of '63 he begins to think forward to the election. Bobby Kennedy was the Attorney General.. Bobby Kennedy was also his most trusted advisor. "You are facing an election coming up. Why allow something to happen when we could just as easily interpret that agreement to mean that we will not allow an invasion of Cuba from anywhere into Cuba. Cuba will from hereafter forever just be a nuisance". And that is what they have always been since this date. So, by executive order, John Kennedy authorized the infiltration of the Cuban movement. By executive order to the Attorney General who then gives it off to the FBI and so on. Now the CIA is international. The FBI is supposed to be domestic. So the FBI begins to infiltrate the Cuban movement at this time and begins to...just to see what it is doing...what kind of strength it has. What kind of plans it has and so it goes on with this. Now you go back to the October of 1962 Crisis and the second agreement is that we will not allow an invasion. That is further interpreted not from just the mainland because if we in fact allow an invasion from Mexico or Guatemala Honduras or El Salvador to the east into Western Cuba, what have you done but done the same thing but called it by another name, you are sponsoring an invasion. So that was not acceptable in the finest interpretation of the agreement. The third thing of the agreement, the most symbolic thing of the agreement and Bobby Kennedy refers to is that we guaranteed that Fidel Castro's beard could grow as long as his toes... all the way to his feet. We would never ever allow any attempt on him or any destabilization or any assassination attempts that may have not been because the CIA was trying to foment it all the while. So you had uncontrolled arms that one hand didn't know what the other hand was doing.
This brings up the very important point about Oswald. There is the belief in the possibility that Oswald might have been one of these moles working for the FBI within the anti-Castro Cuban community there. I mean, I understand that's something that comes to mind anyway, because it was alluded to, I believe, in the movie itself and I've seen it in print.
My encounter with Oswald was at a meeting in '63 where I had gone just happenstance to visit Dave Ferrie on an evening. As Dave Ferrie came down the spiral staircase, it was a sort of spiral staircase...
You were an insurance salesman at that time.
No, at this time I'm a student. You see I'm in school. OK. He... this is the late summer of '63. Dave Ferrie has come over to my house with Cubans on occasion...I'd been to his house. There had been Cubans and various other people with him at various times which...(how much faith you put into these people and their claims and their talk...is its real? I'm not sure)..so at this particular night, for lack of having anything else to do on a hot summer New Orleans night I then go...
How old were you then
So you were a student.
Yeah, at Loyola.
And obviously, (after spending three days in the French Quarter), it was even an exciting place to go wasn't it?
The French Quarter...You look for excitement, something to do . There was always something to do. It's a city that rarely sleeps. There's always bars, there always music, there's always jazz and at this time there was always Dave Ferrie. He seemed to be up all the time, 24 hours a day. He was very very insomniac so to speak.
And he was very welcoming to young men and to the excitement of the Quarter.
Now Dave Ferrie and I had prior contacts for a year and a half. Some bad and some good. But anyway in this particular instance and visit, unnannouced or I didn't tell him that...and then Dave Ferrie comes down and as we're walking up the staircase of his house he says, "oh yeah, I have a roommate, Oswald." I thought nothing about it . I knew Dave Ferrie was bizarre. He went in for bizarre-natured relationships. It wasn't a big deal whatsoever.
People were very integrated among that society that I've experienced in the Quarter. Everyone accepts everyone, don't they?
Right. Yeah, you have to. You have to accept them at face value. You don't know whether or not that's a valid analysis of the person you're dealing with. You have to wait over time. But you accept them at face value. I walked up and upon entering the house, the room...I walked up and Oswald is sitting down fooling with a rifle, cleaning it or doing something with it. And I walked and turned and just out of a natural way I have, I stuck out my hand to shake hands. He jumped up and lunged at me and said "What in the fuck is he doing here?" And I backed up and I said, "Fuck you" and with some other expletive and then Dave Ferrie jumped in between and told Oswald "he's alright".
So exactly as it was portrayed in JFK is exactly the way it happened.
Very very jumpy, very hyper. Sort of disoriented, would you say?
No! Absolutely not!
Very focused. Yeah, on whatever. And he objected to my presence. So then, you know, I didn't need him. Who was he? I didn't care. And then I went in and then there happened to be a few Cubans there. Some I had seen before. Ferrie, there were some people that came in and out. Shaw, who I hadn't seen before and various other people coming in and out. It seemed like there was always a milling of people about. Now, so the very oldest time when I first was interviewed by the DA of New Orleans. For lack of any other word I called it a party. It wasn't!
It was just people hanging out.
You know why we can understand that because I... in my...at the same age you were...I was in the Haight Ashbury. And it was exactly the same. There were houses in the area...which was the Haight Ashbury...people went in these houses and out of these houses. Just hung around. It wasn't really a party. Everyone knew everyone. When I speak with people about knowing some interesting characters that we know about, for instance Michael Reconisciutto which is an important character, everyone knew people. You saw them but you didn't really know them.
What you are saying is that you'd get together. People got together. It was a hot night. People started drinking, sitting around. Shooting the bull.
Ok, so this particular night at this time there seemed to be...Dave Ferrie seems...you have to understand Dave Ferrie. First of all, he was an Eastern Airlines pilot who had been bumped from the Airline for allegedly putting a jet on automatic and riding around and supposedly having sex up in the air while the jet is on automatic. He made phenomenal amounts of money compared to that time...you know that would be huge amounts of money. He had no dependents except his mother and so he lead the life he wanted to lead. He was an adventuresome type of person. There wasn't anything that he wasn't ready to attempt to conquer or challenge that he wouldn't take. But he was obsessed with the Latin type for himself, sexually and otherwise. But the Latin type was something he was very interested in. So that didn't seem out of the way. I had seen him with so many different types, but you have to understand that Dave Ferrie was the center axis of a wheel and all the spokes moved from Dave Ferrie and none as you pointed out, none ever touched the other. He had a relationship with me. He had a relationship with Oswald. He had a relationship with Shaw. He had a relationship with the Cubans. He had a relationship with the others and they did not have interrelationships. You dealt with Dave Ferrie to Dave Ferrie and outward from him. So therefore, Dave Ferrie, who, on this particular night was absolutely obsessed with Cuba. He was pacing back and forth and ranting and raving on his coffee table, which sat in the middle of the room. Always You could find one cup stuck on top of another cup full of cigarette butts. You'd find beer cans here and there. He was a bachelor. He had absolutely no sense of keeping things in order. And everything in his home...there were little cages with mice and rats and so on. And these are things that... he had doctorate degrees on the wall from universities. Don't know if they were valid. In that day you couldn't purchase those things. Nowadays you can order through the mail and become a PHD overnight.
And he looked very bizarre.
