J. Timothy Gratz was born in 1949. He obtained a political science and law degree from University of Wisconsin. As a student he was active in the Republican Party and a member of the Young Americans for Freedom.
Gratz became Chairman of Wisconsin Republican Party College Organization. On 18th December, 1971, Gratz received a phone call from a man calling himself Don Simmons. In fact, his real name was Donald Segretti. Apparently, Dwight Chaplin had hired Segretti to disrupt the Democratic campaign. Gratz later recalled: "Simmons said he was interested in running a "negative campaign" in Wisconsin. He explained that the purpose of the campaign was to create as much bitterness and disunity within the Democrat primary as possible.... He also said he was interested in planting spies in the Democrat candidate's offices."
Donald Segretti offered Gratz $100.00 per month, plus expenses, to co-ordinate these projects. Gratz agreed to work on the project and he was given an advance payment of $50.00. Gratz later told Anthony Ulasewicz that "although the whole incident seemed strange" he agreed to help "as most of the ideas he suggested seemed like they were worth doing anyway". However, Gratz claimed he told Karl Rove, Chairman of the College Republican National Committee, about this dirty tricks campaign. We now know that Rove himself was part of Segretti's campaign. In fact, he probably played a leading role in this dirty tricks operation. Rove had become friends with CIA asset, Robert F. Bennett in 1968. According to one report, Bennett became a "mentor of Rove's".
In 1970, Karl Rove used a false identity to enter the campaign office of Democrat Alan J. Dixon, who was running for Illinois State Treasurer, and stole 1000 sheets of paper with campaign letterhead. Rove then printed fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing," and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters, with the effect of disrupting Dixon's rally.
It is also significant that Rove put Gratz in touch with Anthony Ulasewicz. We now know that Ulasewicz, was in charge of Operation Sandwedge. This was a highly secret operation that has never been fully revealed. In fact, as Ulasewicz points out in his autobiography, The President's Private Eye, the Senate Committee looking into the Watergate Scandal, avoided all questions on Sandwedge.
Donald Segretti later told the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (3rd October, 1973) the main objective was to discredit Edmund Muskie as he was the candidate that Richard Nixon feared the most. As one political commentator pointed out: "he seemed unstoppable; he had had ample financial backing, name recognition, experience, image, endorsement, and top standing in the polls."
Other targets included Edward Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson. It was decided that George McGovern was the candidate that Nixon wanted to face in the presidential election. Gratz was one of 28 people hired by Segretti to carry out this smear campaign.
During the New Hampshire primary, the Manchester Union Leader, published a letter that claimed Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians. The newspaper also attacked the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank heavily and used bad language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional speech defending his wife. The press reported he had broken down in tears and this damaged his image as a calm and rational politician. Although Muskie won the New Hampshire primary, this incident had raised doubts about his ability to be a strong president.
As Keith W. Olson (Watergate: The Presidential Scandal That Shook America) has pointed out: "Segretti carried out his tricks to the fullest extent in Florida". Patrick J. Buchanan told John N. Mitchell and H. R. Haldeman on 2nd January, 1972, "clearly, the Florida primary is shaping up as the first good opportunity and perhaps the last good opportunity to derail the Muskie candidacy".
One of Segretti's agents stole Muskie campaign stationery and mailed a fraudulent letter to 300 supporters of fellow contenders, Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson. This letter claimed that Jackson had fathered a child with an unmarried teenager and that the police had arrested him on homosexual charges. It went onto claim that Humphrey had been arrested while in the company of a prostitute, for driving under the influence of alcohol. It was assumed that Muskie was behind this smear campaign and his credibility as a honest politician was severely damaged.
Other dirty tricks in Florida included a naked girl running through Muskie's hotel claiming that she was in love with the Democratic contender. Segretti's agents, posing as Muskie supporters, telephoned voters in the middle of the night asking them to support their candidate.
George Wallace, won 42% of the vote in the Florida primary. Hubert Humphrey came in second, with 18.6%, then Henry Jackson with 13% and the the pre-election favourite, Edmund Muskie, finished fourth with 8.9%. This result added support to Segretti's claim that his dirty tricks campaign had the ability to remove people like Muskie from the race.
Segretti and his team of agents, including Gratz, now began to concentrate on the Wisconsin primary. Dirty tricks included distributing leaflets that appeared to have been produced by Muskie's campaign team. One of these invited Milwaukee's black residents to a free lunch and beer picnic at which they could meet Coretta Scott, the widow of Martin Luther King and famous television stars. When they arrived their excitement turned to anger when they found no celebrities, no lunch, and no beer.
Once again this dirty tricks campaign worked. On 4th April, 1972, George McGovern won the Wisconsin primary. George Wallace came second with Edmund Muskie in fourth position. A few days later, Patrick J. Buchanan reported to John N. Mitchell and H. R. Haldeman that "our primary objective, to prevent Senator Muskie from sweeping the early primaries.... and uniting the Democratic Party behind him for the fall has been achieved." Buchanan then recommended that they concentrate on assisting McGovern's bid to be the presidential candidate "in every way we can".
During their investigation of the Watergate Scandal the journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein discovered that Donald Segretti had attempted to smear leading politicians such as George McGovern, Edward Kennedy, Edmund Muskie and Henry Jackson. This included the letters sent during the Florida primary elections. The FBI had also revealed that the letter that had been sent to the Manchester Union Leader during the New Hampshire primary was also a forgery.
On 27th October, 1972, Time Magazine published an article claiming that it had obtained information from FBI files that Dwight Chaplin had hired Donald Segretti to disrupt the Democratic campaign. The following month Carl Bernstein interviewed Segretti who admitted that E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy were behind the dirty tricks campaign against the Democratic Party.
It is not known what role J. Timothy Gratz played in this dirty tricks campaign. However, in his book, The Taking of America, Richard E. Sprague argued that Gratz was involved with Donald Segretti and Dennis Cassini in supplying money to Arthur Bremer before he attempted to assassinate George Wallace.
J. Timothy Gratz worked as a lawyer before being debarred. He later worked in a hotel in Miami. Gratz is also interested in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and is a member of Southern Florida Research Group. Over the last few years Gratz has been active promoting the idea that Fidel Castro was involved in the assassination. See for example, Did Fidel Castro Kill JFK and Did the Soviets/Castro Organize the Assassination?
I received a telephone call at my apartment on Saturday morning, December 18th, 1972, from a man who identified himself as Mr Don Simmons. He said he wanted to find a young person in Madison to do work for the reelection of the President, for about ten to fifteen hours per month, and wanted to put this individual on a retainer basis. He said the work involved opposition research, etc.
He said he was from a political consultant firm in New York. He said he received my name from Randy Knox. We set up a meeting in the Park Motor Inn Lounge for that afternoon.
Simmons said he was interested in running a "negative campaign" in Wisconsin. He explained that the purpose of the campaign was to create as much bitterness and disunity within the Democrat primary as possible. He suggested doing things such as planting questions in student audiences before which the Democrat candidates were working, getting students to picket the Democrat candidates, e.g. a black student to picket Muskie regarding his remark on a black V.P. candidate, etc. He also said he was interested in planting spies in the Democrat candidate's offices. He said that he wanted to concentrate on Muskie, and give second priority to McGovern.
