The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, continued
THE COURT: I would like to make on announcement before pulling the Jury down, that it has been brought to my attention that one of the news media people have seen fit to violate my guidelines. When Mr. Russo, before he came back to take the stand he approached him and made some comment about his testimony. I am not going to do anything about it at this moment but if it comes to my attention again that my guidelines have been violated I am going to have that reporter's credentials, his admission credentials taken up so he cannot enter this courtroom. I hope it will not happen again. All right, is the State and Defense ready to proceed?
MR. DYMOND: Yes.
MR. ALCOCK: Yes.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Russo, do you recall having had an interview with Mr. George Lardner, a reporter for the Washington Post?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: More particularly on or about June 20, 1967?
A: I am not real sure, there were so many of them.
Q: An interview of which we have information that it took place, it was in June in New Orleans at your home?
A: Yes, on North St. Patrick.
Q: Would you tell me whether the interview with Mr. Lardner was taped?
A: The taping machine was still there and I'm not sure whether it was taped or not. I am under the impression it was but I'm not real sure of that.
Q: You say you think it was taped?
A: I think, I'm not sure of that.
Q: How often did you deliver tapes to the District Attorney's Office?
A: Most of the time someone would come pick them up whenever I got a full tape.
Q: How frequently did that come about?
A: I was in touch with someone every day.
Q: Who usually?
A: Sal Scaccia, Andrew Sciambra, I can't think of some of the other people.
Q: Who did you usually get in touch with at the District Attorney's Office?
A: Either Scaccia or Sciambra.
Q: I am referring to the interview with Mr. Lardner, you do recollect that interview?
Q: Do you deny that during the course of this interview that you told Mr. Lardner that you were willing to disclose weaknesses in your testimony for a price?
A: I absolutely deny that.
Q: You deny that flatly?
Q: You deny making this statement to Mr. Lardner, "I am looking for guarantees, I am interested in me, my job and me"?
A: I didn't use looking for guarantees, I said I was looking for the job but it was in jeopardy.
Q: But you deny making the statement I just read to you?
A: In essence, yes, but I was interested in my job. In essence that statement is incorrect.
Q: I'm not talking about in essence but whether you deny making the statement "I am looking for guarantees, I am interested in me, my position and me."?
A: Part of it is right and part of it is incorrect.
Q: In other words you deny having made that entire statement?
A: I deny having made the entire statement, yes.
Q: Do you deny making the statement to Mr. Lardner on this occasion that there were certain weaknesses or holes surrounding your testimony?
A: I'm not sure if I said that to Mr. Lardner or Phelan at that time because Phelan was before that a little bit. At that -- no, I didn't say that, nor, not to Mr. Lardner.
Q: You did not say that to Mr. Lardner?
Q: Did you ever say that to anybody?
A: No, I discussed the approach to the cross-examining of me and what I would think would be weaknesses in my testimony.
Q: What reporter, with what reporter did you discuss that?
A: I think in general I may have mentioned it, but not that particular phraseology, but I may have mentioned that to some degree with Mr. Lardner.
Q: Did you make this statement, "Garrison doesn't know what they are. I know what they are"?
A: That is absolutely incorrect. The District Attorney's Office does know.
Q: Did you tell Mr. Lardner that you had no intention of disclosing the weaknesses to any newsmen without getting something in return and you were dissatisfied with the $3,000.00 Garrison's office gave you for expenses?
A: Mr. Lardner asked me about rumors --
Q: Do you deny making that statement?
Q: Now you can explain.
A: Mr. Lardner said he had heard rumors of a great deal of money and he didn't know them from fact and he had heard a rumor about my being paid $5,000.00, I don't remember 3,000.00, he said about $5,000.00 before and $5,000.00 after and another was heard about $25,000.00.
Q: You deny having said this to Mr. Lardner at the end of the interview, "If you say anything about this I am going to have to call you a liar"?
A: If I say anything about this to Lardner?
Q: I asked you whether you made this statement to Mr. Lardner, "If you say anything about this I'm going to have to call you a liar"?
A: That is wrong.
Q: You deny having said that?
Q: Were you trying to gather any material on Mr. Lardner for the District Attorney, the District Attorney's Office?
