Walter Sheridan, Louisiana HayrideOne of New Orleans District Attorney's toughest critics was NBC reporter Walter Sheridan, a close friend of Robert F. Kennedy, and one of the lead investigator's on RFK's "Get Hoffa" squad. As Garrison was close to a number of individuals with links to Jimmy Hoffa, it is not surprising that Garrison utilized Hoffa propaganda to attack Sheridan, in statements such as this one, from the DA's October 1967 Playboy interview:
Let me tell you something about Walter Sheridan's background, and maybe you'll understand his true role in all this. Sheridan was one of the bright, hard young investigators who entered the Justice Department under Bobby Kennedy. He was assigned to nail Jimmy Hoffa. Sheridan employed a wide variety of highly questionable tactics in the Justice Department's relentless drive against Hoffa; he was recently subpoenaed to testify in connection with charges that he wire-tapped the offices of Hoffa's associates and then played back incriminating tapes to them, warning that unless they testified for the Government, they would be destroyed along with Hoffa.
Sheridan adamantly denied that any wiretapping had been used against Hoffa, and his book, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa, details precisely how evidence against Hoffa was obtained.
Sheridan's book also sheds some light on the connections between a number of individuals involved with the Garrison investigation, sometimes only tangentially, sometimes quite intimately. While there is no evidence that any such connections played a serious role in the Garrison affair, some may find the linkages somewhat illuminating.
Excerpted from Walter Sheridan, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972), pp. 414-35:
Hoffa had lost his long battle to stay out of prison. Now the efforts began to gain his freedom.
Two weeks after he entered Lewisburg Penitentiary an official of the prison was offered a bribe by a local Teamsters official to give preferential treatment to his new inmate. The official rejected the offer.
The affidavits that had been filed with the Supreme Court with the motion for relief were now filed in the District Court in Chattanooga. On March 20 Judge Wilson set a hearing on the motion for May 9, 1967. The FBI had already begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the obtaining of the affidavits. The Department of Justice submitted counteraffidavits in which all of the allegations were unequivocally denied.
On April 4, 1967, Senator Edward Long's committee began three days of public hearings on the possible use of electronic eavesdropping on the part of the Detroit Police Department and the Intelligence Division of the Internal Revenue Service in that city. William DePugh, who had previously been subpoenaed to the unusual Sunday morning executive session of the committee, was called to testify, along with the key personnel from both Detroit police intelligence and IRS intelligence. These men had formed the backbone of investigations into not only organized crime but Hoffa and his empire as well. After the second day of hearings a Washington newspaper story speculated that the hearings appeared to be designed to help Hoffa. On the morning of April 6 Senator Long, taking note of the article, made a statement saying that he wanted to make it clear he had no purpose or intention of using the hearings to influence any pending case.
William Bufalino attended the hearings and subsequently attempted to file the transcript of the hearings in support of his lawsuit against the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. The judge, however, refused to allow this and eventually dismissed the suit.
While the hearings were in progress, Judge Malcolm O'Hara, Zachary Strate and Buddy Gill attended a meeting at Teamsters headquarters in Washington with Frank Fitzsimmons and others. One of the matters discussed was the possibility of arranging for a transfer of Hoffa to some other prison.
Shortly before the hearing scheduled for May 9, in Chattanooga, Buddy Gill again approached Partin. He said that a friend had asked him to see if he could help Hoffa and he only had two weeks to do it in. He told Partin that he could name his own price if he would agree to help Hoffa. "We can both be rich," Gill said. Partin asked Gill what protection he would have from the government if he changed his testimony. Gill said, "We've got that fixed. Senator [Russell] Long is the most powerful man in the United States today. Don't you worry about it. You will be protected."
Partin asked Gill what would happen if the government decided to go ahead with the original indictment still pending against him and bring him to trial. Gill said, "We've checked it. First of all, the Supreme Court says you must get a speedy trial. Second, you don't have witnesses against you. Third, LBJ has got to have Russell."
Gill told Partin that if he didn't cooperate and help Hoffa, the International would put his local in trusteeship. He implied that he had recently talked to Frank Fitzsimmons, who was now the acting head of the Teamsters Union. Partin refused the offer.
On May 9.1967, the hearing on the motion for relief convened in Judge Wilson's courtroom in Chattanooga. During the months since Hoffa's affidavits had been filed, it had been established that money had been paid to some of the persons who signed the affidavits. Hoffa's attorneys knew that the government knew this. When Judge Wilson directed Hoffa and his attorneys to proceed with their showing of proof, Morris Shenker, who had become Hoffa's chief attorney, stood up and said that because of information that had just come to their attention they were not going to offer any proof at this time. He asked that the proceedings be postponed for ninety days to give them time to check out what they had just learned. Judge Wilson's answer was that they had had several months to prepare for the hearing, and if they had anything to offer, they would have to present it now. Shenker declined to do so and Judge Wilson thereafter dismissed their motion with prejudice. Bud Nichols subsequently admitted that his entire affidavit had been false.
Shortly after the hearing Life magazine published an article charging that Senator Edward Long had been using his committee in an attempt to help Hoffa. The article stated that Long had received thousands of dollars from Hoffa's chief counsel, Morris Shenker, in "referral fees." It later developed that the figure was well over $100,000 and that Edward Long had not practiced law during the entire time the payments were being made.
