Clay or Clem Bertrand does exist. An NBC News reporter has seen him. Clem Bertrand is not his real name. It is a pseudonym used by a homosexual in New Orleans. For his own protection we will not disclose the real name of the man Andrews knew as Clem Bertrand. His real name has been given to the Department of Justice. He is not Clay Shaw. What, then, of Perry Russo’s testimony?
This claim, given nationwide publicity in the press the next day, would certainly affect the attitude of any potential juror. It also immediately led Shaw’s lawyers to say they would have the case dismissed. However, it took little effort to discredit it. Garrison found out from the New Orleans NBC affiliate the name of the “real” Clay Bertrand—one Eugene Davis. He had the man called before the Grand Jury along with Dean Andrews who had made the claim. The foreman of the Grand Jury could find no new evidence “to confirm any of the allegations that have been made to date” (Times-Picayune June 29). The next day Davis submitted an affidavit saying that Andrews’s statements identifying him as Bertrand “are utterly and completely false and malicious and damnable. They are lies without justification.” Andrews has said, and he reiterated this on the NBC program, that he had seen Bertrand only twice. But Davis, a bartender, has known Andrews for eighteen years. Andrews has been his lawyer. In his affidavit Davis said that Andrews had, in fact, asked him if he knew Clay Bertrand, or could help Andrews find him. According to Davis, and the States-Item (June 29), the FBI looked Davis up shortly after the NBC program, and quickly came to the conclusion that he was not Bertrand.
In spite of the FBI’s conclusion, NBC has not retracted its claim. It will be interesting to see what they say now that Andrews has been convicted, Davis testified at length during Andrews’s trial. The national press has paid scant attention to Davis’s statements, though they were prominently featured in the New Orleans papers.
6.) Another case, first brought up in Newsweek and later featured on NBC, was that of Ferrie’s friend, Alvin Beauboeuf. Beauboeuf claimed that he was offered a bribe by one of Garrison’s men if he would give evidence about the alleged conspiracy, and that he had a tape recording to prove it. As soon as this charge was made in Newsweek, Garrison produced an affidavit sworn to by Beauboeuf on April 12, 1967, which has not been reproduced, as far as I know, in papers outside New Orleans. It is, so far, the only public sworn statement by Beauboeuf. In this document he said he was told that
if I told the entire truth about the case, as I knew it, and that if these facts led to the capture of the men who killed President Kennedy, he [Mr. Loisel, one of Garrison’s assistants] felt I would not have to worry about either a job or money. He said, however, that it had to be the truth because the District Attorney’s office would require me to take a lie detector test and other tests because they were not interested in building their case on any statements about which there was any question.
Later, in describing the taped conversation, Beauboeuf swore that “Loisel said that they wanted nothing but the truth and no deviation from the truth. He said that to make sure they got the truth I would have to take a lie detector test, hypnosis and sodium pentothal…. Mr. Loisel said that there would be no help of any kind for me [money and/or a job] unless I told the complete truth and unless that truth was corroborated by all these different tests.” Then Beauboeuf said that his lawyer wanted to sell the tape, and that the lawyer discussed it with Shaw’s attorneys. It was then taken to D.A. Langridge of Jefferson Parish in the hope that Beauboeuf’s lawyer “could get a charge to be taken against Loisel,” and that this might help keep Beauboeuf out of trouble. Langridge decided the tape provided no basis for a charge.
BEAUBOEUF HAS INSISTED, as he said on NBC, that Garrison forced the affidavit out of him by threats of exposure on other matters. The affidavit and the tape cited by Newsweek were turned over to the New Orleans Police Department, and their conclusion was that Loisel’s offer did not violate police conduct, that there was no evidence Beauboeuf had been threatened, and—a matter not mentioned on NBC—that the “police are believed to have concluded that the tape was edited or altered after the recording was made” (States-Item, June 5, 1967). On NBC Beauboeuf (like many others in this case) said he had been given a polygraph test (in Washington, not by Garrison), and that it showed he was telling the truth.
On June 28, Beauboeuf’s charges, as well as the other charges made on NBC, Gurvich’s allegations, and Dean Andrews’s testimony identifying Eugene Davis as Clay Bertrand, were all presented to the Grand Jury. According to the States-Item of June 29, the foreman said “no evidence has been produced to show that Garrison or his office is guilty of false accusations or improper conduct.” This is significant, since the Grand Jury is the only body to receive this material in a legal proceeding and under oath.