Simmons said he wanted to pay someone $100.00 per month, plus expenses, to co-ordinate these projects. He also said he was willing to pay a salary of up to $50.00 per month to a person we could plant in Muskie headquarters.
I asked him if he was working for the CCREP or the RNC. He replied he was working on his own, with his own money. (He implied that he was saying this because he did not want anyone to be able to trace his activities to the Nixon campaign or the Party officially.) I asked him how I could establish his credentials, and he was, frankly, evasive, although I got the impression that he was implying this evasiveness was deliberate.
Although the whole incident seemed strange, I tentatively agreed to work on his project (as most of the ideas he suggested seemed like they were worth doing anyway). He gave me $50.00 in advance payment, and said he would call back in early January. He said I should concentrate initially on finding someone to plant in Muskie HQ. He said that we would communicate only by telephone, for security reasons.
Mr. Simmons registered at the Park Motor Inn on Dec 16, 1972, and checked out on Dec. 19th. He listed his home address as 1400 Olympic Avenue NW, Wash DC. He paid his bill in cash. He made approximately twelve local phone calls, and three long distance calls. One of the long distance calls was to Randy Knox' home in Fort Atkinson; one was to a Madison area (884 exchange) number, and one was to Peoria, Ill., 309-674-2143. (We are checking this number out through contacts in Illinois.)
J. Timothy Gratz: Re dirty tricks, without looking at the memorandum, I do not recall ever writing a memorandum. I had told you that before, in a private e-mail. This is not to say I had not written a memorandum to anyone about Segretti's approach to me, and if I saw the entire memorandum I might be able to determine from the verbiage whether I actually wrote it.
Robert Charles-Dunne: But counsellor, in your very first sentence you admitted having written a memo, and wish only that it be reproduced here in its entirety to ensure proper context. I know that certain memories may fade with time, but just how many memos must one write on just how many political scandals, before one fails to recall their own footnote to political sleaze culture history? Geez, Tim; you're the good guy in this tale... can't you remember what you did to earn that qualification?
Or perhaps you are suggesting that the hierarchy of your own Republican party would forge a memo and falsely attribute it to you? If so, why do you remain a member of so corrupt and despicable a party?
J. Timothy Gratz: I was concerned about much of what Segretti was proposing, which, of course, was why I reported him. As I said before (and is the truth) I was concerned that Segretti (who I knew as "Simmons") was being funded by a well-meaning but ill-informed rich Republican (perhaps W. Clement Stone) or by a Democrat or by the Democratic Party as an agent provocateur.
Robert Charles-Dunne: Your mind works in interesting ways. You can actually envision a scenario in which the Democrats would recruit a young Republican to spy on the Democrats' own campaign for the Democrats? Couldn't Democrats simply spy on their own campaign? It seems much simpler. I don't know which is odder: that you believed that then, or that you think we will now. Your elaborately byzantine Castro-did-it nonsense pales by comparison.
J. Timothy Gratz: I wanted to report Segretti's activities to the highest level of the Committee to Re-Elect the President which is why I contacted Karl Rove (who was then the Chairman of the College Republican National Committee). I asked him to contact a high official in CREEP for me.
Robert Charles-Dunne: Reporting the mysterious "Simmons" to Rove only alerted Rove that his former mentor Segretti was running a non-secure operation. Rove may assert that he didn't know "Simmons" was Segretti, but that's an obvious falsehood. Among the things that got Segretti disbarred and sent to jail was the 1972 poaching and improper use of a rival candidate's letterhead. Two years earlier, Karl Rove did the same thing while under Segretti's tutelage. Rove would have recognized Segretti's modus operandi, even if Rove didn't know Segretti was using the nom de guerre "Simmons," which is itself highly questionable. Irrespective of your claimed aims, your actions did not cause Segretti's operation to be shut down; only to be made more secure, which I suspect was your real intent. If anything, Ulasewicz was dispatched to learn how much you knew and exercise damage control in the event that you really were a square john who'd stop at nothing to get to the truth of the matter. No worries there, apparently.
J. Timothy Gratz: I cannot remember all of the things that Segretti suggested doing. Some were clearly objectionable, which is why I reported him of course. Some I thought were probably not only objectionable but also illegal (e.g. printing bogus tickets to Democratic fund-raising dinners).
Robert Charles-Dunne: So, you thought some of these suggested acts were "illegal," but didn't report them or "Simmons" to the police; instead you sought to protect the Republican party from its own excesses, which is precisely what informing Rove accomplished.
J. Timothy Gratz: Whether or not campaign espionage, that does not involve an illegal activity such as wiretapping, is unethical, is, I submit, a close question, in part because both parties do it. (As you are probably aware, LBJ assigned Howard Hunt to spy on the Goldwater campaign.)
Robert Charles-Dunne: Uh-oh. Slippery ethical slope ahead... using somebody else's purported excesses to justify one's own real ones.
J. Timothy Gratz: Also, to the extent Segretti proposed distributing literature truthfully exposing "issues" with the Democratic candidates, I clearly would have approved of that idea, but if it was to be done, thought that CREEP ought to know WHO was doing it.
Robert Charles-Dunne: Perhaps you could point out why you thought at the time that CREEP didn't know "who was doing it." You may not have known, but what made you suspect they didn't?
J. Timothy Gratz: Why did I not report Segretti to the police? Well, he had not at that time suggested any specific ILLEGAL activities.
Robert Charles-Dunne: Two grafs above this one, you claimed: "Some I thought were probably not only objectionable but also illegal (e.g. printing bogus tickets to Democratic fund-raising dinners)." Which is it, counsellor?
J. Timothy Gratz: What he was trying to get me to do at the outset was to get a college student to volunteer for the Muskie campaign so the student could spy on the Muskie campaign. I thought it more appropriate for CREEP to find out who he was and close down his operation.
Robert Charles-Dunne: You just finished saying, again two grafs above this one, that you thought at the time that CREEP didn't know "who was doing it." Now you seem to admit that CREEP had the power to "close down his operation," indicating that "Simmons" must have in some way been answerable to CREEP, and not the Democrats as per your prior fantastic assertion. Which is it, counsellor?
J. Timothy Gratz: And by the way John, as a result of CREEP finding out that Segretti was working for the WH due to my complaints, it is NOT true that Segretti was "shut down" because he was becoming careless. Segretti continued to perform his dirty tricks right up until the election.
Robert Charles-Dunne: So, Rove and Ulasewicz and Caulfield didn't seem to care what Segretti did; only that he not be caught doing it. Nice to see that your party's hierarchy took your concerns to heart.
J. Timothy Gratz: I received a telephone call at my apartment on Saturday morning, December 18th, 1972, from a man who identified himself as Mr Don Simmons. He said he wanted to find a young person in Madison to do work for the reelection of the President, for about ten to fifteen hours per month, and wanted to put this individual on a retainer basis. He said the work involved opposition research, etc.
He said he was from a political consultant firm in New York. He said he received my name from Randy Knox. We set up a meeting in the Park Motor Inn Lounge for that afternoon.