The hearing in Chattanooga had been a disaster for Hoffa. His much-publicized evidence of wiretapping, which had been submitted as true not only to the District Court, but also to the Supreme Court of the United States, was held back from the test of a hearing under oath. The attempts to bribe Partin had failed. But Partin had been warned what would happen if he did not come forward to help Hoffa. He would now learn that these were not hollow threats. And there was another hearing coming up in Chicago which would give the Hoffa forces another chance.
When Hoffa had petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Chicago case, the Solicitor General of the United States had, in responding to the petition, advised the court that the Department of Justice had discovered that in monitoring an electronic surveillance of the Miami office of one Benjamin Sigelbaum, the FBI had overheard a conversation by George Burris, one of Hoffa's co-defendants. The Supreme Court had, thereupon, remanded the case back to the District Court in Chicago for a hearing, which was scheduled for August, 1967.
There was still another factor. Both Partin and I were now in Louisiana. I had been in New Orleans the better part of the time since late February pursuing an inquiry on behalf of NBC into Garrison's assassination probe. Clay Shaw, a reputable businessman, had been arrested by Garrison on March 1, charged with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy. It had become increasingly apparent to me and my NBC associates that Garrison and his staff were engaged in an enormous fraud involving bribery and intimidation of witnesses, and that there was no basis in fact for the charge against Shaw or any of Garrison's numerous other theories. It was inevitable, I suppose, that the two webs of intrigue --Garrison's investigation and the efforts of the Hoffa forces -- would become intertwined. A bit of background information will indicate why.
Jim Garrison had come into office originally as a reform candidate. One of his first official acts was to appoint as his chief investigator a man named Pershing Gervais, whose qualifications included having been fired by the New Orleans Police Department. Gervais had -- not once, but twice -- stolen the payoff money that had been collected and was awaiting distribution to other police officers and used the money to finance free-spending trips to New York City. Garrison then conducted a sweeping cleanup of Bourbon Street which received wide acclaim. What was not apparent to the casual observer was that the Bourbon Street raids were selective and did not interfere with those night spots controlled by associates of New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello.
In 1966 Garrison had gone on record as stating that there was no organized crime in New Orleans and that Carlos Marcello was a respectable businessman. It was understandable, therefore, that Garrison, while claiming that former Eastern Airlines pilot David Ferrie was the key to the plot to assassinate President Kennedy, never mentioned the fact that when the President was killed, Ferrie was employed by G. Wray Gill, the attorney for Carlos Marcello. Garrison chose to investigate Ferrie's connections with Cuban nationals but never pursued his connection with Marcello.
By the time Garrison was running for reelection, Pershing Gervais had become a political liability. He resigned and set up headquarters in the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel, which had been built with funds from the Teamsters Pension Fund. The loans in question had been part of those involved in the defrauding of the fund for which Hoffa had been convicted in Chicago. Both he and Zachary "Red" Strate made their headquarters at the hotel. They were close friends and in 1967 had gone into business together in a New Orleans nightclub. Both were friendly with Judge Malcolm O'Hara.
I had gone to the Fontainebleau to see Gervais when I first arrived in New Orleans on the Garrison story. I had been told that Gervais was very close to Garrison, had been in the Army with him, and exerted considerable influence over him, so I thought he might be able to give me some insights into Garrison and his investigation. I sat in the lobby and waited and before long there was a page for Mr. Gervais. I watched to see who answered the page and then approached him and introduced myself. He invited me to have a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. He said that he had stayed away from the Garrison investigation because he didn't want to get involved, and that his only aim in life was to make a buck. While we sat there, just about everyone who came in or out spoke to him. Two men stopped and talked to him, then sat down at a table in front of us. Gervais identified them as New Orleans judges.
"Where is your office?" I asked.
"This is my office," Gervais said, waving his arm to indicate the coffee shop. And these are my desks" -- motioning to the tables.
"And are these your employees?" I asked, alluding to the judges.
"In a manner of speaking," Gervais nodded.
NBC's affiliate station in New Orleans is WDSU. It was until recently owned by Edgar Stern, a courageous, liberal man who shared our views concerning Garrison and his probe. The news director, Ed Planer, did also, and we worked very closely together in an atmosphere of absolute mutual trust. WDSU was the only voice in the Louisiana wilderness speaking out against what Garrison was doing. During the entire Garrison caper the New Orleans newspapers did not print one editorial word about an investigation that was capturing headlines allover the world. In fact, two reporters for the States-Item were, in effect, working for Garrison, exchanging memoranda with him, and continually slanting their stories in his favor. The other local television stations merely reported what he said or asked only soft questions.
Ed Planer had assigned Rick Townley, an investigative reporter, to work full-time on the Garrison case, and he and I worked closely together. A man named George Wyatt had been calling Townley asking to meet with him and me to furnish information about the investigation. I agreed to go with Townley to see him. We drove out to a shopping center designated by Wyatt and waited for him. After a while he walked down the street toward our car. Townley had met with him previously and recognized him. Wyatt got into the car and we began to talk. As the conversation wore on, it became obvious to me, because of his leading questions, that what we were saying was probably being recorded. I later learned from Bill Gurvich, Garrison's chief investigator who finally quit in disgust, that my suspicions were well founded. Garrison had set up the meeting and recorded it. He had given orders that if we said anything out of line, his men, who were nearby, were to move in and arrest us, beat us up, handcuff us and put us in jail.
In Garrison's bid for a second term as District Attorney he had been opposed by Malcolm O'Hara. During the campaign O'Hara had produced a copy of Garrison's discharge papers which showed that Garrison had received a medical discharge for psychiatric reasons. O'Hara's campaign manager had been a local attorney, Ed Baldwin. I went to see Baldwin. In discussing O'Hara, who was now a judge, I mentioned that he and Red Strate had approached Ed Partin in an attempt to get him to sign an affidavit stating that we had bugged Hoffa and his attorneys.