7.) It should also be mentioned that as a result of the TV crusade against Garrison, the only people charged with crimes have been Walter Sheridan and Richard Townley, two employees of NBC, Both have been formally charged by Garrison with attempting to bribe and intimidate witnesses. (Sheridan is a former Justice Department aide in Robert Kennedy’s time.) The charges are based on sworn statements made by Perry Russo and Marlene Mancuso (former lady friend of Gordon Novel). Miss Mancuso’s statement predates the NBC program by a month (it is dated May 20, 1967), and describes how she was treated by the NBC people when they tried to induce her to give them an interview. Russo, in a statement made public right after the NBC program, claimed Walter Sheridan had offered to move him to California, protect his job, get him a lawyer, and guarantee him against extradition if “he did side up with NBC and the defense and bust up the Garrison probe.” Townley has been charged with attempting to bribe Russo by offering him lodging in California, employment, payment of legal fees, protection and immunity from the state of Louisiana and Garrison’s office, and influence on the defense lawyers in their forth coming cross-examination of him (States-Item, July 11).
Sheridan and Townley have denied the charges, and NBC has claimed that Garrison is trying to “intimidate those news media which have commented adversely” on what he is doing. Sheridan has said, “It has now become an issue of freedom of the press.” It remains to be seen, however, whether attempts have been made to influence or intimidate witnesses, and, if so, whether this comes under the protection of freedom of the press. This matter will, we trust, be aired in open court, and the role of NBC’s men in dealing with the witnesses established.
It should be mentioned that Robert Kennedy has risen to Sheridan’s defense, and praised his character. However, the New Orleans Grand Jury ran into great difficulty when it tried to question Sheridan, who raised a host of legal problems, claiming, among other things, that being supoenaed by the Grand Jury constituted harassment. All of his motions and appeals were denied by the State Supreme Court (States-Item, August 7). Sheridan failed to appear when summoned by the Grand Jury on August 9, and a contempt hearing has been set. He has charged Garrison with suppression of evidence, using the Grand Jury to harass his opponents, personal interest in the case, financial gain, and so on. This motion too was turned down (States-Item, July 27). If Sheridan finally appears before the Grand Jury, and then has his day in court, we may be able to tell more definitely whether NBC tried to affect the testimony of witnesses. On August 10, he filed a suit in a Federal court to prevent his Grand Jury appearance.
8.) Before terminating this review of some of the allegations made and what has happened to them, something has to be said about all of the comment, innuendo, and accusations concerning the testimony of the two main witnesses at the preliminary hearings, Perry Russo and Vernon Bundy. The testimony of the latter was immediately discounted by the press when he told the court he was a drug addict at the time he saw Shaw give Oswald money. Later Cancler and another convict, Miguel Torres, told the press and NBC that it was their impression Bundy made up the story in order to get out of jail. The fate of Cancler’s claims has already been discussed. Torres is at present trying to avoid appearing before the Grand Jury. His lawyer says that he fears self-incrimination (States-Item, August 17). Whether Bundy is a reliable witness will have to be established in court (rather than by the Warren Commission’s intuitive criterion of “credible” witnesses). One of the judges, Bernard J. Bagert said that he knew Bundy, that they had discussed his arrest and possible rehabilitation three or four times in 1966, and that Bundy had seen the Judge more recently after his return from five months in the hospital for an addiction cure. Hence it would seem that at least one of the judges has some basis for assessing Bundy’s character and reliability beyond what had been developed in his testimony.
The Russo problem is much more complicated. Russo revealed under cross-examination that he had been given sodium pentothal and had been hypnotized. In the Saturday Evening Post and on NBC, James Phelan claimed that Russo was led by hypnotic suggestion to concoct his present story that he attended a party where Shaw, Ferrie, and Oswald were plotting Kennedy’s assassination. Phelan contends that Russo did not mention the assassination plot when he first talked to Garrison’s assistant Andrew Sciambra (whose notes of the interview apparently do not include it). Sciambra has replied that both he and Russo told Phelan that “Russo did in fact discuss the party and the conspiracy during our first interview.” He has also said that the doctors who gave Russo sodium pentothal and hypnotized him “informed Mr. Phelan that no one interjected such new information into the witness’s head while he was under hypnosis.” So far, Phelan has refused to repeat his allegations before the New Orleans Grand Jury, although he was officially invited to do so. (In fact, he was challenged to do so by Sciambra, who offered to pay all Phelan’s expenses if he would come to New Orleans to testify.)