Robert Charles-Dunne: We must question why "Simmons" placed a called to Knox, and why Knox suggested Tim Gratz was the man with whom "Simmons" would wish to speak. Given the planned agenda of disrupting and sabotaging rival political candidates, surely "Simmons" was seeking operatives with both flexible morality and tight lips. Unless "Simmons" was just cold-calling anyone and everyone within the Young Republican camp - a surefire invitation to the entire plan being exposed and backfiring against the Republican "dirty tricks" squad - "Simmons" must have had reason to believe that Knox was unethical and could be relied upon to keep his mouth shut, and/or Knox had reason to believe that Tim Gratz could be recommended for the same reasons. It may prove to Tim's credit that he alerted Karl Rove.
J. Timothy Gratz: Simmons said he was interested in running a "negative campaign" in Wisconsin. He explained that the purpose of the campaign was to create as much bitterness and disunity within the Democrat primary as possible. He suggested doing things such as planting questions in student audiences before which the Democrat candidates were working, getting students to picket the Democrat candidates, e.g. a black student to picket Muskie regarding his remark on a black V.P. candidate, etc. He also said he was interested in planting spies in the Democrat candidate's offices. He said that he wanted to concentrate on Muskie, and give second priority to McGovern.
Robert Charles-Dunne: How, exactly, does this square with Tim's current contention that he thought "Simmons" might have been sponsored by Democrats? In this very thread, he has asserted: "I was concerned that Segretti (who I knew as "Simmons") was being funded by a well-meaning but ill-informed rich Republican (perhaps W. Clement Stone) or by a Democrat or by the Democratic Party as an agent provocateur." One cannot dismiss as wholly fantastic the notion that Democrats would recruit a young Republican to damage their own campaign, only to unmask the charade at a later date, for whatever damage it might do to the Republicans. However, even in the murky world of political intrigue, common sense dictates that it is such a stretch of the imagination as to be highly unlikely. The more compelling rationale is that it was what it purported to be: a campaign designed to inflict maximum damage against the Democratic candidate for President, be it Muskie or McGovern.
J. Timothy Gratz: Simmons said he wanted to pay someone $100.00 per month, plus expenses, to co-ordinate these projects. He also said he was willing to pay a salary of up to $50.00 per month to a person we could plant in Muskie headquarters. I asked him if he was working for the CCREP or the RNC. He replied he was working on his own, with his own money. (He implied that he was saying this because he did not want anyone to be able to trace his activities to the Nixon campaign or the Party officially.) I asked him how I could establish his credentials, and he was, frankly, evasive, although I got the impression that he was implying this evasiveness was deliberate.
Robert Charles-Dunne: This is precisely the vague, but reassuring, come-on used by "Maurice Bishop" in recruiting Veciana: "I represent certain interests of considerable authority and influence, but they must remain unnamed. Draw your own conclusions."
J. Timothy Gratz: Although the whole incident seemed strange, I tentatively agreed to work on his project (as most of the ideas he suggested seemed like they were worth doing anyway). He gave me $50.00 in advance payment, and said he would call back in early January. He said I should concentrate initially on finding someone to plant in Muskie HQ. He said that we would communicate only by telephone, for security reasons.
Robert Charles-Dunne: One notes the interesting use of language in the graf above: "I tentatively agreed to...." Upon acceptance of the $50 on offer, I suggest there was nothing "tentative" about the arrangement. "Simmons" clearly thought he had bought and paid for services yet to be rendered, an impression Tim deliberately sought to foster.
One also notes that Tim didn't balk at agreeing to the arrangement, and did not storm out of the meeting or threaten to report "Simmons" to the authorities. That he was never asked to actually deliver on what he had agreed to do was due only to the fact that "Simmons" never called back.
Why didn't he call Tim back? Because Ulasewicz (or someone within his White House group), alerted by Karl Rove, tipped off "Simmons" that Tim Gratz had loose lips. Otherwise, "Simmons" would have continued to assume that Tim Gratz was his man - bought and paid for - and contacted him again to put the plans in motion. Clearly, someone advised "Simmons" not to pursue contacts with Tim Gratz, or there would have been follow up contacts.
J. Timothy Gratz: Mr. Simmons registered at the Park Motor Inn on Dec 16, 1972, and checked out on Dec. 19th. He listed his home address as 1400 Olympic Avenue NW, Wash DC. He paid his bill in cash. He made approximately twelve local phone calls, and three long distance calls. One of the long distance calls was to Randy Knox' home in Fort Atkinson; one was to a Madison area (884 exchange) number, and one was to Peoria, Ill., 309-674-2143. (We are checking this number out through contacts in Illinois.)
Robert Charles-Dunne: Precisely how did you ascertain the above details, Tim? It seems as though you managed to procure a copy of "Simmons"' hotel bill. Surely the staff of the Park Motor Inn - even in the less sophisticated times of 1972 - would not disclose to anyone confidential information about a guest, his home address, his method of payment, the number of phone calls he placed, the numbers to which those calls were made, etc. In order to obtain this information, did you use the $50 to bribe a Park Motor Inn employee, or did you misrepresent yourself to such an employee as a police officer? Who were these "contacts in Illinois" from whom you expected to learn the subscriber to whom the number 309-674-2143 was registered?
Up until the final graf of the memo, one might reasonably believe your assertion that you were simply a waif who got caught up in something larger and uglier than you had expected to find. The reportage of the above details, however, suggests that you were more skilled or schooled than you were naive, or that you wished to demonstrate to the memo's intended audience that you might offer some utility to them in their future plans. Either way, it seems that your final graf in the memo sinks any plausible credibility to the central tenet of your story: that you were an "innocent" who found himself embroiled in something through no fault of his own.
It's no accident that Karl Rove was one of Richard Nixon's moles. Using techniques developed by his first mentor, dirty-tricks strategist Donald Segretti, Rove infiltrated Democratic organizations on behalf of Nixon's infamous 1972 campaign. Rove's formidable talents came to the attention of George Bush Senior, then incoming Republican National Committee chairman, and the rest is history. Seven presidential campaigns later, Rove masterminded a deluge of disinformation against John McCain, whose upset victory in New Hampshire had given him a shot at the Republican nomination. Word was spread among South Carolina voters that McCain had fathered a black daughter out of wedlock (McCain had, in fact, adopted a Bangladeshi girl), that McCain was a homosexual, that McCain's wife had a drug problem and so on.
In 1972 the Power Control Group was faced with another set of problems. Again the objective was to insure Nixon's election at all costs and to continue the cover-ups. Nixon might have made it on his own. We'll never know because the Group guaranteed his election by eliminating two strong candidates and completely swamping another with tainted leftist images and a psychiatric case for the vice presidential nominee. The impression that Nixon had in early 1972 was that he stood a good chance of losing. He imagined enemies everywhere and a press he was sure was out to get him.
The Power Control Group realized this too. They began laying out a strategy that would encourage the real nuts in the Nixon administration like E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy and Donald Segretti to eliminate any serious opposition. The dirty tricks campaign worked perfectly against the strongest early Democratic candidate, Edmund Muskie. He withdrew in tears, later to discover he had been sabotaged by Nixon, Liddy and company.