OK, the bizarre nature of his look was...that was my first encounter. We can go back to that in a little bit but this particular night... pacing back and forth, pacing back and forth. He was very frustrated. This is after the raids that the FBI made on August 3rd, 7th and 10th I think of 1963 on his munitions dump. Not his, but on the Cuban munitions dumps around.. Schlumberger,Houma and the other areas around the lake where guns were being stored and he was just ... now it was so, I guess, decided by several circles that not only would (they) not allow an invasion from another country they were going to actively frustrate it. So someone was reporting where these things were and someone was giving them very good information. And then all of a sudden, if you read the articles of the Times Picayune, local newspaper of New Orleans, at that time you will see that all of the places that were raided no arrests were made. Because, what are you doing arresting people who are patriots storing munitions for no other reason than to blow a communist head off in Cuba? Why would you arrest somebody? You couldn't do that. So all you did was confiscate the weapons. This meant to the Cubans again another sign of betrayal who enunciated it very clearly to Dave Ferrie, that this was betrayal - that they could not redeem themselves. They could not bounce back from, because now they would not be able to invade on their own. Money that they had...these Cubans were absolutely the best hardest working people in the whole. They would put Americans to shame with their long hours. They were collecting... at that time you could buy anything you wanted at the local military store. You could buy hand grenades, you could buy rifles, you can buy bazookas. You can buy anything you had money for. There were no laws against it. You could transship it out. Until April or May when, after recommendation by Bobby Kennedy, Jack Kennedy authorized the Commerce Department, the State Department to say you must get a permit to transship anything over a size of a 12 gauge shotgun out of this country. If you get those two you can ship it. But if you don't you can't. You could still buy them. They were still thinking of shipping them. They would figure a way out. They were very very aggressive people about figuring out ways that they would do without. So you can buy another weapon because that will return us to the homeland...that will return us to Cuba.. So Ferrie was upset. There was a map. I distinctly remember a map of Cuba and I also distinctly remember that there was an old phonograph machine with a 78, I guess, record album on there of a speech by whoever...probably Fidel. It could have been Raul, it could have been Che Guevera, I wouldn't have known. Probably Fidel ranting and raving. I could pick up words here and a little bit lingo and the Cubans here were just absolutely incensed by everything said out loud on this record. And the Cubans were incensed by this. Just upset about this. And then over the evening there was Ferrie parading around..."we cannot invade, we don't have any guns what are we going to use..bows and arrows? you know this is really the shits". You know and he's back and forth back and forth, you know... upset. And then by contribution from everybody around it was, you know, sort of...we got to assassinate Castro. That's it! That'll work! Assassinate Castro. That'll work! OK.."
What amazes me about Ferrie in this scene. Now as I said again it takes an understanding of New Orleans to understand this. That fact is this is very open. Ferrie didn't try to hide his sentiments?
OK the fact that it was open - there was an anti-Kennedy sentiment that he was no good. Therefore for whatever reason, because he had integrated the schools and everyday you heard about a new court order and everyday you heard about the legislature trying to circumvent that with nullification. None of which worked and the Attorney General's office, Bobby Kennedy - Kennedy was a name was very aggressive in pursuing the black vote.
So Kennedy could have been assassinated in New Orleans. The fact that he ended up being assassinated in Dallas - it could have easily have happened here.
Oh yeah sure. It could have easily happened here.
Would you say that the South, in general, was very angry with John F. Kennedy?
The South in general...that is why in the '64 election we have Johnson running against Goldwater and I am a rabid Goldwater man. They are only five states that go for Goldwater. Every one of the five was in the South. There was Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia. All five go for Goldwater...their electoral votes. The rest of the states go for Johnson in a huge landslide in which ...the great mandate. Down south it was not. He was an anathema too because he came in worse than Kennedy concerning the racial situation down here. But the Kennedy thing...Dave sort of began to formulate this plot to assassinate Castro: And then what happens if you're unsuccessful? What happens if you have problems getting into Cuba.? Oh, he had all this worked out. He in his mind had all this worked out. "Send in three assassins. They must be willing to die." Well there's people, there are people that are willing to die in the fuselage. "They must have visas that is very important because they would have to look for (the) right time in which to make the attack against Fidel. So they would have to have freedom of movement around Cuba...and if there were a seven hour speech in Havana then they could sit there and listen to that and figure out maybe here, maybe next time...whenever."
So he could not do that by himself, he had to have the intelligence agencies working with him.
OK it's my opinion that Oswald went to Mexico City for the sole purpose of getting the visa. In order to do that he must look, in all public appearances, to be very pro-Cuba. If you think back to the sixties and early seventies H.Rap Brown, Eldridge Cleaver, Newton, Seal, all of them end up in Havana on Havana Radio blasting the imperialist colonialist enslaving United States. That we have a racist society that exploits people and so therefore there will be revolution because there's going to be revolution in the streets. So how do you create this with Oswald? Oswald is a good choice for a number of reasons. One is he has a Russian wife. Two is he's an official defector who reenters the United States very easily. So he is now associated with anti-Castro Cubans but that is relatively secret. The Cuban secret police is not on the streets of New Orleans you see. So he has to create some kind of public image of being pro-Marxist. Pro Castro, pro Russian. So how does he do that? Well he comes to meetings with us and then the next day he's out on the street, or the next week , or next couple of weeks, he's out on the street distributing pamphlets for Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Hands off Cuba Committee, New Orleans Chapters. Those chapters didn't exist. But yet he's doing that. And...
Working out of the office of Guy Bannister.
Right, working out of the office of Guy Bannister and ...'
Did you know Guy Bannister?
No I didn't. So he's doing that. He gets slugged on the street, pushing match. He sticks out his chest. "Hit me." He gets arrested, brought down to First District, no central booking here in the city at that time, brought down to First District. A man with...
Did Joe Carlos Bringier the person who...
I know who he is but no, I didn't know him at the time. OK he goes down and gets booked out on a ten dollar cash bond and what does he do the next day? He ends up on WWL Radio debating Ed Scanlon ...on the relative merits of Marxism vs capitalism, whatever, and from seven to ten, nine to ten, I'm not sure what it is the CIA paid for this broadcast because its clear channel 50 thousand watts zoom straight into Cuba! So here is the Cuban police...this guy, well he's one of us, he's a friend of ours . Yeah, they probably have a big file on him. So this is decided then you know that Lee Oswald is to go to Mexico City to get the visa. Which he goes. The CIA is there but they will not reveal what it is that they found out about his entry into the Cuban embassy . For some reason or another the Cuban embassy turns down his application. Every other anti-US person who has gotten any notoriety will end up ...
Well that brings up another gray area because there is also speculation that Oswald himself never went to Mexico. Because when they did produce a picture that was supposed to be Oswald out in front of the Russian embassy I think it was, it wasn't Oswald.
And you mentioned that you knew this gentleman that was the spitting image of Oswald.
Right. There was a fellow that Dave Ferrie had, who was a gun enthusiast and supposedly a great shot.
Not William Seymore, but Santana.