On June 7 our producer Fred Freed and I went to see Louisiana Governor John McKeithen to find out if he would be willing to appear on film concerning the Garrison investigation. Because of the facts we had uncovered concerning the investigation, NBC had decided that we would present a white paper on the entire matter on June 19. The governor talked about many things but declined to give a statement on Garrison. That afternoon, back in New Orleans, Ed Baldwin came to see me. He said that he had spent an evening with Judge O'Hara, who claimed that he had some information about the Garrison investigation that would really wrap up our program and wanted to know if I would meet with him. I said I would. Baldwin then said that there could be a quid pro quo involved. I asked him why. He said that O'Hara had confirmed to him that he had gone with Strate to see Partin to attempt to get him to sign an affidavit about wiretapping. Actually, he told Baldwin, he had been traveling allover the country for Hoffa and had become a messenger boy in attempts to help Hoffa. In discussing me, O'Hara had said, "I can have a million dollars in cash down here tomorrow." Baldwin said he had cautioned O'Hara not to offer me any money.
On June 12 Baldwin called and said that Judge O'Hara would meet us in the cocktail lounge of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel at five o'clock that evening, and that he might bring someone with him. I was now very curious not only as to what O'Hara had to offer by way of information, but also what he might want in return, so I told Baldwin I would meet him in the lounge. Then I told Fred Freed about it. He agreed that it was probably going to be a waste of time but thought I should see what it was all about.
I arrived at the lounge first and went to the bar and ordered a drink. Baldwin came in shortly after and joined me. A few minutes later two men entered and sat at a table in the rear. We walked over to the table and I immediately recognized one of the men as Red Strate. Then the judge got up and he and Baldwin went to another table across the room, leaving me with Strate.
Strate said, "I have a good friend, Pershing Gervais, who can be a lot of help to you." He added that he and Gervais were also business associates, having just bought a New Orleans night spot called the Emerald Door.
"Before you go any further," I said, "what do you want from me?"
"That's easy," responded Strate. "Hoffa out of prison. You two won the war -- now, why don't you let him go?"
Strate continued, "You just tell me something about wiretapping in Chattanooga and Gervais will help you."
"There was no wiretapping," I replied. Then I asked, "Why are you so interested in helping Hoffa instead of worrying about your own conviction in Chicago?"
Strate said that he thought Partin was a son of a bitch and Hoffa was a good man. He had spent a lot of time with Hoffa and admired him very much. He said that they thought the Chicago case was going to turn out all right anyway.
"What is the judge doing in this?" I asked, referring to Judge O'Hara.
"He's in it for what he can get out of it," Strate said.
I said, "Well, there wasn't any wiretapping and I guess there is no point in going any further."
I motioned to Ed Baldwin and he and O'Hara returned to the table and sat down. There was some general discussion of Garrison and his investigation and we shook hands and left.
NBC's special program entitled "The JFK Conspiracy: The Case of Jim Garrison" appeared on the evening of June 19. It was extremely critical of Garrison's case against Clay Shaw and of the methods employed by him and his staff.
On July 7 Garrison issued a warrant for my arrest, charging me with bribery. The information he filed in support of the warrant alleged that I had offered Perry Russo, his chief witness against Clay Shaw, a job and residence in California and payment of legal fees for an attorney. I had talked to Russo on three occasions but had never offered him anything.
In Baton Rouge the stage was set for what was to become an all-out effort to destroy Ed Partin. He had been told in no uncertain terms what would happen if he did not come to the aid of Hoffa in the Chattanooga hearing. Almost immediately thereafter forces were unleashed that would, in the next four years, focus an incredible array of power in the singular pursuit of grinding Partin into the ground and finally attempting to send him to prison. As the vise was continually tightened, he would occasionally be offered an easing of his pain and perhaps an end to his troubles -- if he would surrender and help Jimmy Hoffa.
There is no question that Edward Grady Partin was and is a controversial figure. Perhaps he brought some of his problems on himself. He is a proud, tough and cunning man operating in a section of this country with its own unique tradition of justice and an unusual tolerance for corruption. It does appear, however, that the only labor leader in the United States who has received such concentrated attention since May 9, 1967, is Ed Partin, the man whose testimony for the United States government helped put Jimmy Hoffa in prison and the only logical person, other than the President or the parole board, who might have been able to get him out. What follows is a recounting of what has happened to that man since he said "no" to the bribes and the ultimatum.
The climate was right in Baton Rouge in June, 1967, to begin the discrediting of Ed Partin. There are those who say he helped to create it.
In the early 1960s Baton Rouge became a bustling center of new plant construction for the oil and chemical industries. When Governor John McKeithen was elected in 1964, he proceeded to encourage this industrial growth through tax incentives and public relations efforts. By 1966, when he was reelected, this expansion had more than doubled. The competitive eagerness of industry, the shortage of the labor supply and the moral climate were conducive to bribery, shakedowns and political corruption. Jurisdictional disputes and rivalries among labor unions and aggressive struggles among companies were rife.
Most construction companies in the United States belong to the General Contractors Association with headquarters in Washington, D.C. The association, in turn, maintains offices in every major city to service the contractors. The function of the local offices is to assist the industry with public relations, information, political influence and labor relations. There is such an office in Baton Rouge. Contractors coming into the Baton Rouge area, however, found it advantageous to retain the services of another organization, called the Baton Rouge Industrial Contractors Association (BRICA), operated by James "Buddy" Gill, the former administrative assistant to Senator Russell Long. BRICA was paid a fee of 1 percent of the amount of the contract.