George Wallace was another matter. At the time he was shot, he was drawing 18% of the vote according to the polls, and most of that was in Nixon territory. The conservative states such as Indiana were going for Wallace. He was eating into Nixon's southern strength. In April the polls showed McGovern pulling a 41%, Nixon 41% and Wallace 18%. It was going to be too close for comfort, and it might be thrown into the House - in which case Nixon would surely lose. There was the option available of eliminating George McGovern, but then the Democrats might come up with Hubert Humphrey or someone else even more dangerous than McGovern. Nixon's best chance was a head-on contest with McGovern. Wallace had to go. Once the group made that decision, the Liddy team seemed to be the obvious group to carry it out. But how could it be done this time and still fool the people? Another patsy this time? O.K., but how about having him actually kill the Governor? The answer to that was an even deeper programming job than that done on Sirhan. This time they selected a man with a lower I.Q. level who could be hypnotized to really shoot someone, realize it later, and not know that he had been programmed. He would have to be a little wacky, unlike Oswald, Ruby or Ray.
Arthur Bremer was selected. The first contacts were made by people who knew both Bremer and Segretti in Milwaukee. They were members of a leftist organization planted there as provocateurs by the intelligence forces within the Power Control Group. One of them was a man named Dennis Cossini.
Bremer was programmed over a period of months. He was first set to track Nixon and then Wallace. When his hand held the gun in Laurel, Maryland, it might just as well have been in the hand of Donald Segretti, E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, Richard Helms, or Richard Nixon.
With Wallace's elimination from the race and McGovern's increasing popularity in the primaries, the only question remaining for the Power Control Group was whether McGovern had any real chance of winning. The polls all showed Wallace's vote going to Nixon and a resultant landslide victory. That, of course, is exactly what happened. It was never close enough to worry the Group very much. McGovern, on the other hand, was worried. By the time of the California primary he and his staff had learned enough about the conspiracies in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King that they asked for increased Secret Service protection in Los Angeles.
If the Power Control Group had decided to kill Mr. McGovern the Secret Service would not have been able to stop it. However, they did not, because the election was a sure thing. They did try one more dirty trick. They revealed Thomas Eagleton's psychiatric problems, which reduced McGovern's odds considerably.
What evidence is there that Bremer's attempt on Wallace was a directed attempt by a conspiratorial group? Bremer himself has told his brother that others were involved and that he was paid by them. Researcher William Turner has turned up evidence in Milwaukee and surrounding towns in Wisconsin that Bremer received money from a group associated with Dennis Cossini, Donald Segretti and J. Timothy Gratz. Several other young "leftists" were seen with Bremer on several occasions in Milwaukee and on the ferry crossing at Lake Michigan.
The evidence shows that Bremer had a hidden source of income. He spent several times more than he earned or saved in the year before he shot at Wallace. Bremer's appearance on TV, in court and before witnesses resembled those of a man under hypnosis.
There is some evidence that more than one gun may have been fired with the second gun being located in the direction opposite to Bremer. Eleven wounds in the four victims that day exceeds the number that could have been caused by the five bullets Bremer fired. There is a problem in identifying all of the bullets found as having been fired from Bremer's gun. The trajectories of the wounds seem to be from two opposite directions. All of this - the hypnotic-like trance, the possibility of two guns being fired from in front and from behind, and the immediate conclusion that Bremer acted alone - sounds very much like the arrangement made for the Robert Kennedy assassination.
Another part of the evidence sounds like the King case. A lone blue Cadillac was seen speeding away from the scene of the shooting immediately afterward. It was reported on the police band radio and the police unsuccessfully chased it. The car had two men in it. The police and the FBI immediately shut off all accounts of that incident.
E. Howard Hunt testified before the Ervin Committee that Charles Colson had asked him to go to Bremer's apartment in Milwaukee as soon as the news about Bremer was available at the White House. Hunt never did say why he was supposed to go. Colson then said that he didn't tell Hunt to go, but that Hunt told him he was going. Colson's theory is that Hunt was part of a CIA conspiracy to get rid of Nixon and to do other dirty tricks.
Could Hunt and the Power Control Group have had in mind placing something in Bremer's apartment rather than taking something out? The "something" could have been Bremer's diary, which was later found in his car parked near the Laurel, Maryland parking lot. Hunt did not go to Milwaukee, because the FBI already had agents at the apartment. Perhaps Hunt or someone else went instead to Maryland and planted the diary in Bremer's car. One thing seems certain after a careful analysis of Bremer's diary in comparison to his grammar, spelling, etc., in his high school performances in English. Bremer didn't write the diary. Someone forged it, trying to make it sound like they thought Bremer would sound given his low IQ.
One last item would clinch the conspiracy case if it were true. A rumor spread among researchers and the media that CBS-TV had discovered Bremer and G. Gordon Liddy together on two separate occasions in TV footage of Wallace rallies. In one TV sequence they were said to be walking together toward a camera in the background. CBS completely closed the lid on the subject.
The best source is obviously Bremer himself. However, no private citizen can get anywhere near him. Even if they could he might not talk if he had been programmed. Unless an expert de programmed him, his secret could be locked away in his brain, just like Sirhan's secret is locked within his mind.
Is there evidence of CIA involvement in the Wallace shooting? According to newspaperwoman Sybil Leek and lawyer-turned-investigative-reporter Bert Sugar, the answer is yes. According to Leek and Sugar, while Bremer was at the Lord Elgin hotel in Ottawa, he met with a Dennis Cassini. Famed conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell and Alan Stang identified Cassini as a CIA operative. Cassini was found dead from a massive heroin overdose in July, 1972, just two months after the Wallace shooting. Cassini had no history of drug use.
Cassini’s address book contained the phone number of a John J. McCleary. McCleary lived in Sacramento, California, and was employed by V & T International, an import-export firm. McCleary drowned in the Pacific ocean in the fall of 1972. His father, amazingly, drowned around the same time in Reno, Nevada.
If the CIA was somehow involved, that could explain both E. Howard Hunt’s immediate interest in the case, as well as the role of CBS in filming Bremer in the act of shooting. CBS and the CIA shared a particularly close relationship. CIA involvement might go far in explaining the following connections as well.
Bremer’s brother, William Bremer, was arrested shortly after the Wallace shooting for having bilked over 2,000 Miami matrons out of over $80,000 by signing them up for non-existant weight-loss sessions. Curiously, Bremer’s lawyer was none other than Ellis Rubin, the man who had defended many anti-Castro activists and who defended the CIA men who participated in the Watergate break-in.
Even more curious is Bremer’s half-sister Gail’s relationship with the Reverend Jerry Owen (ne Oliver Brindley Owen), who figures prominently in the RFK case. Owen’s bible-thumping show was cancelled from KCOP in Los Angeles when evidence surfaced showing he had a possibly sinister relationship with Sirhan Sirhan just prior to the assassination of Robert Kennedy. After the assassination, Owen had gone to the police with a strange tale of having picked Sirhan up as a hitchhiker. But other witnesses claimed Owen had given Sirhan cash, and had more of a relationship with Sirhan that he had admitted.