Santana, yeah. And Santana - oh he would go Cuba. But he was wanted in Cuba. He was wanted in Cuba for crimes against the state or whatever thing, and his visa might have been found out. But at least under the name of Oswald when, for most, ninety nine out of a hundred people he would have fit. There would have never been any question. Boom! Stamp the visa you're in! Go about your business. He spoke Spanish. He could probably handle himself and he would have probably been very effective.
You're talking about Santana
Santana Yeah. Now I don't know if that was going to be the case, but that was one of Dave Ferrie's friends.
There were sightings of several people who called themselves Oswald. There was a situation where there was a gentleman going to buy cars. We don't think they were Oswald. Lots of other researchers don't believe that it was Oswald.
So now that we don't get confused, this meeting, or not this meeting, this "get together" at Dave Ferrie's house in which Oswald was present... now, was that the one where Clay Shaw was present?
Yeah, sure thing.
Now how did he come about into this. Because you said at one point that before that, you had never known of the connection between all these people.
OK there was no connection between one to the other that was very obvious. None of the groups mixed well. I was always asked who did Oswald associate with. He didn't associate with anybody.
He was just a friend of Ferrie's.
Yeah he was a friend of Ferrie's who sat there...who I didn't get along with and he sat there and he was observant. Well, that could be said of a number of people. The only one that didn't fit was Shaw 'cause he was dressed too well to belong with this group.
Did you know who he was at the time? Or you had no idea. I had seen him before. I thought he was secret service.
He looked like we'd say "the heat".
He looked like heat. Well, when I had seen him in 1962 with the Federal ...the National Avenue Wharf here in New Orleans, I was at Loyola University and it was announced - of course it was in the paper...that classes were going to be called at 1:30 or 1:00 to go over if you were interested. Run over to National Wharf which is not far from Loyola University. And you would have an opportunity to see a president...a Catholic president who was coming to dedicate the National Federal Wharf, which he did. So I went over and I got over there a little late. And I got there just about the same time that the motorcade was pulling on to the outside apron of the Wharf and it was exciting and all that kind of stuff. And at last I would see a president. And see him with all his entourage. So I went in the back of the cavernous auditorium or cavernous wharf warehouse type of building..huge thing. Stretching three or four straight long blocks. They may have had two thousand chairs there for visitors and people to go and hear the President speak and see all the regalia and all the excitement and all that. And there may have been that many people there. Toward the back of the auditorium as I walked in, the one person that caught my attention was Shaw. I looked and he was the only person not looking at the stage. And so I figured oh well he's secret service. Because that would be the job. Whey wouldn't you look and hear what the president had to say and see all the excitement. He wasn't. He was looking the other way. And so that was all to that. There was the only other time I had seen him. So anyway getting back to that particular night...Ferrie, being challenged by various people about whether or not it's possible that you could shoot Castro, and a very small percentage of being able to get away with it. And then assume that the people would rise u,p if that were possible. No one at the police station, heavily armed everywhere. Well that's not... you can't... that won't work... you know and various people indicated problems with that particular thing. So someone said the real bastard is Kennedy. If we can't get Castro get Kennedy. Blame it on someone that likes Castro and the US will go to war. Just simply we'll go to war in a rage and Castro will be eliminated and that will be the end of that. And the Cubans can return to their homeland and everybody will be happy and we'll have no communists in North America or South America. Well, that was challenged too. You know various people.. Shaw....Oswald had remarked too, I'm not sure...I'll have to think about this as to what was possible about that. One challenge to Ferrie was you can't get close enough to the President in order to pull this off with any degree of accuracy or any degree of hopeful expectations of being successful. Ferrie said, "what are you talking about?" He said when Eisenhower came to New Orleans in 1956 or '58 or something on a visit, he came to New Orleans. He said, now either he's saying he or he's saying he knows someone who did, went all the way up to the limousine and touched it before he was stopped. You know, trying to go up there and grab Ike's hand or something before he was stopped. "And if he can do that", he said, "carefully planned, you can execute". He said, "after all, I can fly him out the country. What I'll do is fly him down to Mexico or down to Brazil." He said, "I can handle that." He said well by going to Brazil (there) is no extradition. He said we would probably have to sacrifice someone or two. And then it would be successful. There would be an instant rage against Castro having pulled this off. That's almost what happened. On the day of the assassination Dave Ferrie ran off to Houston in a rainstorm and parked at a roller rink or an ice skating rink and stood there six of seven hours. Wouldn't let anybody use the public telephone. Nothing ever happened. He became obnoxious about preventing other people from using it and then left. He had gone and something happened. Whether or not he was going there for a pre-setup or meeting, who knows. No one knows. But it was very strange behavior on his part. Guy Bannister, for whom he had worked. Guy Bannister, on the day of the assassination or the next day, went into his house closed the door, closed the shutters and never left again. He did not operate his office. Within a week he did this. He did not operate in his office. He closed down shop and several eight months later (was) found dead at the bottom of the stairs. I know this because I know people that knew him and they said that they had to go out and bring food to him. He would call them and say well I need...
This is Guy Bannister you're talking about.
He became extremely paranoid. He thought he was going to get killed.
Well, this was after the incident which was on the day of the assassination where he pistol whipped Jack Martin.
Jack Martin, Yeah.
Yeah because, that was an amazing thing in itself. That was in the Warren Commission and how people could miss that...
Just forget it.
Well they wanted that.
Do you think that he was having a nervous breakdown or do you feel that he was killed.
No hey it was a ...he believed himself to be a target. That's what I would feel. And I believe that he did not die from falling down the steps which would have been an accidental...
That the way we feel about a lot of these deaths surrounding this whole thing.
Breaking of the neck.
It just happened all too fast.
But he completely withdrew from the world.
Ok so did ... what happened was David Ferrie finally got around to talking about getting Kennedy - shooting Kennedy.
Yeah, because he was challenged about Castro's successful...
And he was talking about...triangle or rifle fire.
yeah he said there would have to be a triangulation of crossfire and then he went around and just paced back and forth. He was drinking coffee, gulping coffee, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and he has this triangulation - he kept using his hands with the index finger and the big finger and the thumb showing it would have to come from triangulation. He said there has to be a diversionary shot. He says you do not pull off an assassination without diverting. He says no matter what you read in the books that the secret service is supposed to speed up, he said it will not. It'll be so startled, he said, they will slow down. That's what they did! And that moment, once the diversionary shot catches everybody's attention we all look to the right or to the left to see a diversionary shot. At that time the dead ringer hits and you are successful. You have to have planned escape routes beforehand. He says you have to be willing to sacrifice somebody.
So he absolutely was not shot from the back.
Well, now I can't say. He was shot in this triangulation of crossfire. He would have been shot in the crossfire. He could have been shot at one of the three legs...
Well, in relation to the head shot is what you are saying.PR From the back..
The head shot
The head shot comes from the front. So much evidence that would point... so many witnesses... so much evidence that would point to that... and for those apologists... even the medical people that come up now... you are talking about a crazy bunch of crap. That does not work! I've dealt with guns. I know the direction of fire. There is no way the body comes at you when you shoot at it.