In the construction of new plants, the industries and their contractors would turn to local ready mix companies for cement and concrete and sometimes to local pipeline companies for their products. There were several ready mix companies in the Baton Rouge area.
One of these, the Altex Company, was owned in 1966 by Roland Stevens and Wallace Heck. Stevens also owned the Stevens Concrete Pipe Company. On August 10, 1966, the labor contract between the ready mix companies and Local 5 of the Teamsters Union expired. A ten-day extension period was granted to complete negotiations for the renewal of the contract. At the end of the extension period all of the companies except Altex had signed the new contract. Altex was willing to pay a higher wage scale but was not willing to accept the fringe benefits agreed to by the other companies. As a result, Local 5 called a strike against Altex, which lasted until Altex agreed to sign the contract on September 12.
One of the other companies was the Louisiana Ready Mix Company. On October 7, 1966, Baton Rouge businessman Ted Dun- ham, Sr., and his son, Ted Dunham, Jr., who had previously been in the ready mix business, acquired control of Louisiana Ready Mix.
During December there was another strike of Altex by Local 5 over payment of back wages which lasted for three days. On January 25, 1967, Wallace Heck bought out Roland Stevens' interest in Altex. On March 21,1967, the Altex Company brought a $3,150,000 lawsuit against Partin, Louisiana Ready Mix, the Dunhams and another company, charging that they had conspired in restraint of trade to the benefit of Louisiana Ready Mix and to the detriment of Altex. The suit charged that the Dunhams had acquired Louisiana Ready Mix in the summer of 1966 and that the strikes by Local 5 at that time and since had been designed to help the Dunhams while harming Altex.
On April 24, 1967, two weeks before the Chattanooga hearing, Partin's deposition was taken by Altex attorneys. Partin answered all of the questions except two, which he claimed had nothing to do with Altex but were designed instead to elicit information concerning the then pending contract negotiations between Local 5 and the Stevens Concrete Pipe Company. During the questioning, Partin was asked whether he was paying per capita taxes to the International Union and whether Local 5 was affiliated with the International. In the deposition Partin charged that Chuck Winters of Local 270 in New Orleans had been meeting with Altex Following the heating in Chattanooga,
Partin was notified by the International Teamsters Union that Local 5's per capita taxes were far in arrears and would have to be paid immediately or the local would be placed in trusteeship Partin said that Hoffa had told him during an earlier organizational drive against one of the oil companies to defer paying per capita taxes in lieu of receiving strike benefits from the International Partin had nothing on paper to back up this oral authorization by Hoffa, but submitted affidavits from witnesses to the conversation to corroborate his position. He was instructed to appear at the next meeting of the International Executive Board on July 12.
On June 20 two thousand members of Local 995 of the Electrical Workers Union walked off their jobs. Within forty-eight hours the work stoppage created a shutdown of virtually all construction in the Baton Rouge area. Governor McKeithen, who had since his election in 1964, more than doubled the industrial growth of the area, was obviously very upset. The Chamber of Commerce said that $250,000,000 worth of industry was affected by the shutdown.
On June 23, four days after our program on Garrison, station WJBO in Baton Rouge did an in-depth story in which it blamed Partin for the labor difficulties:
We can report that Edward G. Partin has been under investigation by the New Orleans District Attorney's Office in connection with the Kennedy Assassination investigation . . . based on an exclusive interview with an Assistant District Attorney in Jim Garrison's office. We can report that Partin's activities have been under scrutiny. In his words: "We know that Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were here in New Orleans several times . . . there was a third man driving them and we are checking the possibility it was Partin."
On the same day Charles D. Winter, president of Local 270 of the Teamsters Union in New Orleans, made a television statement in which he said that Local 5 in Baton Rouge was not presently a member of the International Teamsters Union but had applied for readmission.
On June 26 Partin made a plea for arbitration of the labor dispute and agreed to he bound by the result. He sent a telegram to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation and said that his union was becoming the whipping boy. The Baton Rouge television station took note of the telegram and then went on to quote in detail remarks attacking Partin that had been made on the floor of the House two years earlier by Congressman Gray. (This was the same statement that had been incorporated in Sid Zagri's publicity releases during the operation to keep Hoffa from going to prison.)
Chuck Winter in New Orleans sent Partin's old enemy J. D. Albin to Baton Rouge to start raiding Partin's jurisdiction. Members of Local 5 were told that if they remained in the local they would lose their benefits under the Teamsters Pension Fund. One of the companies to which Albin directed his efforts was the Stevens Concrete Pipe Company. Partin filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which ultimately issued an order directing the Stevens Company and Albin to cease and desist their activities.
With the pressures on him mounting, Partin now received a call from his former attorney, Osie Brown, who asked him to drop by his house, When Partin arrived, he found two other men there with Brown: Frank Ragano and Wilson Abraham, a wealthy Baton Rouge contractor and owner of the Statler Lakeshore Hotel in that city.
Abraham mentioned that he had applied for a loan from the Teamsters Pension Fund for $32,000,000 to build a hotel in Las Vegas. He said that he had already paid Jacques Schiffer $87,000 to help get the loan but indicated that his success might be contingent on obtaining help from Partin for Hoffa. Ragano told Partin that Hoffa had sent him and realized that Partin was his last hope. He said that Hoffa would arrange to have J. D. Albin and Chuck Winters stop interfering in the Baton Rouge area and that no one else would bother him. In return, Ragano said, he needed an affidavit from Partin about wiretapping. Partin refused.
