A case of yellow journalism?
Jim is reading Newsweek, deeply hurt. There are newspapers all over his desk.Did Newsweek print such a story? They sure did.(2)
JIM. . . "Jim Garrison is right. There has been a conspiracy in New Orleans -- but it's a plot of Garrison's own making" . . . and this -- "one of the DA's investigators offered an unwilling witness $3000 if only he would fill in the facts of the alleged meeting to plot the death of the President" . . . How can they write that? Where did they come up with this?(1)
Was the story factual and accurate? It sure was.
Here is what happened.
Al Beauboeuf was a friend of David Ferrie, one of the two young men who accompanied Ferrie on his late-night jaunt to Houston on November 22-23, 1963. Beauboeuf had been questioned previously by the New Orleans DA's office; to the best of his knowledge, the trip had nothing to do with the John F. Kennedy assassination. He had even offered to take a polygraph examination.(3)
Around 10:00 PM on the night of March 9, 1967, the 21-year-old Beauboeuf was home with his wife and child when he received a visit from two of Jim Garrison's police investigators, Lynn Loisel and Lou Ivon. They asked Beauboeuf to step outside.(4)
The DA knew, Loisel and Ivon informed Beauboeuf, that David Ferrie had been involved in the assassination; and since Beauboeuf had accompanied Ferrie to Houston, "we know you know something." Beauboeuf was unemployed at that time; if he would cooperate with the DA's office, they said, he might be entitled to considerable compensation for his trouble, to the tune of several thousand dollars, as well as help obtaining a job with an airline, which Beauboeuf had always wanted.(5)
All they wanted, the DA's men said, was for Beauboeuf to fill in some of the "missing links" in Garrison's case against Clay Shaw. Beauboeuf assumed they wanted information on Ferrie's personal life, and said he would help them in any way he could, but he wanted to talk the matter over with his wife and his lawyer first. The men said this was fine; Loisel added that they would be happy to put the offer in writing when Beauboeuf made up his mind.(6)
The following day Beauboeuf called his attorney, Hugh Exnicios, and described the conversation. Exnicios represented Dave Ferrie's estate and, like Beauboeuf, had no doubt that Ferrie had had nothing to do with JFK's assassination; it sounded to Exnicios like Garrison's men were trying to bribe Beauboeuf into giving false information. He called the DA's office and arranged for the DA's men to pay him a visit at his office. He then set up a concealed tape recorder and recorded the ensuing conversation.(7)
Here is an excerpt from the actual tape recording of the conversation between Hugh Exnicios and Garrison investigator Lynn Loisel:
EXNICIOS. I thought you were coming with your partner. What's his name?Loisel left the office, and Exnicios invited his client in. Exnicios related what Loisel said. (Beauboeuf did not know at the time that the conversation had been recorded.) Then Exnicios called Loisel back in and informed him that Beauboeuf could be of no assistance to the DA's office.(9)
EXNICIOS. Ivon. He didn't come out with you?
LOISEL. No. We've got too much to do. Now, let me bring you up to what Al and I were talking about last night. I told him we had liberal expense money and I said the boss is in a position to put him a job, you know, possibly of his choosing, of Al's choosing. Also, that . . . we would make a hero out of him instead of a villain, you understand. Everything would be to your satisfaction. . . . I mean . . . we can change the story around, you know, enough to positively beyond a shadow of a doubt . . . eliminate him, you know, [from] any type of conspiracy or what have you. The only thing we want is the truth, you know . . . no deviations on his part, you know. We want to present the truth. We want the facts and the facts of the assassination. That's what we want. And for this, the release, you know, the thing will be typed up in such a way that Al, you know, will be free and clear.
EXNICIOS. Now, in other words, what you want him to do, he will come up and give you such evidence that you will be able to couch him in terms of being a hero?
LOISEL. That's correct.
EXNICIOS. And . . . you have an unlimited expense account, you said, and you're willing to help him along?
LOISEL. I would venture to say . . . well, I'm, you know, fairly certain we could put $3,000 on him just like that [snaps his fingers], you know. . . . I'm sure we would help him financially and I'm sure . . . real quick we could get him a job. [We're not interested in Ferrie's personal life or] the homosexual thing.
EXNICIOS. . . . Now, about the job, what do you mean by that?