I arrived in Wisconsin to check out what a guy named Don Simmons was up to. On December 18, 1971, Timothy Gratz, Chairman of Wisconsin's Republican Party College Organization, received a call from a man calling himself Don Simmons. Simmons said he had gotten Gratz's name from Randy Knox, an active Wisconsin Republican. Gratz and Simmons met that afternoon in the Park Motor Inn Lounge. Simmons told Gratz that he had come to Wisconsin to recruit people to help with President Nixon's reelection campaign, and specifically to do "opposition research." He told Gratz he had all kinds of proposals for conducting a "negative campaign" to insure Nixon's reelection. His goal was to create as much bitterness and disunity within the Democratic Party as he could. He wanted that disunity to surface during the Wisconsin and other primaries to be held in the coming months. Three of his suggestions were to plant agitators in student audiences, set up picket lines, and infiltrate the local campaign offices of Democratic candidates. Simmons also wanted to line up a few blacks to picket Senator Edmund Muskie, a potential Nixon rival, wherever he spoke. After Muskie fell, Simmons told Gratz, McGovern would be next. At this point Gratz asked Simmons who had sent him to Wisconsin. At first, Simmons said he was working for a consulting company from New York, but he finally admitted that this was all his idea and that he was working with his own money. When Gratz reported his meeting with Simmons to top Republican officials in Wisconsin, who in turn passed the information along to the White House, it seemed nobody had ever heard of Don Simmons. I was given the assignment to blow his cover.
For the first time, this assignment required that the White House provide me with a cover story of its own. The connection between the White House and me had to be revealed to insure my credibility in Gratz's mind. After all, he had gone to the top level in Wisconsin Republican politics to report Simmons and so had a right to expect that someone from the top was coming to see him. Using another alias, I called Gratz and simply told him that I had been asked to conduct a discreet inquiry on Simmons's background for the White House. When I met with Gratz in his apartment, he seemed pleased to hear the words "White House." With his cooperation, I made preparations to record Simmons's voice when he called again. I wanted to give the tape to the White House so that it could figure out who Simmons might be working for. Gratz, it seems, had already made arrangements for Simmons to call him at a preassigned time. When Simmons finally called, he continued to be both bold and evasive, acting as if it didn't really matter who he was working for as long as Nixon was reelected. He had a job to do and he wanted help. If Gratz would help him with the recruiting, Simmons would provide the money. Simple as that: spread the dirt and pass the ammunition.
Gratz was disturbed, not knowing whether Simmons was legitimate, and whether he should refuse to cooperate with Simmons or play along with him to find out what else he was up to. Whatever he was doing, Gratz felt that Simmons was going about it mighty sloppily. Gratz even wondered whether Simmons might be working for the Democrats to find out whether the Republicans were planting spies in Democratic candidates' organizations.
Gratz was convinced that the Nixon White House didn't know anything about Simmons because one of his associates, John MacIver, had called some Republican Party big wigs who said they didn't know who Simmons was. If Simmons was legitimate, MacIver would surely have known about him. So who was this guy? I told Gratz I intended to find out. But, first, I was going to call the White House. As I left Gratz's apartment, I told him to sit tight until I came back. Next, I called Caulfield from a pay phone in the lobby of the motel where I was staying.
"Jack," I told Caulfield, "I'm going to pull the lid off this guy. He's throwing his weight around, and he claims he's got the bucks to back him up. I'm convinced someone in that White House of yours knows all about this. You better find out who it is. And quick. I'll give you an hour."
When Caulfield phoned back as scheduled, he said he had checked with both Ehrlichman and Dean and they knew nothing about Simmons.
"Check with the other side of the throne, Jack," I said, referring to H. R. Haldeman, the President's Chief-of-Staff.
"But I don't have a line into him," Caulfield said.
"Get one!," I demanded and then hung up.
In a few minutes, Caulfield was back on the line.
"You're right, Tony," Caulfield said. "Simmons is Haldeman's man. Get out of there. Back off. Simmons will be told to lay off Gratz."
When I returned to Gratz's apartment I told him that the matter had been taken care of and that he wouldn't be bothered again, but I couldn't believe Haldeman or anyone else would let a guy like Simmons loose on the streets. If anyone found out about him, he was bound to hurt Nixon's campaign. As I found out later, Simmons was actually Donald R. Segretti, recruited by Haldeman's appointments secretary, Dwight Chapin, for the political game of "dirty tricks." Payments for Segretti's services, described as "field operation expenses," were authorized by Haldeman and paid out of Kalmbach's trustee fund. The Simmons/ Segretti investigation made it clear to me that White House intelligence operations, at least those that were connected to Nixon's reelection campaign, were being directed by more than one hand. All of these hands appeared to have been dipping into the money on deposit in Kalmbach's trustee account. But with Ehrlichman not knowing what Haldeman was up to, no one hand seemed to be in charge of what was going on. Chaos was in the wind.
Only 13 percent of Americans believe President Kennedy was shot by a lone nut, says a 2001 Gallup poll.
What really happened on November 22, 1963 is known only to a handful of people still alive. One of those has recently started to share some of the secrets of the Kennedy assassination.
Gerald Patrick Hemming served as a consultant on the 1991 movie “JFK” and is listed in the credits. This week, Hemming spoke with Solares Hill of the days when he was the leader of Interpen, a group of American anti-Communists who trained Cuban exiles in the early 1960s at a camp on No Name Key, 25 miles north of Key West.
Hemming, who is 6 foot 7 inches tall, was in his early twenties at the time. With his wavy black hair and movie-star good looks, he was often compared to Errol Flynn but Flynn’s movie exploits paled in comparison with hemming’s real-life adventures.
Hemming, raised in Los Angeles, started a paramilitary group while he was still in high school. He served in the Marines, then went to Cuba to train Castro’s paratroopers. When Castro embraced Communism, Hemming returned to the United States and told the CIA what he had observed in Cuba. He then started his Interpen group on the same site on No Name Key once used for the same purpose by Rolando Masferrer, who in Dec. 1960 trained with 300 anti-Castro mercenaries on the key. (Readers will recall that Masferrer was arrested on January 2, 1967 for attempting to launch an invasion of Haiti from Coco Plum Island off Marathon.)
Hemming told Solares Hill that his sources were the first to verify the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, and that they were able to provide precise locations for them. Hemming provided this information to Florida Governor Farris Bryant. Hemming states that that the photos of missile sites that Adlai Stevenson showed the United Nations were actually decoy sites set up by the Soviets. Hemming considers the work he did on the Soviet missile sites the most important accomplishment of his life.
In a deposition to the House Assassinations Committee, Hemming testified that in 1963 he was offered money by New Orleans private detective and former FBI agent Guy Banister to kill Kennedy, an offer he refused. (Banister was played in “JFK” by Solares Hill’s friend Ed Asner.) Banister reportedly knew Oswald, a fact confirmed by a New Orleans history professor who had observed the two together on two separate occasions. Hemming testified that George deMohrenschilt, the mysterious Russian from Dallas who became Oswald’s best friend, was present at the meeting when Banister made the offer.
Hemming himself encountered Oswald twice. The first time was in Monterey Park, California, shortly before Hemming first went to Cuba. Hemming was then acting as a guard at the home of the Cuban consul. He was approached by a skinny young man in civilian clothes who called himself Lee Oswald (Oswald was then in the Marines). Oswald said he wanted to fly to Cuba and join the revolution. Hemming says Oswald gave him an eerie feeling. “It was like he had read my file,” Hemming told us. Moreover, Oswald expressed knowledge of a secret cache of arms hidden in the consul’s house and destined for Cuba.
Fearing Oswald was an agent provocateur, Hemming sent him away. Hemming tried to follow him to get his license plate, but Oswald had disappeared too fast.