Shortly thereafter Partin was again contacted by Abraham. He told Partin that Senator Russell Long had talked to Attorney General Ramsey Clark within the past several days about the department's original twenty-six-count indictment of Partin. He said that Long told the Attorney General that if the Department of Justice tried to dismiss the indictment, he had twenty-five Senators who would raise strong objections. Abraham said that Hoffa was going to be transferred to a prison in Florida where he would be closer to Ragano. Abraham said further that if the Department of Justice should start an investigation of efforts to bribe Partin, Buddy Gill would be the scapegoat. Then Abraham reminded Partin that Baton Rouge federal Judge E. Gordon West was a former law partner of Senator Russell Long, and that other federal judges in Louisiana had also been appointed through Long. "They'll burn your ass," Abraham said. Abraham also mentioned that he had heard that Jim Garrison was going to subpoena Partin in his assassination probe.
All of the heat would be taken off him, Abraham said, if Partin would help Hoffa. He then attempted, unsuccessfully, in Partin's presence to call Frank Ragano in Room 767 of the Royal Orleans Hotel, assuring Partin that Ragano could take care of the pressures. Abraham said that Senator Long was coming to Baton Rouge on June 30 and that he wanted to set up a meeting between Partin and Long.
Senator Long did come to Baton Rouge and Partin called him. When Partin mentioned their getting together, Senator Long immediately said that he had not seen Buddy Gill in several weeks. (Partin had not even mentioned Gill.) The conversation developed into a shouting match and Partin hung up.
Wilson Abraham subsequently talked to Judge William Daniels along the same lines as he had to Partin, and also mentioned that he was attempting to get a Pension Fund loan from the Teamsters.
On June 27 Chuck Winters announced in a television interview that the employees of the Union Tank Car Company in Baton Rouge had asked his local rather than Local 5 to represent them. Partin made another plea for forced arbitration and suggested a fifteen-day truce with all workers returning to their jobs in an effort to settle the labor strife.
On the following day Winters repeated his claims about the Union Tank Car Company employees and said that he was petitioning the NLRB for an election.
On July 13 the Executive Board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, meeting at a country club in Seaview, New Jersey, passed a resolution to place Local 5 in trusteeship if the per capita dues in arrears were not paid.
On July 17 Governor McKeithen called a special session of the Louisiana state legislature to ask for the enactment of legislation creating a Labor-Management Commission of Inquiry to look into the problems of labor strife in the Baton Rouge area.
The next day I went to New Orleans to surrender and post bail in connection with Garrison's charges against me. I had received the complete backing of NBC and had held a press conference in Washington the prior week at which I accused Garrison of attempting to intimidate the press. I brought with me to New Orleans a $5000 certified check drawn on NBC's account at the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. The clerk of the court said he could not accept it. He produced a letter written one week earlier by the attorney for the court which set forth the "new" policy covering payment of bail. Only checks on local banks were acceptable. It was now four o'clock in the afternoon and the banks were closed. My local attorney, Milton Brener, hurried off to his bank to try and get cash. In the meantime I was left standing there under the watchful eye of the sheriff. It was obvious that Garrison wanted me in jail. After pounding on the closed bank door for a while, Brener finally was allowed in and obtained $5000 in cash. We turned it over to the clerk and started to leave. I was then served with a subpoena directing me to appear before Garrison's grand jury the following morning. Jack Miller, Milton Brener and Ed Baldwin stayed up all night preparing a petition to the State Court of Appeals claiming that it would be a violation of due process to force me to go before the grand jury after I had already been charged. The judge in charge of the grand jury was Malcolm O'Hara! Both the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court denied the motion. We then went into federal court for an injunction against Garrison, asking that he be prevented not only from forcing me to appear before the grand jury but also from prosecuting me -- on the basis that it was a malicious prosecution. The judge granted our request pending a hearing in federal court.
On the day I surrendered, Senator Robert Kennedy issued the following statement:
I have been fortunate to know and work with Walter Sheridan for many years. Like all those who have known him and his work, I have the utmost confidence in his integrity, both personal and professional. This view was shared by President Kennedy himself, with whom Mr. Sheridan was associated for many years in a relationship of utmost trust, confidence and affection.
His personal ties to President Kennedy, as well as his own integrity, insure that he would want as much as, or more than, any other man to ascertain the truth about the events of November, 1963. It is not possible that Mr. Sheridan would do anything which would in the slightest degree compromise the truth in regard to the investigation in New Orleans.
In reply, Garrison said:
Whether Mr. Sheridan -- a known intimate of Senator Robert F. Kennedy -- is innocent of the crime of attempted bribery will be determined by a jury of citizens. It still remains to be determined what motives lie behind Mr. Sheridan's efforts to interfere with law enforcement in New Orleans.
If he actually represents the interests of Senator Kennedy, then he has been unfair to his employer, the National Broadcasting Company. If he really represents only NBC, then Senator Kennedy should pick his associates more carefully. In either case, justice in Louisiana is our problem and not theirs.
Back in Washington at the Department of Justice, only Mike Epstein was now left to cope with the continuing machinations of the Hoffa forces. Bill Bittman and Charlie Shaffer had both gone off into private practice. The career employees who had worked with us at the department had been reassigned to other areas. The Johnson Administration had no real desire to pursue these matters. The nature of the system does not provide for the continuity of purpose and persistence required for such an effort. Consequently Ed Partin and others who had gone the whole way for the government would be subjected to endless pressures because they did, while the support and protection of the government would become more and more illusive and finally nonexistent.