LOISEL. Al said he'd like a job with an airline and I feel the job can be had, you know.
EXNICIOS. Well, now, these are tough things to come by. What makes you feel that you would be in a position . . .
LOISEL. Well, let's say that . . . well, his connections. For instance, he was talking about a small operation such as Space Air Freight. I know with one phone call he could go out to the Space Air Freight and write his own ticket, you know. That's just Space Air Freight. That's not Eastern or something else. But I feel like we have people who are stepping stones to the larger airlines and so forth. They're politically motivated, too, you know, like anything else.
EXNICIOS. Well, now, Lynn, let me ask you this: You're speaking about the District Attorney, Jim Garrison, and his ability to place Al in a responsible pilot's position with an airline?
LOISEL. That's correct, according to Al's own ability. [The first year or two he might have to] stay in a room in the back with the charts, or something, I don't know. [Then] he advances a little further, then he's a co-pilot, then he's a pilot.
EXNICIOS. Now, let me ask you this, Lynn: Is this something that you have thought up yourself or that Garrison . . . He knows about the situation?
LOISEL. That's right.
EXNICIOS. And he's agreed that if we could in some way assist you, that you will be able to give him these three things?
LOISEL. That's correct.
EXNICIOS. Well, now, supposing you tell me . . . I don't want to lead you down any pathway . . . What do you think that Al has that he could help you with?
LOISEL. . . . Well, we feel that Al is as close to Dave [Ferrie] as anybody could have been. All right. Now . . . I'm drawing you a rough sketch. We have a man who has come forth recently [Perry Russo], told us he was sitting in a room with Ferrie, Clay Shaw, two Cubans, and Oswald.
EXNICIOS. Oswald was in it?
LOISEL. Oswald was in it.
EXNICIOS. Where was this meeting, in his home, Ferrie's home?
LOISEL. . . . I believe it was. . . . Ferrie said, "The best way in which the assassination can be done is . . . to get the President in cross fire." And went on to discuss that. And . . . I believe it was Clay Shaw and Ferrie, or maybe it was Clay Shaw and Oswald, having a little heated argument. Clay Shaw wanted some of his methods used or his thoughts, you know, used, but anyhow, that's what we have in mind, along that line.
EXNICIOS. Was Al supposed to have been at that meeting?
LOISEL. No, Al wasn't at the meeting.
EXNICIOS. Well, how is Al supposed to be able to help you with that meeting?
LOISEL. Well . . . Al, being as close to Ferrie . . . has to know the whole thing from beginning to end. He has to know it.
EXNICIOS. I see. And you're convinced from all the evidence that Al could not be as close as he was to Dave without knowing something in some way?
LOISEL. That's right.
EXNICIOS. Now, let me ask you this, Lynn. You don't mind my calling you that, do you, Mr. Loisel?
LOISEL. No, positively not.
EXNICIOS. Let me ask you this: Do you think that . . . if my client, Beauboeuf, if he knew about this and didn't tell you, he's committing a crime, he's an accessory after the fact, isn't he?
LOISEL. No, he's not. I tell you how we go about that. Well, Dave Ferrie, bless his poor soul, is gone. Al was scared of Dave. Al has a family, you know. When Al first met Dave, he was a single man. Al has a family now. Al was threatened by Dave, you know, to . . . never to divulge this. Al or his family would be taken care of.
EXNICIOS. I see.
LOISEL. You understand, now that poor Dave is gone Al has voluntarily come forward and told of his knowledge. I mean, there's 99,000 ways we could skin that cat, you know. I mean . . . that's his patriotic duty. He's . . . placing his family, you know, the safety of his family . . . at the mercy of the District Attorney's Office because he must clear his conscience . . . as an upstanding young American.
EXNICIOS. All right, now let me ask you this, Lynn: Supposing Al in his own consciousness does not know anything . . . I read his statement. There's nothing in his statement that indicates Al consciously knows or willingly told anything about the conspiracy of Dave Ferrie's or certainly didn't even know Clay Shaw. Now, how can that be changed?
LOISEL. When was the statement made? . . . Ferrie was still living, wasn't he?
EXNICIOS. Yeah . . . oh, I see.
LOISEL. He had no choice. He was scared, you know, I mean he . . . married man, father-in-law, you know, wife and kids, and this and that and everything else. He's scared.