The second time Hemming saw Oswald was in 1962. On December 4 of that year, Hemming and 13 of his Interpen colleagues were arrested in Marathon by U.S. Customs for violations of the Neutrality Act. Hemming’s group had moved a boat, the “Sally,” from Miami to Marathon, and Customs had information they were going to use the boat for a raid into Cuba.
After being booked in Key West, they were released on bond with the help of a Miami attorney named Charles Ashman, then drove to Miami where they rented hotel rooms. In Miami, Hemming was shocked when he saw Oswald with one of his No Name Key men, apparently trying to infiltrate his group. Hemming stopped that right away. Get away from him, Hemming told his man, he’s trouble. Attorney Ashman witnessed the incident.
Hemming told Solares Hill of a third encounter with Oswald. Shortly after Hemming arrived in Havana, in January of 1959, while he was near the Presidential Palace, Hemming was told an American named Oswald was looking for him. Hemming avoided Oswald.
And there was a fourth attempted contact as well. A month or two before the assassination, Hemming and his No Name Key comrade Howard Davis were appearing on a Miami radio talk show hosted by Allen Courtney. A man called in asking to speak to Hemming, identifying himself as Lee Oswald. Hemming did not want to take the call and handed it to Davis.
By November 1963, law enforcement had picked up rumors of potential danger to the President from both anti-Castro and pro-Castro Cubans. When President Kennedy visited Miami on Monday, November 18, 1963, Hemming and several of his No Name crew were asked to help with security by scanning the crowds for potentially dangerous Cubans. They were asked to come armed, but Hemming told the authorities they would be there but unarmed; he was concerned it might be a set-up with his men possessing firearms too close to the President.
After Kennedy was assassinated, the FBI interviewed Hemming to find out what he knew about the assassination. Hemming says the interview was perfunctory and it was clear to him the FBI was not conducting a serious investigation. Hemming once told an assassination conference in Dallas, “After the assassination, when the FBI did not immediately detain me and Mitch WerBell [a right-wing arms merchant from Powder Springs, Ga.] for questioning, I knew there was going to be a cover-up.” Not everyone laughed.
In fact, when New Orleans District Attorney James Garrison started his investigation, he first believed the assassination was planned on No Name Key. To disabuse him, Hemming walked into the office of the “giant” DA (Hemming even had a few inches on Garrison) and offered to help his investigation.
In late March of 1968, Hemming was in Los Angeles and was offered money to kill Martin Luther King, Jr., an offer he reported to the FBI. Within two weeks, King was murdered in Atlanta.
In 1972, Hemming may have foiled a plot to kill President Richard Nixon. One of his colleagues was approached by a Cuban exile group who wanted to use a boat disguised as Cuban military to shoot bazookas at the presidential compound on Key Biscayne. The idea was to blame the attack on Cuba to prompt a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Hemming and his associate reported the plan to the FBI.
Perhaps not coincidentally, there is a body of assassination researchers who believe the Kennedy assassination was conducted by Cuban exiles (some think with the assistance of “renegade” CIA agents) with a similar motive: Set up the left-wing Oswald as the patsy assassin, kill Oswald while he was trying to escape, pin it on Castro and prompt a U.S. invasion of Cuba. If that was indeed the motive, it backfired. Recently released recordings between LBJ and Chief Justice Earl Warren indicate LBJ initiated the cover-up precisely because he feared an investigation might demonstrate foreign involvement in the assassination and lead inexorably to a war.
On the night of the assassination, LBJ’s closest aide called the Dallas prosecutor and ordered him to delete any references to a foreign conspiracy in the indictment against Oswald.
Many people think that although Hemming was not involved in the assassination, over several years he learned the details through his associates. A few weeks ago Hemming identified to us for the first time the name of a man he states participated in the assassination.
Recall the “JFK” movie’s scenario that there were three teams involved, each team consisting of a “shooter” and a “spotter.” Hemming helped Stone set up the “triangulation of cross-fire” scenario.
“JFK” shows a white shooter and a black spotter in the Dal-Tex Building, across the street from the Texas School Book Depository. Hemming told Solares Hill that the spotter was a black Cuban exile named Nestor Izquierdo, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs and considered a hero among the members of Brigade 2506
Hemming tells a revealing story about this. Originally, Oliver Stone wanted Hemming’s No Name Key colleague Howard Davis to play the role of the Dal-Tex spotter, but Hemming insisted the spotter should be black for reasons of historical accuracy. (Hemming did not tell Stone he knew the name of the spotter.)
Izquierdo was killed in 1979 fighting with the Somoza forces against the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Our sources say that Izquierdo was close to a CIA officer named Rip Robertson, who was involved with a CIA front company, Mineral Traders, that ran arms into Cuba from a warehouse on Stock Island. One of the boats in the Bay of Pigs invasion was captained by him. Some believe Robertson may have been one of the CIA officers involved in the assassination. In a photo of onlookers in Dealey Plaza there is a man wearing a hat who bears a striking resemblance to Robertson.
He died in the Congo in the mid-1970s, still fighting communists for the CIA. Solares Hill has a source who was involved in an intelligence operation that included several mercenaries who served with Robertson in the Congo. Those mercenaries told our source that Robertson admitted to them that he was in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot.
And Robertson had one association that raises disquieting questions. After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, Robertson worked with JM/WAVE, the CIA’s anti-Castro operation located in Miami that conducted Operation Mongoose against Cuba. In that program he worked closely, and reportedly became drinking buddies with, Johnny Rosselli, the flashy Los Angeles Mafioso whom the CIA had engaged to kill Castro. Rosselli and Robertson often met at the Mariners Restaurant on US 1 in Florida City. Rosselli’s operation was based in Point Mary on Key Largo, where he trained snipers to kill Castro but whose guns may have been turned on Kennedy.
Roselli recruited Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. to assist in the attempts against Castro. In his biography, Trafficante’s long-time lawyer states that Trafficante admitted to his attorney his involvement in the assassination. Trafficante also, apparently, had connections to Jack Ruby. Within days after the assassination, a British journalist approached the FBI in London and stated he had been in a Castro prison with an American gangster named “Santos” and that Santos was visited by a man the journalist believed to be Ruby. The journalist asked to view Ruby’s photograph to verify the match. But FBI HQ in Washington wired London FBI and said it did not want the matter pursued.
Hemming’s revelation of Izquierdo as a participant opens new lines of inquiry among those who believe it is not yet too late to resolve what is without question the greatest unsolved crime in American history.
Gerry Hemming was the leader of a group of anti-Communist soldiers of fortune who trained anti-Castro Cubans in the early 1960s at a camp on No Name Key, an island 25 miles north of Key West.
Many assassination researchers believe Hemming knows at least some of the secrets of the Kennedy assassination (some believe he participated in or even planned it). Recently he has been sharing some of these secrets with Solares Hill and his revelations may bring us closer to what has been called the crime of the 20th century.
Hemming tells us the assassination was accomplished by several autonomous, separately funded, “teams,” consisting of a shooter and a spotter. (He has yet to identify the “master planner” and has suggested he does not know who the master planner was.)