On August 3,1967, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice convened a grand jury in New Orleans under the direction of Mike Epstein to investigate the continuing efforts to bribe and intimidate Partin. One of the subpoenas for the grand jury went to James "Buddy" Gill, Senator Russell Long's friend and former aide.
When Senator Long learned of this he was furious. He called Epstein at the Department of Justice in a tirade. He wanted to know who Epstein thought he was starting a grand jury in his state. He went on for several minutes in a diatribe against Ed Partin and the Department of Justice. Senator Long then called Fred Vinson, who had replaced Jack Miller as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, and carried on with him in much the same manner. A meeting followed between Long, Epstein and Vinson. Senator Long was again vituperative and subsequently threatened to have both Epstein and Vinson indicted by the state of Louisiana if they went forward with the grand jury. He said that Partin was the one they should be investigating. Vinson told Long that if he learned of any evidence of criminal activity on the part of Partin, the Criminal Division would certainly pursue it, but that the grand jury investigation would proceed. After personally reviewing the entire Hoffa case, Vinson said, he was morally certain that Partin had told the truth and that Hoffa had been guilty. Senator Long insisted that Partin and Ted Dunham were driving other people out of business in Baton Rouge. Vinson told him that if he had evidence of this it should be furnished to the Antitrust Division of the department.
The Labor-Management Commission of Inquiry was established on July 22, 1967, by what was known as Act No. 2 of the special session of the Louisiana legislature. The act provided for a commission of members under a chairman who was empowered to appoint a chief counsel and staff. The function of the commission would be to investigate and make findings of fact relative to possible criminal violations in the labor-management field.
Governor McKeithen appointed Cecil Morgan, dean of the Tulane University Law School, as the chairman of the commission. The first chief counsel, attorney Camille Gravel, resigned after a short period after a dispute with Victor Bussie, the president of the AFL-CIO in Louisiana, and was replaced by A. Harry Roberts, an ex-FBI agent who owned a private investigation agency called Southern Research, Inc., in Shreveport. Prior to accepting the position, Roberts and his agency had derived a substantial part of their income from investigations performed for management in labor relations matters. Roberts, in turn, hired Joseph Oster as a member of the investigative staff. Oster also had a private investigation agency in New Orleans called Joseph A. Oster & Associates, Inc. But it later developed that Oster owned only 50 percent of his agency; the other half was owned by A. Harry Roberts. Oster had previously served with the New Orleans Police Department. Another member of the staff was Raymond Ruiz, who had also been a member of the New Orleans Police Department.
A. Harry Roberts and his staff, in pursuit of their inquiry, showed little interest in anything except Edward Grady Partin and Local 5. Their entire investigative efforts were pointed in that direction.
On August 17 I was subpoenaed by Hoffa to appear as a witness in the hearing in Chicago that had been ordered by the Supreme Court to determine whether electronic eavesdropping by the FBI had, in any way, tainted the conviction in the Pension Fund case.
On August 18 and 21 Red Strate and Judge Malcolm O'Hara testified at the hearing. They merely turned the true story around, saying that I had requested to meet with them and had offered to furnish information about bugging and wiretapping in the Hoffa case if they would, in turn, give me information to discredit Garrison's investigation of the assassination.
During their cross-examination, they admitted that they were intimate friends, saw each other daily, and played golf and went to the racetrack together. They also admitted making trips together to Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. Judge O'Hara testified that his transportation and hotel bills on these trips were paid for by Strate, and that whenever they went to Washington together, they had visited the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. O'Hara acknowledged having met Frank Fitzsimmons, Cal Kovens and Buddy Gill there and recalled a conversation on one occasion about attempts being made to get Hoffa transferred to another prison.
Strate and O'Hara also admitted traveling to Baton Rouge, where the latter met with Ed Partin at the office of Buddy Gill. O'Hara testified that he asked Partin to sign an affidavit dictated by attorney Harold Brown from Chattanooga concerning wiretapping in the Hoffa case because Strate had asked him to do so, knowing that Partin had not been interviewed about the subject matter of the affidavit. O'Hara stated that he was merely acting as a messenger boy for Strate.
Relative to the meeting with me in New Orleans, Strate admitted that he was attempting to obtain information about wiretapping in the Hoffa case and that I had told him that there was none.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Richard Austin had this to say about their testimony:
Because of the many conflicts and contradictions in the testimony given by these two close friends, the unquestioned obedience imposed by this friendship, the contradictions in Strate's testimony alone, his declared personal concern for Mr. Hoffa's predicament, all indicate an interest and motivation which casts such doubt upon the credibility of their testimony and this Court refuses to place any credence on it.
Judge Austin, on September 22, 1967, ruled "that the convictions of none of the defendants were tainted by the use of evidence improperly obtained." He denied their motion for a new trial and reimposed the same sentences as before.
On September 1, 1967, Life magazine published the first in a series of articles entitled "The Mob." In the section dealing with Louisiana, it said, "Life has found conclusive evidence that Hoffa's pals -- some in the union, some in the Mob, some in both-dropped $2 million into a spring-Hoffa fund late last year. The money was placed at the disposal of Cosa Nostra mobsters, and it was to be made payable to anyone who could wreck the government's jury- tampering case on which Hoffa had been convicted. In due course the money was made available to Marcello to do the job." The article went on to describe how Aubrey Young, then an aide to Governor McKeithen, had set up the meeting between Ed Partin and D'Alton Smith at which Partin claimed to have been offered $25,000 a year for ten years, and finally $1,000,000, if he would change his testimony against Hoffa or furnish information about wiretapping or bugging.