EXNICIOS. Well . . . let me ask you this: Besides your personal opinion, have you anything really on Al Beauboeuf that he knows anything we might clear up?
LOISEL. Umm, no. Really, the only thing we're doing or have been trying to do is to have Al tell us.
EXNICIOS. Well, he's already been up there the one time. Now, what more do you want now?
LOISEL. We don't believe him. Let's put it that way. [Technically, he might have been an accessory, but] we have no choice, you know. I mean, we are seeking the information. . . .
EXNICIOS. . . . Lynn, let me ask you this: Supposing we agree to this and it's all drawn down and after you run Al Beauboeuf through the three deals, it comes out he knows nothing about the whole thing . . . what then? Will you still give him the money and still give him the position?
LOISEL. No. That's not the deal.
EXNICIOS. What is the deal?
LOISEL. The deal is that Al fills in the missing links.
EXNICIOS. Well, supposing he doesn't know what . . . who are the other assassins?
LOISEL. Well, he can't fill in the missing links if . . . he doesn't know. And that is what the deal is predicated on.
EXNICIOS. That he knows?
[Both men laugh.]
LOISEL. Oh, yeah.
EXNICIOS. Oh, boy. You better let me get to talk to him some more in order to find out if we can . . . He told me, and I'll be frank with you, that he knows nothing at all about the assassination, same thing he told you and told the DA's Office early in November, and now this is going to have to change his story. If he does, in fact, feel that he knows something about it, perhaps he will then say all right. . . .(8)
Believing he now possessed evidence that Garrison's men, acting with the DA's approval, had tried to bribe his client, Exnicios foolishly tried to peddle the tape recording to the news media for $5,000, but no one was willing to pay up. Exnicios also played the tape to two of Clay Shaw's lawyers, Irvin Dymond and William Wegmann. "There is no question that a bribe was offered," Wegmann said recently, "But there was no way my brother [attorney Edward Wegmann] was going to buy that tape." (Exnicios did allow them to have the tape transcribed, however.)(10)
On April 11, 1967, after news of the recording began to surface, Lynn Loisel and Lou Ivon paid another visit to Al Beauboeuf's home. According to Beauboeuf, the two men threatened to circulate embarrassing photographs of him (which had been confiscated from Ferrie's apartment in November 1963), and threatened him with physical harm if he did not retract the bribery story. (Beauboeuf claims that the men held him and put a gun in his mouth; "They were saying," Beauboeuf asserts, "'If you don't retract this, we're going to kill you.'" In 1996, Lou Ivon firmly denied to author Patricia Lambert that there had been any physical intimidation of the witness.) Beauboeuf agreed to sign an affidavit claiming that no one in the DA's office had offered him a bribe.(11)
Beauboeuf went to media and reported all that had happened, which is where Newsweek entered the picture. Privately, Lou Ivon and Lynn Loisel confirmed the story's details to Life and NODA insider Richard Billings, but, Ivon said, the financial incentive was offered "on the stipulation that he [Beauboeuf] would only tell the truth." "I wish you wouldn't call it a bribe," Ivon said. "We felt he had information . . . and that he was holding back. So, if he would talk, we offered financial help."(12)
"Yes, we offered two or three thousand dollars and a job," Loisel told Billings, "but all we were interested in was to find out the truth about the assassination. [We] said to Al, we understand you're broke. He said, that's right. I said our office has an expense account and good contacts, and maybe we could help. Al said, 'You really mean that?' and he agreed to cooperate. But Lou told him again to stick to the truth about the assassination."(13)
"To me, we did nothing wrong," Loisel added. "I spent five years on the narcotics squad and I learned you don't get information for nothing. We sure didn't try to blackmail him."(14)
Beauboeuf retained a new attorney, Burton Klein, who brought the bribery issue before the Orleans Parish Grand Jury, which -- with the encouragement of several of their "legal advisors," all of whom were Jim Garrison's assistants -- rejected his complaint. Klein found the Jefferson Parish Grand Jury more receptive (the conversation between Loisel and Exnicios had occurred in the jurisdiction of Jefferson Parish), but under the guidance of Jefferson Parish DA Frank Langridge, a friend of Jim Garrison's, no indictment was handed down.(15)
Finally, the New Orleans Police Department agreed to conduct an investigation into the matter. It was ultimately concluded that no attempt at bribery had taken place.(16) In a July television appearance, Jim Garrison brushed the entire episode aside with the false claim that the tape had been found to be "altered."(17)
Two decades later, the former DA wrote in his memoirs that Al Beauboeuf "had admitted to us that it [the attempted bribery] never happened. . . . And the so-called bribery tape recording had not, in fact, ever existed."(18)
And, once again, Oliver Stone fell for it.