I was in the service myself and I've shot firearms and it doesn't work that way.
It goes in line of fire, the line of direction and it's gonna move that way. And all of the apologists that will come up with these convoluted theories just to make then fit. It doesn't work.
They're desperate. OK, so picture 1963. In New Orleans I know, whenever there is any kind of a crime scene right away the police rope off everything. Do not touch, do not enter, do not cross. They gather up all the available physical evidence and they bring it in to the police stations and this is done (on) a grander scale by all the resources of the Federal Government. Get it together. Once Oswald was dead it became very easy to incriminate him. He had a Russian wife. She was not going to challenge anything anybody said. She had only been in this country a couple of years. She did not know that there were avenues to say oh no you can't say my husband did it, oh no you can't do this, you can't accuse him. No, there was no one to champion Lee Oswald. There was no one. So therefore the Federal investigative agencies that dealt with this had all of the evidence in front of them. Well we have problems. The problem is as the Zapruder film shows is this bad jerk backwards. How can we handle that? Then Senator Spector, then investigator for the Warren Commission then well...if in fact he was hit by the same bullet... you don't know all this speculation that went on in the background. And some of which then becomes plausible with the fact that there are how many volumes? 60 volumes of this stuff of evidence that was...
It was 26, I think.
26 volumes of evidence that was supposed to support this of which only three pages can with even a convolution of logic can possibly deal with this question.
See, we are all familiar with that. We want to stay on with what your involvement with this was, because...
Sure. OK, Yeah.
So the Stone's, the way the movie had this scene with David Ferrie was absolutely what happened.
Yeah, Stone, in the JFK movie that he produced, it followed true to form the Garrison case as to Garrison's presentation of evidence. The Joe Pesci handling of Dave Ferrie, that paranoia,that complete control of everything...
Manic behavior.GPR That type of personality Dave Ferrie was. And it was handled very very true to the history of that period in particular, the history of New Orleans. There other questions... you know there are five things to what we are talking about. I did not like the accents but that's my own personal opinion of the movie.
So picking up from August or early September of 1963 we have this meeting, or not meeting, this "get together" at David Ferrie's house, informal get together, and present there was Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw known at that time as Clay Burke, introduced to you as Clay Burtram and David Ferrie.
Ok Bertrand. So at that time you didn't think much of ....you didn't really take seriously the raving and ranting of Dave Ferrie was talking about concerning the possible assassination of a president.
Well ok, I don't know whether to have taken Dave Ferrie seriously at all or whether or not I made no opinion about him. I probably made no opinion about him. Because I had heard these sentiments throughout New Orleans and the surrounding parishes or counties. It was an anti...bitterness against Kennedy. "He should be dead, somebody should shoot him. I'd put up a medal to someone that shot him." Those kinds of remarks... you heard those every day. It was no different. Ferrie was a little bit different because he did say, this is the way you do it, this is what we should do, this is plan A, this is plan B. And Ferrie had always in the past been able to back up what he said with different actions and different things. However bizarre they may have been . Whether Ferrie was serious or not, don't know. But he was around the same people that showed up in Dallas. Supposedly. There was Lee Oswald in Dallas. He had been here...supposedly a roommate of Ferrie's'. Marina Oswald said that he never ever was away from her bed each night in New Orleans. That's not true. And I'm sure that she would admit to it now that he beat her. She's admitted to that and I'm sure he stormed out of there and went someplace and when he went someplace he'd (Ferrie) just (said) this is my roommate. That is how he was introduced. That didn't mean a big deal...he was unshaven. That was not a big deal to me either. So when the assassination occurred I was leaving...at twelve thirty on November 22, 1963 I left Political Science 315 for Father Clancy at Loyola University...a raving liberal nut! And I had to fight the Jesuits and fight his philosophy and fight his politics and now we had right about the angels and right below God, a President who was a Catholic. And here was Father Clancy. So I left the class. Political Science 315 convened at 12:30 or a quarter to one, whatever...So I left and I left Loyola University and was headed home, as was my occasion, and I turned on the radio. Local radio station WTIX and the WTIX announcer about 12:45 was playing rock and roll music and he .interrupts the music and says, "I don't know what this means I don't know if this is true but," he says "we just got a wire over AP wire saying that the President has been shot in Dallas. We'll get back to you as soon as we can verify this information." So I switched to another station which was a network station WDSU and began listening and they began to corroborate that. And so I drove quickly, I was six or eight blocks from Loyola Grove, back to the campus and drove in on the campus over the grass and everything else. People began to move around. Maybe they had heard something too, and to Father Clancy's 316 class, and I said, "Ha Ha Ha Your boy just got shot." And they said who?, and I said Kennedy . And the guy stood up and... "you John Bircher no good son of a bitch" in front of Father Clancy. And so I smiled and laughed and walked out of there. There was vengeance now by whomever. And then by the time I got home it was announced that they had made an arrest of an Oswald. And I said Oswald? I looked at the TV. I'm sitting down with someone and I said, when they showed his picture the first time, he showed his picture the second time. They showed his picture on TV I said, "I know that bird." And I began to become just fascinating by the turn of events and all of the evidence and within three hours you knew Oswald had done it. It was all over. He had done it. They had gotten their man. They were sure he had done it and so on. And everybody was testifying to that so that was it. I was now going to return to school. And I spoke this bit of information to other people and we talked about it, you know, and that was it. So I went about the fall school semester and continued through school and about my life. So that was what happened all the way up to that date.
It's an interesting ...you were going to a Jesuit college correct.
Jesuit university. They had Jesuit teachers there. It's a non sectarian Catholic owned university. Loyola University of the South just like Loyola University of Chicago and Loyola University of LA, right?
There were a lot of Jesuit connections to many of these stories.
Well I wouldn't doubt that. The Jesuits were the intellectual arm of the Catholic Church created back as a counterbalance to the reformation when Martin Luther and the others came about with their arguments against Catholic heresy, the Jesuits came out with their affirmation of Catholic theology as being correct and having a continuous nature all the way back to Peter. And so the Jesuits were the intelligent arm of the Catholic Church and they still remain so. They are the teaching arm of the Catholic Church for the most part.
Ok, before we get on a completely different subject...so now we have Kennedy dead and a reporting that Oswald is the suspect...did it. Now what did that do to you? What started clicking in your mind ...did something click in your mind at all about the meetings with Ferrie and all them?
Well, nothing exceptional because he was just one of a number a characters that had said essentially the same thing. I was more fascinated by the films and by the interviews that they were doing over in Dallas and other places that Oswald had been. When it was connected up that he was from New Orleans that's the first time that I really thought well, that's the same guy. I'd seen a picture of him and it looked like him. But it was now the same guy and he was from New Orleans. There couldn't have been two, you know with that look and with that name.
So sure. you didn't see one of the people that they claimed were the Oswald doubles or the lookalikes?