This week Hemming revealed who he believed were two of the “sponsors” of the assassination. Two men met in Haiti in February of 1963 and contributed funds for the Kennedy assassination. Both were from the Dominican Republic. One, Ramfis Trujillo, and international playboy who dated Hollywood starlets, was the son of long-term Dominican Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was assassinated in May of 1961. The second man was Johnny Abbes Garcia, former intelligence director for General Rafael Trujillo. It was not the first time Garcia had financed an assassination. In 1959, Garcia hired American adventurer Alexander Rorke to smuggle eight men into Cuba on one of the first missions to kill Castro. (See Rorke story.) The motives of Trujillo and Garcia were apparent: To revenge the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, widely believed to have been organized by the CIA.
A ranking member of Rafael Trujillo’s military wrote a book in which he stated that the assassination was organized with the support of CIA agent (and future Watergate burglar) E. Howard Hunt and flashy Mafioso Johnny Rosselli, although this report is uncorroborated.
Hunt, interestingly, returned from a fact-finding trip to Cuba in July of 1960 and reported to his CIA superiors that Castro was “popular” and the only way to eliminate him would be by his assassination. The next month, acting apparently on Hunt’s recommendation, the CIA initiated its alliance with the Mafia to kill Castro. The first Mafioso the CIA recruited was Johnny Rosselli. Some believe that Hunt and/or Rosselli were involved in the Kennedy assassination.
This week Hemming revealed to Solares Hill that the assassins had a back-up plan to ensure Kennedy never left Dallas alive. According to Hemming, there was a huge remote-controlled bomb planted in one of the cars parked beyond the triple overpass at the south end of Dealey Plaza. If the assassins were not sure Kennedy had been killed by the ambush in Dealey Plaza, they would detonate the car bomb as the motorcade sped toward the hospital, ensuring the death of all the occupants of the Presidential limousine.
Hemming told us this week that, through a source in a Central American intelligence organization, he learned that a shooter in the Texas School Book Depository, spoke German and used a shoulder-mounted, carbine-firing Mauser equipped with a scope and a silencer.
This man fired not from the sniper’s nest on the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the book depository, but from the window on the west end of the sixth floor. Hemming cannot identify this German-speaking shooter by name.
There is some evidentiary support for Hemming’s report. Photos show that the window on the west end of the sixth floor was open, and there is also a photo of witnesses, after the shooting, pointing to the west end of the building. In addition, one witness reported seeing a man with a “strange-looking weapon” on the sixth floor, but she assumed before the assassination that it must have been a secret service agent.
Although not a new revelation, we also want to note Hemming’s explanation for how the assassins escaped from the sixth floor. Immediately after the assassination, a Dallas police officer called Baker rushed into the book depository accompanied by its manager, Roy Truly. They first attempted to take the elevator, but it was not functioning, so they dashed up the stairs. They encountered Lee Harvey Oswald calmly drinking a Coke in the second-floor lunch room, no more than 90 seconds after the shooting stopped.
Many people find it doubtful that Oswald could have hidden the rifle and run down four flights of stairs and purchased a Coke in that time period.
Hemming states that the assassins had disabled the elevator before the assassination, and that they escaped by ropes down the elevator shaft.
Last week we reported Hemming’s identification of Nestor Izquierdo, a black Cuban member of Brigade 2506, as the spotter in the Dal-Tex Building. We also reported Izquierdo’s close relationship with Rip Robertson, a CIA operative who ran a CIA front company on Stock Island hauling packs of arms into Cuba before the Bay of Pigs. Robertson captained one of the two boats delivering members of Brigade 2506 into the ill-fated Bay of Pigs. Some believe Robertson may have been involved in the assassination, a belief fueled by a photograph of a man watching the motorcade in Dealey Plaza who bears a striking resemblance to Robertson, as well as by Robertson’s close association with flashy Mafioso Johnny Rosselli who was involved in the CIA’s plots to kill Castro. FBI reports indicate Rosselli met twice in Miami with Jack Ruby in the months preceding the assassination.
Since our story on Izquierdo last week, our intelligence source has advised us that Izquierdo also had a close relationship with a CIA officer named David Sanchez Morales, which raises even more troubling questions than his association with Robertson.
Morales joined the CIA in 1951 and was involved in many of the CIA’s most secret and dangerous covert operations. He helped the CIA overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. In the early 1960s, he was in South Florida working on the CIA’s secret war against Castro. He was instrumental in the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. He helped capture guerilla leader Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967. In the late 1960s, according to an unpublished story by Bryan Abas, Morales was in Vietnam, assisting in the CIA’s notorious Phoenix program that killed thousands of Vietnamese civilians as suspected Communists.
His CIA colleague Thomas Clines said that Morales was one of the most feared undercover agents to the governments of Central and South America. “A lot of leaders figured that if Morales was there,” he said, “their government was going to cave in.” If the U.S. government needed someone or something neutralized, said Cline, “Dave would do it, including things that were repugnant to a lot of people.”
Gaeton Fonzi, a well-respected investigator who worked for both the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, is convinced Morales participated in the assassination. In the course of his congressional service, Fonzi interviewed a long-time friend of Morales, and Morales’ Harvard trained attorney, both of whom were with Morales when he boasted, referring to the slain president, “We sure took care of that son-of-a-bitch!”
One of our sources tells us that Morales had assembled a group of approximately twelve Cuban exiles trained as assassins, to be used in anti-Castro operations, and that Izquierdo was a member of that elite hit squad. Our source has identified all the members of this operation but because several are still alive, we do not deem it appropriate to name them yet. But we can state that several researchers believe that Izquierdo was not the only member of Morales’ team who was involved in the Kennedy assassination.
It is possible Morales’ statement was nothing more than drunken braggadocio and that he had nothing to do with the assassination. However, Hemming’s identification of Izquierdo as a participant in the assassination adds strength to the conviction of those who believe that Morales was involved. This is particularly so because Hemming had no knowledge of the Morales’ “hit squad” or Izquierdo’s involvement in it. Like fellow CIA agent Rip Robertson, Morales was close to the Mafia leader Johnny Rosselli. Kennedy scholar Dennis Mahoney writes in “Sons and Brothers” that Rosselli was the only person who could make the ill-temprered Morales laugh, and that Morales and Rosselli engaged in all-night drinking binges, often joined by Robertson.
It was perhaps in one of those drinking sessions that Morales or Rosselli first raised the idea of turning the Cubans they were training to kill Castro against Kennedy instead. Morales and/or Robertson would supply the Cuban exiles, many of whom felt Kennedy had betrayed them and caused the death of many of their comrades at the Bay of Pigs, and Rosselli would supply Mafia funding and expertise (and, in the event, Jack Ruby to forever silence the patsy).
The House Select Committee on Assassinations put Morales on its witness list but was never able to interview or depose him. In May of 1978, Morales, then retired from the CIA, returned to his Arizona home from a business trip, complaining of chest pains. That night he collapsed at his home and was rushed to a Tucson hospital where he died several days later, at the age of 53.
Morales was not the only CIA officer involved with Rosselli to die during the investigation of the House Assassinations Committee. William Harvey was Rosselli’s case officer in the post-Bay of Pigs efforts to assassinate Castro. In fact it was Harvey who summoned Morales to work on the Cuban operations from the CIA base in South Florida. Harvey, like Morales, hated the Kennedys. Harvey died of complications following heart surgery in June of 1976, at age 61.