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1. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 95. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture. (This scene was cut from the theatrical release and director's cut of the film, but is included with the DVD version.)
2. Hugh Aynesworth, "The JFK Conspiracy," Newsweek, May 15, 1967.
3. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 109.
4. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 109.
5. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 109. Beauboeuf unemployed: Lambert, p. 111.
6. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), pp. 109-10.
7. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 110.
8. Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969), pp. 164-69.
9. Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969), p. 176. 10. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), pp. 110-11.
11. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 111; Brener, p. 172.
12. Richard Billings, "Dick Billings's personal notes on consultations and interviews with Garrison," March 29, 1967.
13. Richard Billings, "Dick Billings's personal notes on consultations and interviews with Garrison," March 29, 1967.
14. Richard Billings, "Dick Billings's personal notes on consultations and interviews with Garrison," March 29, 1967.
15. Brener, p. 174; Lambert, p. 111. Likewise, a Hugh Exnicios complaint to the Committee of Ethics and Grievances of the Louisiana State Bar Association spurred no action.
16. Brener, p. 176. "Public bribery," attorney Brener writes, "is defined in the Louisiana Statutes as the giving or offering to give anything of value to any witness or person about to be called as a witness with the intent to influence his conduct in relation to his duty as a witness. The statute says nothing about a corrupt motive and it does not appear to be necessary that the 'something of value' be offered for false information." "The point may be minor," he continues, "Except that about six weeks later NBC reporter Walter Sheridan and WDSU reporter Richard Townley were charged by Garrison with supposed bribery of Garrison's star witness, Perry Russo. The charge was that the two newsmen offered Russo employment and residence in California for the purpose of 'affecting his duty as a witness.'" "It was claimed that the employment and residence were to be furnished in the event Russo had to flee Garrison's jurisdiction should he recant his testimony. Sheridan and Townley both vigorously denied having offered Russo anything at all. However, no one, including Garrison, ever accused the two newsmen of having offered these 'things of value' for anything but the truth." (Brener, pp. 176-77.)
Washington Post reporter George Lardner, Jr., writes, "I can remember conversations with [Perry] Russo in June 1967. He invited me to bribe him to disclose 'weaknesses' in his testimony." "'If you say anything about this,' Russo added, 'I'm going to have to call you a liar.' I wrote a story about it anyway. Garrison showed no interest in it, at least none that I know about. But some two weeks later, he accused Walter Sheridan of NBC of 'public bribery' for what appears to have been a similar set of conversations with Russo. Of course, nothing ever came of the charges." (George Lardner, Jr., "On the Set: Dallas in Wonderland," Washington Post, May 19, 1991, reprinted in Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film [New York: Applause, 1992], p. 192.) Walter Sheridan writes, "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." (Walter Sheridan, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa [New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972], p. 420.)
17. Jim Garrison, response to NBC White Paper, July 15, 1967. In a statement to police investigators, Al Beauboeuf noted that "there might be particular statements that may have been omitted" from the transcript of the recording. "However, he made it explicit," Milton Brener writes, "that he was referring to that portion of the transcript when Loisel left the room and during which the recorded conversation was between Exnicios and Beauboeuf." (Brener, p. 176.) Unfamiliar with the facts, author James DiEugenio cites a different source, Paris Flammonde's The Kennedy Conspiracy, pp. 292-94, 308. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed [New York: Sheridan Square, 1992], p. 364 fn. 4.) What this refers to is a statement by Al Beauboeuf's, in which Beauboeuf says that unless the tape had been altered, with certain statements of Lynn Loisel's removed, he doubted Hugh Exnicios's claim that the tape was of any particular commercial value. (Paris Flammonde, The Kennedy Conspiracy [New York: Meredith, 1969], p. 293.)
18. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1992), p. 188.
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