Well, you see that has always been a question about that. Because Oswald as I remembered it, and the encounter at Ferrie's apartment, when Ferrie told me as we walked up the stairwell, he said, Oh I have a roommate – Oswald, he gave me the first name. I thought he said Leon. But it may not have been. Yeah, it may have been Lee. I...walked up the steps and then that bad encounter with Oswald and then went about my business. And we didn't have much interchange then.
So what was your first encounter with Jim Garrison?
Well, in February of '67 I'm in Baton Rouge going to school and also working up there for Equitable Life Insurance Co. and the newspapers in Baton Rouge then had...an article comes out: "New Orleans District Attorney reopens an inquiry into the Kennedy assassination." Well this is interesting. And so there's a quick rehashing in the articles that are up there: Kennedy assassination - that there was a New Orleans connection to what happened in Dallas. So, and then all of a sudden there is a reference to David Woodrow Ferrie. And I'm sitting there reading that on a Wednesday or a Thursday and I said, David Woodrow Ferrie...could it be the same one? The next day his picture is in the paper in Baton Rouge and its the one and only. So at this time I penned out a letter, wrote a letter to the DA's Office, knowing that if I didn't contact them they would contact me. I would have to have been somewhere in the notebook somewhere on a telephone inscription or something...or my name.... (they) would contact me. Why not contact them first.
So at this time did you start thinking about that night with Oswald and Ferrie?
Sure. And so I wrote a letter saying "I would be in on Saturday the 26th of February of '67. That I had known Dave Ferrie and I had heard him state that he was going to shoot the President and it wouldn't be very long. So if you have someone at the DA office I will be there at six pm Saturday evening. If no one is there I will assume that you are not interested." So on Friday, because of a lack of funds...'cause I was in college at the time and was absolutely broke...for lack of funds...I started thinking that Kansas was playing LSU baseball Saturday that somehow or another I just wasn't going to go to New Orleans 'cause I couldn't afford it. It would cost two or three dollars in gas and I didn't have a place to stay and so on. So a number of changes came into being and so I decided not to go to Baton Rouge. And then I called Baton Rouge Detective Bureau or Sheriff s Office and asked them about the investigation. I was relatively naive in the sense of knowing whether or not they would...I thought they would have at least some interest in it. The Baton Rouge Detective Bureau person that answered said that they didn't know anything about this DA Garrison's inquiry. "But, I said, "was there any possibility that you could ask me pertinent questions and take a stenography of it?" And they said, "well we wouldn't know what to ask." I said, "well when can I get someone to do this." And they said, "well call the newspaper. They'll do it." So I called Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, The State Times and talked to Jack Kemp or someone there. Eventually talked to Jack Kemp and then an interview was given. And then from there that same night, Friday night at about ...well I went to the baseball game. I went somewhere and I came home at 9:00 o'clock. I said my duty was done. I did not know it was in the newspaper. So I come home and all of a sudden there people everywhere around the house. WBRZ Channel Two News; WAFB had notes in the doorway: "please contact me" and so on. And so I'm startled by all this and then someone from WBRC pulls up: "You Perry Russo? We want to talk to you." Maybe it was WAFB, I'm not sure. I think it was WAFB. And so I said, "well, what is it about?" "Well about the article in the State Times, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate." Well you know anyhow I was just dragged away and kept a prisoner at Channel 2 Studios, maybe it was. They wouldn't let me out (of) there after talking to me. They didn't want the other station to get it. So they kept me until 5:00 so that the other station wouldn't be able to get its news on its news. You know, I guess well I didn't have any idea what they were, why they were, we'll get you a sandwich you just stay here. The guy who gave you a ride here isn't around. We can't give you a ride back. Well I had no money for that, ok well, I'll eat a sandwich. And then I went eventually ...I started thinking that maybe they were playing games, which they were, and so then I eventually went home. When I got home... I'm home an hour or half an hour and there's a knock at the front door. At this time I don't want to see anybody... nobody. There's a knock at the front door and a guy identifies himself. He says, "I'm Andrew Shambrook. I'm from New Orleans District Attorney's Office and he shows his identification. He said, "could I speak with you? At first he asked who I was. I said Perry Russo. I said, yeah you can come on in. And we sit down in the front room. After some preliminary small talk. he said, "I would like you to look at some photographs and tell me if anyone there that you know or have seen or remember." So he goes through a series of twenty or thirty photographs and did not take any notes. All he did was mark the back of the photographs, put a little x or check or something on the back of the photograph. And he showed quite a few of the people that I knew - that I had met through Dave Ferrie. Of course Dave Ferrie was one of them. He came to Oswald. I said, "Yeah I know him. That Ferrie's roommate but he's a little dirtier." I said, "Oswald (is) just unshaven, two three days you know." And he said yeah, and marked it and then Shaw and then Sergio Accacia.
He actually had a picture of of Shaw with him. That's interesting.
That is very interesting. So that means it was an early...in the movie they talk about Shaw early on in the movie but no one could ...but they didn't call him...wait a minute..
Bertrand, He asked me his name. He said, "what was his name." And I said, "Bertrand, Clem Bertrand. He said Clem Bertrand, It wasn't Floyd? I said, "no, Clem." I know it was Bertrand. I'm not sure of the first name, probably Clem." And he said OK and he continued with the photographs of different people and quite of few of them I had never seen or heard of you know what I'm saying? Some of the photographs weren't all that good, some were. And then he said listen, I'm very interested. The District Attorney, Jim Garrison will be very interested in talking to you. Will you be available to come down to New Orleans? And well this is my civic duty I'm supposed to... and so I said yeah. And so he said, "I'm going to leave. Please don't talk to anybody no more. Don't talk to anybody". So I said OK. Well channel 2 showed...he left...and that was about it. He did not take any notes. He did not write down anything and then he left. I went to New Orleans and then I got a call...I think I had a telephone at that time...but I was then contacted by WBRC and these two guys come in ...to show you the scum of the news media they will do anything. This guy had a microphone up his sleeve. And he said we just want to talk to you about everything but...I said I can't call to you all. He said well we'll talk to you about your baseball. I had a baseball team in the past. And basketball. I said OK. So they come in and of course they quickly changed the subject onto that. I said well I can't really talk. This guy just left from New Orleans DA office and, I said, he was rather excited about wanting to talk to Garrison and Garrison wanting to talk to me. And then I noticed the microphone. I said, " you-all hold on a minute." Now they are in the back. This is a shotgun house, typical for New Orleans... straight from the back so you can shoot a shotgun through it and if it goes straight through 'em well it won't hit a thing. But the back door was locked, I knew that. So I went and got a machete and I came back and I said, "now you got a microphone in your hand. You want both arms chopped off or you want one chopped off at a time because I'm gonna get it!" I said, "you're a no good sonofabitch." And I started screaming at 'em. "Oh no, we don't have one!" I said, "don't tell me that," I said, "there it is - a microphone." And so we went round and round about that. I said, "I'm gonna whack ya! I'm gonna whack ya!" And so he said finally said, well he says, look, and you know, I guess he thought I was a mental midget or something. He took the tape (and) he said this is not on. He took the tape and turned it over. He said, listen we'll play it. There was nothing on the tape. I said is that right? I said give me the whole unit. I said I'm gonna get the whole unit. So anyway I got the unit, I took the tape out, kept the tape and then they went about their way. And they weren't able to make a verified statement. So then I was recontacted with the DA's office and asked to come to New Orleans. Which I did. And then I met Garrison for the first time. That's the answer to that question. And Garrison (is) very impressive, very sincere, he asked different questions about people that Sciambra had indicated that I knew. And so we went over that. And he said we would like you to stay in New Orleans. I said well I can't do that. I said I have to go away home. I got classes and I also work. He said we will take care of the work and I would advise maybe you might best withdraw from school. And so I said OK. After some talking and so on and I stayed in New Orleans and was bandied from one investigator to another. One question to another and they continued to ask questions and then finally they said would I submit to sodium pentathol, I didn't know what it was. I said yes. They said would I submit to hypnosis with a certified hypnotist. I said yes. I said any type of and then I said I'll get back... and so we eventually down the line did one or the other and both. And then that was it. So that was about it. That answer your question?