There is no evidence, and we do not suggest, that either Morales or Harvey died other than from natural causes. Several suspects in the assassination did, however, meet violent deaths while the Kennedy assassination was being reinvestigated, first by the Senate Church Committee and then by the House Assassinations Committee: Chicago Mafia don Sam Giancana was murdered in his Illinois home in June of 1975, only five days before he was to testify to the Church Committee; Jimmy Hoffa was murdered in Detroit in July of 1975; Johnny Rosselli was murdered in Miami in July of 1976; and George DeMohrenschildt, the mysterious Russian baron who had befriended the Oswalds in Dallas, apparently committed suicide in March 1977, on the same day that House Assassinations investigator Fonzi had scheduled a meeting with him.
Like Hemming’s identification to Solares Hill of Izquierdo as the Dal Tex spotter, his new revelations add additional avenues of inquiry to those who believe it is not yet too late to solve the murder that continues to haunt the American psyche.
Our recent conversations with Gerry Hemming has caused us to revisit a story we covered in May 2004, when we met - at Little Palm Island, only a few miles from Hemming’s former Interpen base on No Name Key - with several women whose fathers had disappeared fighting America’s secret war against Castro in the early 1960s.
One of the women was Sherry Sullivan, today the owner of an art gallery in Maine. Sullivan’s father Geoffrey, a Korean War Air Force veteran, was a pilot for Alexander Rorke. She remembers her daredevil father flying his plane under the St. John River Bridge during a family vacation in Florida when she was five.
Sullivan and Rorke took off from the Fort Lauderdale airport in a rented blue-and-white twin-engined Beechcraft mid-afternoon on September 24, 1963, having filed a flight plan for Panama. That night the plane refueled in Cozmuzel, Mexico, after Sullivan filed a new flight plan with a destination of Honduras. It was the last time the plane and its occupants were seen.
Rorke, the wealthy son of a New York judge and son-in-law of the owner of Manhattan’s tony Stork Club, was as much of a swashbuckler than Hemming. Before his disappearance, Rorke had spent four years fighting Castro, his activities funded by anti-Castro governments. Rorke was involved in at least two attempts to assassinate Castro.
In 1959, on a mission funded by Johhny Abbes Garcia, intelligence chief of the Dominican Republic - who, according to Hemming, would later help fund Kennedy’s assassination - Rorke delivered eight men into Cuba by speedboat in one of the earliest missions to assassinate Castro (the CIA did not enter the “kill Castro” business until a year later when it outsourced the mission to the Mafia). Although the men succeeded in killing Castro’s driver and bodyguard, they missed Castro and were subsequently captured and executed.
Rorke’s second known attempt to assassinate Castro occurred in the fall of 1960. This attempt included his friend Frank Sturgis, who, like Hemming, had fought with the Castro forces. Shortly after Batista fled Cuba on New Years Day 1959, Sturgis gave the order for the mass execution of 59 followers of Batista’s notorious “hatchet-man” Rolando Masferrer, who fled to Key West the day after the fall of Batista. The Masferrer followers were buried near San Juan Hill. Castro later named Sturgis the government overseer of the gambling casinos. But Sturgis, like several other Americans who had fought with Castro, became disillusioned by Castro’s embrace of communism and he returned to the U.S., dedicated to overthrowing Castro.
Rorke and Sturgis knew a lady named Marita Lorenz. At the age of 20, Lorenz met Castro when he dined on board the cruise ship she was traveling in on a visit to Havana in February 1959. She fell for Castro and moved into his suite at the Havana Hilton. She accompanied him on his first visit to the U.S. in April 1959, and it was on that trip she became pregnant with Castro’s child. In September 1959, back in Cuba, Castro operatives drugged her and a Cuban doctor aborted her pregnancy. Upset over the forced abortion and still suffering medical complications from it, Lorenz returned to the U.S..
According to Lorenz, Rorke and Lorenz convinved her to return to Cuba and embrace Castro once more, but this time poison him while she was in his bed. They supplied her with the poison disguised in a bottle of cold cream. But she returned with her mission unfulfilled. She stated the poison had melted and become unuseable. Some thought, however, that she had either lost her nerve or been overcome by Castro’s charms. (The Lorenz story is told in a HBO movie, “My Little Assassin,” starring Joe Mantega as Fidel Castro. Frank Sturgis later gained notoriety as one of the Watergate burglars.)
After the two unsuccessful assassination attempts, Rorke engaged in numerous other missions against Castro and Cuba. Some involved dropping anti-Castro leaflets. Others involved sabotage operations. In April 1963, Rorke went on a mission to bomb a Cuban refinery but the bomb failed to explode. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Customs impounded Sullivan’s plane.
After his disappearance in late September, Rorke’s wealthy father-in-law announced at his Stork Club a substantial reward for information about the whereabouts of Rorke.
In early October 1963 prominent Florida attorney Ellis Rubin engaged Hemming and his No Name Key colleague Howard Davis to search for the missing plane and its occupants. Hemming, Davis and several others, including a representative of the company that had insured the missing plane, spent days searching the waters of the Florida straits and the Caribbean as well as the rugged terrain of several Central American countries in an unsuccessful effort to locate any sign of the missing plane or its occupants.
Hemming has offered a plausible explanation for the disappearance of Rorke and Sullivan. When they left Ft. Lauderdale there was a third occupant on the plane, a Cuban named Enrique Molina. Hemming is convinced Molina was a double agent for Castro. If so, Molina probably forced Sullivan to fly the plane from Cozmuzel to Cuba or to some other destination where they were turned over to Castro’s agents. If Hemming’s scenario is correct, it is likely that Rorke and Sullivan paid the ultimate penalty for their activities against Castro.
A strange addendum to this story: In 1980, a newsletter named Spotlight claimed that Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Attorney Rubin, who had engaged Hemming on the search for Rorke and Sullivan, sued Liberty Lobby for libel on behalf of Hunt. Hunt won but the verdict was reversed on appeal. In the retrial, the Liberty Lobby engaged a new counsel, Mark Lane, author of “Rush to Judgment,” one of the early critiques of the Warren Commission. At the new trial, Lane introduced the testimony of Rita Lorenz, the same lady that Rorke and Sturgis had engaged in the 1960 plot to poison Castro. Lorenz told an incredible story: that on the day before the assassination of JFK, she left Miami for Dallas in a multi-car caravan. Among the other members of the caravan, she testified, were Lee Harvey Oswald, Frank Sturgis, Gerry Hemming and several Cubans. She further testified that in Dallas the group met with E. Howard Hunt as well as Jack Ruby. She claimed she flew back to Miami before the assassination.
Most assassination researchers dismiss Lorenz’s story. It is known that Oswald spent the night before the assassination at his wife’s home in Irving, Texas, for instance. Hemming was with a Miami newsman at the time of the assassination and Sturgis also claimed to be in Miami. Finally, Hemming famously once asked why anyone would take a woman along on a mission to assassinate the President, a comment that, while chauvinistic, has the ring of truth.
Hunt was never able to satisfactorily explain to the second jury his whereabouts on November 22nd and he lost the second trial.
Readers will recall that Attorney Rubin represented former Key West Police Chief Ray Peterson in his suit against the city and more recently was involved in the Elian Gonzales saga.