A: If Lardner's interview was in June, the District Attorney's Office instructed me they prefer I tape all conversations with newsmen and I was playing along their lines to see how far these people would go.
Q: Did you tell Mr. Lardner you were taping them?
A: No -- did I tell him I was taping him -- I'm not sure.
Q: Did you tell Mr. Phelan?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Now, did you have any reason to gather information for the District Attorney's Office or to be taping your conversation with Sergeant Edward O'Donnell of the New Orleans Police Department?
A: No, sir, I saw Mr. O'Donnell at his office.
Q: You weren't gathering information against him for the District Attorney's Office?
Q: Is it not a fact that in mid-June 1967 arrangements were made for Mr. O'Donnell to administer a polygraph or lie detector test to you?
A: Well --
MR. ALCOCK: I object. Mr Dymond knows better than to refer to that.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, I have no intention of trying to get in evidence any product or result of a polygraph test because I know that is inadmissible. The only purpose is to identify the occasion to which I am going to refer to in this question.
THE COURT: It was obvious that was his intention because I know Mr. Dymond knows full well, and he mentioned that he knows full well.
MR. ALCOCK: That is not a proper reference to a lie detector test or the results 'cause he knows they are not admissible in any court throughout the United States and for this reason he could have called the witness' attention to this by some other means, because the only reason is the affect this would have on the Jury.
THE COURT: I don't know what affect it's supposed to have. You are trying to set up a time, place and circumstance?
MR. DYMOND: That is correct.
THE COURT: As to when it occurred?
MR. DYMOND: Yes.
THE COURT: All right, but don't refer to it again.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Is that not a fact, Mr. Russo?
A: Yes, sir, I am not sure of the date.
Q: Is it not also a fact that you expressed a desire to meet with Sergeant O'Donnell beforehand?
A: To the District Attorney's Office?
Q: Is it not also a fact that such a meeting was arranged between you and Sergeant O'Donnell?
A: In other words just to talk to the man?
Q: And you had this meeting with Sergeant O'Donnell and it lasted for approximately one hour, is that correct?
A: About that.
Q: And this is -- was on or about June 16, 1967, would you agree with that?
Q: Is it not a fact that on Monday, June 19, 1967 you again went to Sergeant O'Donnell with keeping with the original plan or arrangement that had been made?
A: A few days later. I would accept your dates on that.
Q: Is it not also a fact that Sergeant O'Donnell conducted an interview with you from approximately 1:45 to 3:45 that afternoon?
A: I didn't think it was that long but I would say it was about one hour or one hour and a half.
Q: Now, Mr. Russo, I am not asking you any questions about what transpired during any alleged tests, but I am talking about the latter part now of your visit with Sergeant O'Donnell on this same day. Have I made that clear?
A: All right.
Q: Is it not a fact that you stated to Sergeant O'Donnell in the course of this interview that you were under a great deal of pressure and you wish you had never gotten involved in this mess?
A: That is correct.
Q: That is correct?
A: And I went into great lengths to talk about the pressures.
Q: Is it not a fact that in response to a question by Sergeant O'Donnell as to whether Clay Chaw was at the party which you have described, you replied "Do you want to know the truth?" and when he said "Yes," you said "I don't know if he was there or not"?
A: Uh, with some explanation the statement is accurate.
Q: Did you say that?
A: With some explanation, yes.
Q: All right.
A: We had talked about the pressures and in essence I remember telling him about Phelan and some of the other people around, I think Sheridan had been around by the time I saw O'Donnell and I went through a great explanation about this, and at that particular time in June, whatever it was, that it was hard to distinguish, I said all these people are pressing me and saying I am wrong and inaccurate and other things, that it was hard to tell whether he was there or not.
Q: You did tell him you didn't know whether Mr. Shaw was there or not?
A: After explaining the pressures, yes.
Q: Is it not also a fact that you stated to him that if you had to give a yes or no answer as to whether Mr. Shaw was at the party you would have to say no?
A: Again with the same explanation that I have given you.
Q: First of all did you say that?
A: Probably, maybe not those exact words you are quoting there but in essence the same thing. In line with, in line with what I said essentially about the pressures, this was at the time of Sheridan and Townley and right at the end of Phelan, of the Phelan thing, there wasn't much they didn't do to muddy my testimony and accordingly I told him that.