Sure does. So now we've reached the point where Jim Garrison ...were you told that the District Attorney in New Orleans, Jim Garrison that and has strung together through that meeting, Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Bertrand, also known as Clay Shaw or vise versa and David Ferrie.
Right, correct, plus the Cubans.
And that's ...plus the Cubans and that's when your roller coaster ride begins.
And along with that Garrison's. And why don't you relate some of that to us.
Well, in this period of time Garrison then is overwhelmed by requests for interviews. I mean it's all day long, you read it in the newspapers here, I see it on television at night. One announcement after another. He's embattled, pushed by all circumstances. There are various news authorities who then come out with statements that this is a problem with this and a problem with that. Which is fair. Then all of a sudden Garrison asks me, he said, there is a reporter who had once done a piece on his investigation of the judges here in New Orleans and he felt that he wanted to find out how far this man would go in interviewing me...and find out exactly what his agenda was. So James Phelan is then introduced to me. And I meet with Phelan and we talk. And for several hours of conversations, the conversations are recorded by the DA's office with my knowledge, and James Phelan continues to attack Garrison's case, saying no I couldn't have known Clay Shaw, I couldn't have known Oswald. He said I knew Ferrie probably, and that I had made a mistake. He then writes a scorching attack in the Saturday Evening Post and the controversy begins. He does not cross the line of threatening me or intimidating me with threats of that sort nor does he offer me anything to change testimony. In that sense he's perhaps a neutral news reporter. Neutral is questionable then. He introduces me or tells me of WDSU TV 's crusade to reveal the truth. So he tells me about Walter Sheridan, FBI agent for twenty years. Very great credentials and Rick Townley is introduced to me who is a local WDSU affiliate newscaster and I'm told to meet with them because he wants to pose some questions to me. Well he doesn't pose any questions. Walter Sheridan comes to me and says listen we gonna take Garrison out of this. He said we can't allow this to go on any further. He says now you're going down with him. And he plays this hot cold relationship...but I'll give you an out. He says, I want you to go over to Biloxy Mississippi, we already have it arranged. You are to go and do a hotel-motel room and he says in that room Clay Shaw is going to be there. He says I don't care what you talk about when you go in there but when you finish one hour later, half and hour later, he says you come outside. He says we're gonna have the cameras rolling and you're gonna state the following: One, that you do not know Clay Shaw and you never did.. Two: that you never knew anybody named Oswald and three, you never heard of anything about any shooting of the President back in '63 before the President was shot. And he says you do that, he says, we won't go after you. You might be able to save yourself." But he says you gonna go with him, we're getting Garrison. He's done with . We'll finish him off. I said well, Mr Sheridan, and Garrison was aware of these conversation and was...
When they mean we're going to take care...did they mean body harm?
No. They meant that they were going to so ridicule Garrison for having a ridiculous state of appearances that no one would believe him. And this would be a frontal attack. There would be innuendo, there would be the various misinformation that are leaked out such as one that Drew Pearson, or what the fellow that succeeded Drew Pearson, Jack Anderson leaks out that Garrison has a sexual encounter at the NOAC, New Orleans Athletic Club with a six or seven year old. And this is supposed to defame Garrison's image that he is not the man on the white horse. Well the truth of the matter was that Garrison was very sincere. Well Walter Sheridan tells me and threatens me that he's gonna take Garrison out and take me with him. So I'm in school and, perhaps at this time I'm not, because I think I had withdrawn, but I have no resources to fight any kind of this kind of an attack so therefore I should crumble. Well Garrison is told of this, he's aware of it. He knows exactly what the...how the conversations have gone and so I said, I posed the question, the almighty question to Walter Sheridan, ex FBI, perhaps still connected with the government, chief investigator for Frank McGee's white paper, the editorial side of NBC. And I asked Walt Sheridan, I said, "Mr. Sheridan, if I were ever to say that, you know what would happen to me, I would be finished in New Orleans or a dead man, one or the other." He said, Well, he says, where would you want to live, if not New Orleans." And so having the fascination with Hollywood and California and Los Angeles and mighty state of dreams and all that, I said well, California. It's the only state I was ever interested in visiting at that time. And he says pick out a city, I said Los Angeles. And he said OK He said we'll give you a job for five years. You don't have to go to work. You'll get a check. He said, but you gotta do this first.
This fits right in with what they did with Pershing Gervais.
Absolutely, but you didn't feel physically threatened at all?
Not physically threatened, no. No, I never did. Not physically threatened that they were going to do anything physically to me. No, they were going to ruin me.
They were going to ruin you and your reputation, your ...
Right. In August or October of '68 this is about a year down the line around the same time, TIME magazine comes out with an article. Garrison Case. And its an analysis of the Garrison case and it says the Garrison case is based upon a lot of soft information but primarily upon the testimony of one Perry Raymond Russo, Baton Rouge insurance salesman and known drug addict. TIME magazine alibis and explains in court depositions and court information that this was a typographical error. That they really, in reality, meant Vernon Bundy. But one or the other could be right if Garrison was basing his case upon Perry Russo. Then they couldn't attach the drug addict because I did not even smoke marijuana. I was Sicilian family brought up in this country. We did not smoke marijuana. And yet they knew that Vernon Bundy was a convicted heroin addict. So that was labeled. They settled out of court for $15,000. They did not issue a retraction and that remains as an unchallenged claim. All I had at that time was the $15,000 minus the legal expenses involved. The whole point of which was the damage was done. It was never to be retrieved after that. Every job application I would put in there was always the feeling that this is an unstable person. This is a person who may even be illegal. May be doing all kinds of things that are illegal. The consequence of that was that their attacks, coupled with whatever Walter Sheridan was engineering, were very successful. They had attacked me and they could do it with impunity and so therefore I was no longer a creditable witness. No one in any of the other 49 states or perhaps even Louisiana would have believed a known drug addict would know anything at all about the Kennedy assassination and that he had hallucinated.