One week later Life, in its second article in the series, included a section captioned "Carlos Marcello: King Thug of Louisiana": "State authorities, for the most part, take the view that Marcello and his gang aren't there. 'I'm thankful we haven't had any racketeering to speak of in this state,' says Governor John McKeithen." Then the article quoted New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as saying, "I don't have to worry about things like that. I've cleaned up the rackets in this town." The article went on to point out that three times since 1963 Garrison had had his hotel bill at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas paid for by Marcello's lieutenant Mario Marino, who had moved from New Orleans to Las Vegas ten years earlier. Life said that on his last trip to Vegas in March of that year, Garrison had also been granted $5000 credit at the cashier's cage. Garrison told the Life reporters that he believed it was customary for casinos to pick up the hotel tabs of public officials. "I may be naive -- this is my first public office -- but I don't see what's wrong with it," he said.
Life also said that Pershing Gervais admitted frequent meetings with Marcello and "now calls himself 'counselor for people who get arrested.' He arranges settlements for a fee."
Aaron Kohn is the director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission and has held that post for almost twenty years. The commission is supported by public donations to serve as a watchdog for the community to ferret out and publicize public corruption and organized crime activities. For most of those years Kohn has been the only voice speaking out against the extent of organized crime in New Orleans, the nature of its activities and its dominance by Carlos Marcello. He had recently been extremely critical of the governor and his investigation and asked the governor to resign from office.
Kohn now made a public appeal to Governor McKeithen to investigate the Life charges and to take action to remove Judge O'Hara from the bench. McKeithen said he would investigate but later told reporters at the Southern Governors' Conference at Asheville, North Carolina, that there was no organized racketeering in Louisiana -- with the possible exception of some illegal union activities. He declined to remove Judge O'Hara but suggested that Kohn could petition the attorney general of the state to do so.
In a third article two weeks later Life quoted both McKeithen and Garrison as stating that they would resign if it could be shown that organized crime was flourishing in Louisiana and New Orleans, respectively. Life then went on to charge that during the period June, 1966, to March, 1967, many calls were made from Carlos Marcello to Aubrey Young's direct line at the governor's offices in the state capital, and noted that this covered the same period during which Young was involved as an "intermediary in the efforts to bribe Edward G. Partin." During the same period, the article continued, Marcello made calls to at least six Mafia leaders throughout the country, including Santos Trafficante in Florida.
Relative to Jim Garrison, the article said that Mario Marino, whom they had previously identified as the Las Vegas pal of Marcello's who had arranged for Garrison's free-loading trips to Vegas, had appeared before the federal grand jury in New Orleans on August 15 and had reportedly taken the Fifth Amendment after consulting with Marcello. Life then named the bosses of the Marcello-backed bookie operations in New Orleans, including Marcello's brother Sammy and Frank Timphony. According to Life, Garrison had denied in an interview on August 16 ever having heard of Timphony. Yet, when he placed a call to Pershing Gervais in the presence of the Life reporters, Gervais "promptly assured him that Timphony was and still is one of the biggest bookies in New Orleans."
After the article appeared, Governor McKeithen left for New York City, stating that Life had offered to furnish him with further information to document its charges. When he returned he called a press conference and announced that Life had been right and said the magazine had actually been "light on Louisiana" in view of the evidence they had presented to him in New York. The governor said he was going to put Marcello out of business in the state of Louisiana and that Aubrey Young would be given an opportunity to turn state's witness against Marcello. He said that Life had agreed to assign David Chandler, one of the reporters who had worked on the probe, to him to assist in the investigation. A grand jury was convened in Baton Rouge and Aubrey Young testified before it on September 28.
In New Orleans Garrison criticized the governor for conceding anything to Life and convened his own grand jury to investigate the charges. He said he would resign from office if they found any organized crime in New Orleans.
Garrison's first move was to subpoena Aaron Kohn, who that same day formally presented Louisiana Attorney General Jack Gremillion with a petition containing the signatures of forty-five attorneys -- twenty more than necessary -- demanding the removal of Judge O'Hara from the bench. Kohn was ordered to produce the membership and contribution lists of the Crime Commission as well as the names of its confidential informants. The judge who was supervising the grand jury was Judge Malcolm O'Hara!
In an editorial on September 27 WDSU said, "The Grand Jury is investigating the allegations about organized crime. The Metropolitan Crime Commission has charged that organized crime does exist in this area. So now the Grand Jury is investigating the Metropolitan Crime Commission." The next day I went to see Governor McKeithen in Baton Rouge. I had arranged the appointment through General Tom Burbank, the head of the Louisiana State Police, who had been very helpful to us earlier. I told the governor that organized crime did flourish in Louisiana under Marcello and that Marcello and others had been involved earlier in the year in attempts to bribe and intimidate Partin. I also told him about Buddy Gill's efforts in the same direction and of Senator Russell Long's actions. I went on to say that efforts to help Hoffa both in Louisiana and elsewhere had been continuous and intensive and were not likely to let up. Then I pointed out that the Labor-Management Commission, which he had initiated to look into the problems of labor strife in the area, appeared to be devoting its activities exclusively to investigations of Partin and his local. I told him I was not implying that he was in any way involved in any effort to help Hoffa but cautioned that persons on the commission could be knowingly or unknowingly being used to that end.