Q: Is it not a fact that when he asked you why you had come to court and positively identified Shaw at the preliminary hearing that you stated that it was because Dymond, meaning me, turned you on, as you put it, by asking you whether you believed in God?
A: I told him something along that line.
Q: Did you tell him that?
A: Yes. I said, and I might paraphrase it and it might be a lot quicker, and I said you had gone for the juggler vein and that I didn't care to discus that, and you asked me several questions I thought were out of line or out of bounds and you went into the examination of that area. The actual question of splitting hairs, you never did split hairs, the argument was the truth versus untruthfulness, whatever you care to call it. At that time when I talked to him I told him essentially something along those lines. Q: Is it not a fact that when he asked you whether the conversations that you heard at Dave Ferrie's apartment sounded like a legitimate plot to assassinate President Kennedy, you stated "no it did not"?
A: I stated -- you wanted me to answer that question?
A: Can I have it repeated?
Q: Yes. Is it not a fact that when Sergeant O'Donnell of the New Orleans Police Department asked you whether the conversation you ... that you had heard at Dave Ferrie's apartment sounded like a legitimate plot to assassinate President Kennedy you stated, "No, it did not."
A: Yes, with an explanation of this sort. We discussed at great length, for a great length of time about Dave Ferrie himself and his leaning towards the sensationism and toward the spectacular and we were splitting hairs about that, did or didn't I and said maybe, maybe not, and could it have been serious, and that Dave Ferrie would pick up on some things and I said probably it wasn't a serious thing.
Q: Is it not a fact in, rather on that same occasion you volunteered the statement that it appeared to you to be another bull session like they were always having? A: The word "bull session"?
A: I used the word "shooting the bull." I don't use the word "bull session" that much.
Q: Then you deny you said that?
A: In essence it is correct. I am not sure of that terminology. Again the same explanation you really didn't know Ferrie -- I had asked O'Donnell if he knew Ferrie and you couldn't really know Ferrie, and did he know Ferrie, his fantastic appearance, he had little hair and was bald with a spotted scalp and at one time was a pretty good pilot people said and again some of the things he claimed he had done he backed up and some, some he didn't.
Q: Am I to understand that you statement you just made as an admission you did say it sounded like another bull session like they always had?
A: Not always had. The same thing I explained to you, this is essentially what was said and essentially what was said and Ferrie was, I don't know how to explain the type of human being he was.
Q: You would deny making the statement this appeared to you, it appeared to be a bull session to you?
A: That is acceptable.
Q: That is acceptable and that is what you said?
A: Not the exact words. It is acceptable.
Q: I am using it as a quote.
A: No, I don't know if I used those words, no.
Q: Is it not a fact when you were asked to describe the conversation you heard at Dave Ferrie's apartment that you stated that this was very vague in your mind and you could not at this time say what who was saying?
A: In June 1967, is that right?
Q: That is correct.
A: That at this time I could not say who was saying what?
Q: You admit saying that?
A: With the explanation, with the pressures of Rick Townley and Phalen and the rest of them, yes, sir.
Q: Do you deny that at this same meeting with Sergeant O'Donnell with the New Orleans Police Department you expressed to him a desire to meet Clay Shaw?
A: I told him about the thing I discussed with Phelan about it. You quote me what he says and I will answer.
Q: I don't have a quote but did you tell him you wanted to meet Shaw?
A: I told him about Phelan, the Phelan thing and what actually transpired with Phelan.
Q: Then you would deny you told him you wanted to meet with Clay Shaw?
A: Again the 1,000 percent versus the 100 percent. I don't think I could deny that and I told that to Phelan that that would be the best thing possible if I could.
Q: You were not -- you were trying to bait Phelan though?
A: Not initially.
Q: Not initially?
A: When I met him on March 21 he just came up and I was told by the District Attorney's Office he was okay.
Q: You had no reason to bait or get Sergeant O'Donnell?
A: Not Sergeant O'Donnell, no.
Q: Was it not a fact that when Sergeant O'Donnell asked you why you wanted to meet with Clay Shaw you told him you would like to talk with Clay Shaw to size him up to determine whether he was the kind of person that would take part in such a plot.