OK another question. When you went to Walter Sheridan to, or Walter Sheridan approached you and you went back, I think I heard on the documentary, "The Garrison Tapes" that you were wired. That you had a microphone on so he could record this.
Garrison recorded it.
Yeah, cause I know Garrison, when Walter Sheridan started the smear campaign, Garrison tried to get him in the courtroom.
OK, immediately after the proposition was made that I go to Biloxi, sit in a hotel room, motel room with Clay Shaw, 30 minutes or an hour later come out and make my statement denying everything that I had stated in court, I would then be whisked off where I wanted, which was LA, immediately after that because there was an offer of something for something. They wanted me to change testimony to fit their particular agenda and in so changing the testimony to be protected I would be given something. So they were offering me a bribe of a witness to make sure that I would damage Garrison for them. Perhaps stab him into the chest and that would be the lethal blow that would bring the Garrison case down.
Did they represent who was giving them number one, the right to do this? Did they say they were doing it from the Federal Government.
No, they never did. In 1991 Jim Phelan contacted me almost weekly when he first ...the first news reports came out that Oliver Stone was going to do a movie and that movie was going to be based upon Garrison's book "On The Trail Of The Assassins". When that information was across the United States and Oliver Stone was an established director with credentials and an ability to gather money back in and produce for his movie then Phelan called, which I hadn't heard from Phelan for ten years at this point, 1991. He call and said, Oh do you remember me? and I said sure I remember you. And he said well how's everything. and I said, he said, I hear they're making a movie down there on Garrison. How are they going to play it? I said I don't know. I said that's Stone's information. He said well are you going to be in it? I said I don't think so. He said are they going to have your character in it. I said yeah they are. And I said but I can't tell you in what capacity and which way they are going to play it. He said, well he said, this movie just can't come about. He said we can't have that.
Yeah, we can't have that. And I said Jim, I said you're talking about something twenty-five years before and I said you're talking about a case that was in New Orleans and I said you're saying we can't have it? And over the period of the conversations – we must have talked about ten or twelve times - over the period of the conversations he said that what, why would you let them portray you in this movie. You have to stop the movie. And I said Jim, (talkin to Phelan over the phone), I said I can't stop the movie. I said Stone can do whatever he wants with this movie. I said if he plays it accurately following the book I said more power to him. Just because he's a creditable director and I said what is the problem there? He said because when this movie comes out, he said, it will so affect the younger people that they will then remember that there's something happened in New Orleans that several people got together and they shot Kennedy. He said the effect of that will be devastating. I said who cares what the effect is. I said it's still academia and I said it still just movie makin. He said you have to stop it. I said why do I have to stop it? He said because it will hurt the United States., And I said, It'll hurt the United States. I said I'm part of the United States. He said it will hurt me. I'm a friend of Shaw. I said I was a friend of Shaw. I said I don't care what it looks like. I said I'm already destroyed. He said it'll hurt the agencies of the United States and that was the revealing statement by him. It will hurt the agencies.
This is James Phalen.
James Phalen, A free lance writer, particularly having written that article way back in '67 for Saturday Night Post... it will hurt the agencies. I said I couldn't care less about the agencies. I don't care about intelligence gathering. I said this is strictly Stone's work. I said if it's done true, I said then judge it on the merit. I said if it's not, he'll fall. It'll fall by the wayside. And he said well you got ...And then not being able to get me to agree, he said I'm going to send you some papers. Would you give them to Stone? And this of course, James Phalen felt that his insight in these articles would then persuade Stone, right in the middle of a production, to cancel because James Phalen said so. Well, I went to Stone and told him I had papers and he said file them, they gave him, because they did not consider James Phalen a serious journalist. Which I told James Phalen and he exploded. Serious journalist! He says, tell Stone he's not a serious director. And I said now that definitely is an understatement. Anyway he told me, he said I'm coming down there. He said I'm going to stop the movie. So when I told Stone this, and his people, Stone said I want you to remain on the set. So I talked to Phalen once again and I misled him intentionally. He said how long do they have.. this is in the middle of July...he said how long do they have before the movie gets ...I said oh way into August. The movie was finished on the 27th or 28th of July here. And he said I'm coming down. He said I'm going to make sure that this movie does not come out without at least the other side being examined. And I said fine. I said you come down. So I don't know if he ever did. But Stone asked me would you please point him out and identify him. We have a contract with this city and no one can step across that line that I do not want to step across that line. And if he does we are going to invoke the contract and ask the police to arrest him. And that was for that period of the filming that was done on the streets and such.
So what you're saying ...Are you happy with the movie "JFK"?
Yeah, it was done true to that period of time in New Orleans. Yes. And it offers a possible explanation as to what went on in Dallas. With the much available .. the many bits of evidence that's come to light since the assassination and since the publication in August of '64 of the Warren Report there is so much evidence that has come out since. Stone played it much truer to the facts than the Warren Commission speculated. So it comes to the New Orleans connection, Oswald was born in New Orleans. Oswald lived in New Orleans. Oswald went to school in New Orleans. When he defected, he was defecting for... after coming out of the Marines...he went to the Soviet Union. When he returned, reaffected to the United States he returned to New Orleans. I said he stayed here and that is the period of time I knew him. A volatile period of time in New Orleans history because there was so much easily heard assassinations and hating of the President that he should be dead, somebody should shoot the son of a bitch and...which is not that uncommon to hear. And so Oswald was from that period. Ferrie was from that period and it would be altogether much more possible that instead of Oswald being the malcontent that the Federal Government pictured him as, for him to have been the shrewd observer for the FBI and making money on the side. Just reporting on this Cuban group of which he was a member and which he supposedly taught guerrilla warfare. He was in spirit a member. He was everything that this group wanted. He was one of them. And yet the Federal Government chose to emphasis the fact that he was a malcontent that couldn't get along with anybody. Well he couldn't get along with me but he got along with everybody else.
So now today you still remain friends in contact with Jim Garrison and his chief investigator Louis Ivon.
Louis Ivon, yes and some of the other people that were involved..?
Are some of them still around like Andrew Chambrey?
Andrew Chambrey is now magistrate court judge. Judge in magistrate court for the Parish of New Orleans which is equivalent to a county in other states. He sets bonds and releases prisoners that he deems are responsible and reliable to come back. James Alcock was Garrison's chief prosecutor and the man that handled most of the courtroom duties. Alcock was a judge for a period of time then went into private practice. He lives very close to New Orleans. Al Oser, another. Was a judge, went into private practice. He also is around the New Orleans area. Louis Ivon, Garrison's chief investigator for that period is around. Now associated with the DA's office in New Orleans. And then you have others, so many others that were around at that time; that were knowledgeable of either Shaw or Ferrie or Oswald; that several people have come forth since and that have said yeah they were around. And there were times that they encountered both of them. And I don't think at this stage of the game, contrary to what the Federal Government would have gained by denying...why not admit that Shaw may have been an operative or someone because he had so many contacts with the South American countries and South American presence. It would have been normal. I would think they would have been remiss in their duties if they had not.