Governor McKeithen assured me that he had no brief for Hoffa nor any desire to see him assisted in any way, and would never be a party to such an effort. He said that he was determined to get to the bottom of the organized crime question and was going to do everything in his power to clean up whatever crime there was in the state. He even offered to give me the job of heading the investigation. I told him that I was in no position to do so. I don't know what he would have done if I had said yes.
On October 11 a recommendation was made within the Federal Trade Commission that the case involving alleged conspiracy in restraint of trade by Ed Partin and Ted Dunham, Jr., against the Altex Company in Baton Rouge be referred to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. When the chairman of the FTC was later asked by a reporter whether Senator Russell Long had been influential in the matter, he refused to comment.
The investigation of Partin and Local 5 by the Labor-Management Commission continued throughout October and November. In mid-December Partin called me and said that two men had been to the local looking for work. They told him they had been working for a company with whom Local 5 had recently had labor difficulties but were going to quit because the company's equipment was obsolete. They suggested that perhaps some of the company's equipment might be blown up. Partin had told them to check back later and then called me. He said their names were George Wyatt and Morris Brownlee. [Note: Brownlee is misspelled throughout Sheridan's chapter as "Bromlee."] I described how Wyatt had tried to set me up earlier for Jim Garrison and that Brownlee was a friend of his who had also done some work for Garrison. I told him to be very careful of them.
When they returned to Local 5 the next day Partin noticed that there were out-of-state license plates wired on over the regular plates on their automobile. He avoided them and called Sargent Pitcher, who had them arrested for driving with stolen license plates.
Soon after Wyatt and Brownlee went off the commission payroll they came to Partin and told him they had been hired by the Labor-Management Commission to frame him. They said the Labor-Management Commission had arranged for them to obtain employment with the company that Local 5 was striking, and the plan was for them to sabotage company equipment (with the consent of the company) and blame it on Partin. They said that they had been promised immunity from prosecution if they became implicated in any way.
Wyatt told Partin that after they had been arrested on the license plate charge, Jack Martin, a private investigator who had also done work for Garrison and who Wyatt said had originally approached him on behalf of the Labor-Management Commission, called and asked him if he needed an attorney. Martin said that F. Lee Bailey would represent him without charge, and they could file a charge against Partin for kidnapping and false arrest. If he was interested, Martin told Wyatt, he should call a television newsman in New Orleans who could put Wyatt in touch with an intermediary to Bailey.
Wyatt called the newsman, who instructed him to go to the Fontainebleau Hotel in New Orleans and page Pershing Gervais. Wyatt went to the Fontainebleau that night and asked at the front desk that they page Gervais. Gervais, paged under the name of Sam Maxwell, appeared and introduced himself to Wyatt. They then went to the coffee shop and talked.
Gervais already knew about everything Wyatt had been doing for the Labor-Management Commission, and in fact, maintained that he had told the commission people they were not going about it the right way. Gervais said that the evening Wyatt and Brownlee had been arrested, Sargent Pitcher had called Garrison's office and asked who they were. Pitcher had talked to one of Garrison's assistants, who in turn, had called Gervais. Gervais said that he had instructed the assistant to tell Pitcher they were just a couple of narcotics users. (Harold Weisberg, JFK assassination buff and author, later told Brownlee that he had been in Garrison's office at the time and could confirm that Pitcher had called Assistant District Attorney Sciambra, who in turn, called Gervais.)
Gervais told Wyatt that the only way to get Hoffa out of jail was to put Partin in jail. When Wyatt asked about the idea of filing kidnapping or false arrest charges and obtaining F. Lee Bailey's services, Gervais left the table and said he was going to call "the people up north." When he returned about one-half hour later he said that filing the charge wasn't good enough and that they should hold that in abeyance. What they really wanted, he said, was to get several charges and file them against Partin all at once. They discussed the possibility of planting narcotics on Partin and Gervais said. "Do anything but kill him. He has to be alive to testify that he committed perjury in Chattanooga." Gervais told Wyatt to have Raymond Ruiz, of the Labor-Management Commission staff, get in touch with him.
After Wyatt and Brownlee went to Partin and told him what had been transpiring, Wyatt called Ruiz and told him that he had gotten close to Partin and might be able to help them. (Of course, Wyatt was now actually working on behalf of Partin.) Immunity for Wyatt was again discussed. Wyatt also called Gervais from the Shady Oaks Motel in Baton Rouge and told him that he was getting close to Partin. Gervais asked Wyatt to have Ruiz call him, and Wyatt went to see Ruiz with this message. Ruiz told him he was going to see Gervais the following day.
The next day Wyatt called Gervais, who claimed that he had not heard from Ruiz. Gervais then said that he no longer wanted to be involved and that Wyatt should work directly with Ruiz. Wyatt immediately called Ruiz, who said that he had just come back from seeing Gervais and Gervais had told him that "the best 'they' can do is five figures, but first you have to produce the evidence." Ruiz said that the evidence had to show that Partin had committed perjury. When Wyatt asked Ruiz when he could meet with someone to present the evidence and expressed concern about being double-crossed out of the money, Ruiz assured him, "You won't be double-crossed. These people have a reputation to keep up. They have been skinned pretty good before." Ruiz said that he would try to get in touch with Gervais so that Wyatt could present his evidence to him and get his money. Ruiz called back a few minutes later and said that he had just talked to Gervais and now "it is up to me to decide what you have got."
It was becoming apparent that not only was the Labor-Management Commission out to nail Partin but also that some of its staff members were in contact with persons whose motive was to help Hoffa by getting at Partin.
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