A: Essentially yes, sir. I was making a judgment play, not judge or jury and if that were possible that it would be a good thing but it is not possible and that's the same thing I told Phelan.
Q: It was not possible to meet with Shaw?
A: Not possible because there would be a 10 foot barrier of concrete between us. What could we discuss except the assassination?
Q: Is it not also a fact that you told Sergeant O'Donnell you would like to know Mr. Garrison's complete case against Clay Shaw?
A: I am not sure and I may have said that.
Q: Would you deny saying that?
A: No, I don't deny it.
Q: Would you admit it?
A: If I don't remember that part I don't admit it either.
Q: You don't admit it?
A: I don't either deny or admit it but I have said this to some people.
Q: Would you deny that Sergeant O'Donnell asked you why you wanted to know this and you stated it would help you come to a decision?
A: Would you read me his quote on that, his statement on that?
Q: Do you deny that when Sergeant O'Donnell asked you why you wanted to know Garrison's complete case against Shaw you said it would help you to come to a decision?
A: I am not sure exactly at that point how far we discussed that. I do remember making remarks to him or him to me concerning Shaw and I stated that I would like to know the case against Shaw from a curious view and at that time I was under a lot of pressure about people splitting hairs, everybody that had said that I was wrong and I'd better straighten up and that Garrison was going to turn around and grab me --
Q: I still don't know whether you told him you wanted to know the rest of the case.
A: Yes, I did probably say it but I'm not real sure.
Q: You would not admit it then?
A: Not admitting or denying it either.
Q: Now, Mr. Russo, the date on which you came down here from Baton Rouge on which you came down here from Baton Rouge, was that the 27th of February?
A: That was a Monday, the 27th.
Q: Were you hypnotized after you came down here from Baton Rouge?
A: Well, not that day, not that I remember that day, no.
Q: You say not that you remember that day?
A: In other words, I don't think it was that day, no, but I was hypnotized after I came to New Orleans.
Q: Do you remember when was the first time that you were hypnotized after you came to New Orleans?
A: No. It wasn't but a few days later.
Q: Would the date March 1, 1967 refresh your recollection on it?
A: As the first time?
A: I thought it would have been earlier than that, but perhaps it was.
Q: By whom were you hypnotized?
A: Dr. Esmond Fatter.
Q: For whom was Dr. Fatter working and hypnotizing you?
A: Well, I guess the -- well, I don't know, I just supposed it was the District Attorney's Office.
Q: Well, were not the arrangements made with you through the District Attorney's Office?
A: Yes. I supposed they worked for him (sic).
Q: Where did this hypnotic session take place?
A: Mr. Ward's office, Dr. Chetta's office.
Q: I am talking about the first one.
A: I think it was Dr. Chetta's office.
Q: In Dr. Chetta's office?
A: The Coroner's office.
Q: Who was present?
A: Sciambra was, I think Al Oser was, there was a stenographer, Dr. Fatter, Dr. Chetta, a couple of others -- a couple of others.
Q: What was that?
A: A few other people.
Q: You say a stenographer was present during that hypnotic session?
A: I am almost sure there was a stenographer there.
Q: Do you know whether a transcript was made at that session?
A: I have seen a transcript of it purporting to be that.
Q: Who represented the document that you saw to be a transcript of the session?
A: Well, I can't really say, it was just -- I had gotten it from either somebody in the DA's Office or one of the newsmen gave it to me.
Q: Would you recognize a transcript of that session if I showed it to you?
A: Would I recognize it as a copy of the copy that I had?
A: I could -- oh, I could probably take a guess at it, I am not sure exactly word for word. No, I couldn't do that.
(Document produced by Mr. Alcock and handed to Mr. Dymond.)
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: (Exhibiting document to witness) Mr. Russo, I show you what purports to be a copy of a transcript of the first hypnotic session of 3/1/67, having marked it for identification "D-12," and I ask you to review that and tell me whether you recognize it.
A: Well, I have seen something similar to this. I am not sure it is exactly the same, no.
(Whereupon, the document referred to by Counsel was duly marked for identification as "Exhibit D-12.")
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