Well they have been. It has been said, it's been said by several. Helms for one - that Mr. Shaw was a deep cover agent for the CIA.
'cuz there has been a lot of operations in Italy since WWII. Quite a few of them as far as moving money through the banks and also keeping the government in line and anti-communist, as they look at it. They've had this "Gladius" operation recently. I'm not going to belabor that. That appeared in the news that even the president of Italy, I believe the prime minister, president or something admitted that he came across...
And also he was taken out of office right after that...the point we're making is that in looking back on this we can see that this is only a small part of the operations that were around this. This was...you can see that.
Yeah this was a small part of the continuing problem of Cuba. The people that were not disciplined by the Federal Government were doing things on their own. Felt very strongly about taking over Cuba or booting out Castro or liberating Cuba. And this particularly was evidenced all along the sixties whereas now we say there's oversight committees of the CIA...there were none then.
When you look at how the assassination went down and how the cover up had transpired and obviously there was a cover up, you have to say what we had in this country was a coup d'etat.
Well you don't have to agree but what do you think of that? I mean it appears that you know...
Do you think there was from that point, do you believe things changed. And you do believe they changed for the better or worse
Probably things changed. You know, but a coup d'etat...it was...
Well, when you kill or effectively take out the head of state and you put somebody else in place or somebody else gets elected and the policies reverse or change...
They put someone else in his place before he was elected.
We had made agreements with...
Castro was sitting there and no one has managed to ...
Which means that ...
Possibly even, I mean even the anti-Castro.Cubans partners were used too, to bring about the means to a bigger end, or however you say it because of the fact that Vietnam came along and it looked as thought Kennedy was going to reverse that, and they turned that around.
Of course I disagree on the Vietnam thing. There is an invisible government in the United States that continues ...
Well, they're not so much invisible anymore...
Well it may not be invisible but that continues the onward thrust of the US policies and that of course is the protection of the country and the protection of certain trends and certain beliefs. Those do evolve over a period of time.
Don't you think that protecting the arms dealers and the people that make armaments to keep a world safe so we can give a $146 million in arms to Somalia. They bought it from us. There were $146 million worth of arms floating around Somalia as we speak right here.
Well I'm all for that. That's the only difference. I'm all for that. You know, I'm for selling the whole world arms. You know. That's just my particular feeling on that..
So is there anything in conclusion you want to say about your experience with this?
That it will never happen again. You know that this particular naive approach to what your civic duty is and what it isn't in society. All of that is overshadowed by what is going to be the fact of the outcome. It is almost a predestined thing that even in this election coming up Clinton, Bush, Perot not much, either one or any of the three, can possibly alter the direction the country is going into. So it was at that period. Since the cold war was the number one issue of the United States and its internal workings and its external workings. That was the major issue and that invisible government makes sure that we are not prone toward risk. And if it has to be the removal of a, as you-all would say, of a leader of a country then it has to be. And it has done that.
And many other countries. Yes.
Yeah, the one in Indonesia, I mean in South Vietnam. Yeah. And that's all the name of the game.
I understand that there's been a lot of things in the press that are untrue and misinformation about you that you feel very angry about that you would like to set straight.
OK: over the years the press, for whatever it's own reasons whether it was...it had it's own agenda, whether it was government sponsored, whether it was government leaked or whether these people who wrote these articles had various ways to get at Garrison and of course one way is of course to attack me and my credibility. Recently the 1968 article of Time Magazine listing me as a drug addict when I never even smoked marijuana did it serious damage to anybody believing that Perry Russo could possible speak anything about something factual because he was a known drug addict. 1970 US New and World report says that Perry Russo is a very dapper dresser. However, there's always a "however", However, he associates with a strange crew of wierdos and over the years has so done so. That's not libelous but you get into just a slanting of that particular article. Who would trust a person that hangs around with a strange assortment of wierdos. Then you have a Times Picayune which is a notorious champion here in New Orleans of anything that is anti-Garrison over the years. Time Picayune newspaper publishing company which publishes two newspapers comes out with an article on the twentieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination saying that convicted burglar, Perry Raymond Russo, which I'm not a convicted burglar. They ...we go into court on that and they...we don't go into court but we go into discussions and they settle out of court with a retraction. Seventeen weeks later on the 55th page of something of the Sunday newspaper whereas the first statement came with my photograph and "convicted burglar statement right underneath it." So now over the years I have thought to be by myself and not read any of the articles or read any of the newspapers clippings when Oliver Stone contacted me asking me to sign on and do technical work. I thought that was satisfactory. I continue not to read the articles that were written even at that time. However there was one that was written in the January issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly and for this reason I have come to talk to you people who have asked for an interview. It's an opportunity to set the record straight. Nicholas Lehman wrote an article in GQ analyzing the movie which hadn't yet at this time come out. And so he wrote an article and in the article he savaged Garrison and savaged me. The article states that Stone's basing his movie upon Garrison who is basing his conspiracy theory upon testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, Baton Rouge insurance salesman cum grifter. That would seem like a very innocent remark except I looked up the definition and it means a convicted swindler. I have never had any convictions for anything except traffic. And yet this news outlet GQ thinks it can take a cheap shot. I didn't ask for the publicity. I have never asked for one interview ever, by anybody. I have not taken any money for interviews and GQ takes this cheap shot. A person reading this article in another area would read a grifter, isn't he a scam artist, isn't he a con man, isn't he a swindler or a dishonest.. yes that's what grifter means and GQ said it. Nicholas Lehman was deposed in this particular case which is in Federal Court now. Was deposed.. The essence of his deposition when asked why he would label Perry Russo a grifter was ...his answer was that he was hired...he did not want to label him as he had been historically labeled as Baton Rouse insurance man. He wanted to give a different twist, a different light upon that person. And he was hired to savage the movie. And he said that's exactly what he did in the article and he had no regrets about it whatsoever. He savaged it and the best route to savage it was to savage Garrison and to savage Garrison's witnesses.
Did he say who he was hired by?
he didn't say.
End of Tape\Interview
(1)THE KENNEDY CONSPIRACY by PARIS FLAMMONDE, pub. by MEREDITH PRESS(1969),pp. 79,80
(2) ON THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSINS by JIM GARRISON, pub. by SHERIDAN SQ. PRESS (1988),pg.152
(3)DESTINY BETRAYED(JFK,CUBA,and the GARRISON CASE) by JAMES DI EUGENIO, by SHERIDAN SQ., pg. 144
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