Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Andrew 'Moo Moo' Sciambra, who worked on Jim Garrison investigation of JFK assassination, dies at age 75

by JOHN POPE / The Times-Picayune

Andrew "Moo Moo" Sciambra, who as an Orleans Parish prosecutor worked on the investigation that his boss, Jim Garrison, was conducting into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, died Tuesday at River Region Hospice of complications of a stroke. He was 75.

Even though that inquiry came to naught, Mr. Sciambra was "a true believer" in what Garrison was doing, said David Snyder, who covered the case for The States-Item.

"He was incredibly loyal to Garrison," Snyder said. "He was straightforward and not trying to con anybody."

The only person charged in the case was Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman. Mr. Sciambra was the Garrison aide who was sent to Shaw's French Quarter home on March 1, 1967, to tell him he was about to be arrested in the plot to kill Kennedy.

Mr. Sciambra's duties included developing the testimony of witnesses, including Perry Raymond Russo, who claimed he had seen Shaw and Lee Harvey Oswald, the man the Warren Commission identified as the lone gunman, at a gathering where, he said, the assassination was planned.

However, Russo changed his story several times and recanted the story two years after the 1969 trial.

Exactly two years to the day after Shaw's arrest, a Criminal District Court jury acquitted him after deliberating less than an hour.

After Garrison left office in 1973, Mr. Sciambra went into private practice. In 1978, he was appointed a commissioner in the Magistrate Section of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, a position he held for 20 years.

A lifelong New Orleanian, Mr. Sciambra grew up in the Royal Street building that was later used in the 1958 movie "King Creole" as Elvis Presley's house, said his wife, Evelyn Sciambra.

During his childhood, she said, her husband acquired his nickname from a French tenant who lived in the building. "She called him 'Boo Boo,'" Evelyn Sciambra said, "and it turned out to be 'Moo Moo.'"

When he was 9 years old, Mr. Sciambra started boxing at St. Mary's gym in the French Quarter. In college, he won three Golden Gloves championships in the light-welterweight division.

In the ring, "he was a dancer," Evelyn Sciambra said. "He wasn't a fighter; he was a boxer."

Mr. Sciambra, who had been at LSU, turned professional, his wife said, because his coach was leaving the school to coach professional boxers.

But, she said, Mr. Sciambra had a form of anemia that put an end to his boxing career after only two bouts. So he returned to LSU to finish his undergraduate degree and then went to Loyola University's law school.

During the Garrison investigation, when the district attorney's office was the object of worldwide attention, Snyder said he was impressed by Mr. Sciambra's devotion to his job.

"While most of these guys were looking for a judgeship, that didn't seem to be his deal at all," Snyder said.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Dean Sciambra; three daughters, Gia Dermody, Antoinette "Toni" Marchese and Jodi Balestra; a sister, Angela Tolan; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A Mass will be said today at 1 p.m. in the Chapel of Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Drive, Metairie. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m.

Burial will be in Garden of Memories Cemetery.

Source: The Times-Picayune

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cuban ex-intelligence chief recalls JFK assassination


GIJON, Spain - Like many, Fabian Escalante remembers what he was doing when he heard U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been shot: he was trying to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from toppling the Cuban government with the help of anti-Castro exiles.

Years later, when he had risen to head Cuba's Department of State Security, he was well placed to consider whether those same exiles may have had a hand in the November 22, 1963 slaying of the dashing young president in Dallas.

Escalante does not claim to know who killed JFK, but says that Cuban exiles recruited by the CIA had planned to kill Kennedy twice in November 1963, because they felt the U.S. president had done too little to topple the government on the Caribbean island.

"They had the capability, the means and the intent," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Semana Negra crime writing festival in Gijon, northern Spain.

"How was this meant to turn out? To assassinate Kennedy, launch a furious campaign against Cuba, blaming it for the assassination, which they did, then kill Fidel Castro a few days later, on December 12, and invade Cuba."

Escalante worked with members of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigating the JFK killing when they traveled to Cuba in 1978 to collect data on the activities of Cuban exiles.

In his retirement, he has published many of his findings in book form, along with research he has conducted since he set up the Centre for Security Studies in 1993.


Escalante says one anti-Castro exile and former CIA operative who may hold clues to the JFK assassination is Luis Posada Carriles, who lives in Miami and is wanted in Cuba on charges of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet which killed 73 people.

Posada Carriles is also accused of involvement in a 1997 wave of hotel bombings, which were aimed at destabilizing Cuba and scaring away tourists, but Escalante doubts the U.S. government will deport him to Cuba to face trial.

"He has a life insurance policy, which is what he knows about the Kennedy plot," Escalante said.

"He and (fellow exile) Orlando Bosch were in the thick of the Kennedy plot. Remember, both he and Posada were part of this terrorist mechanism set up in New Orleans, which is where the plot was hatched to assassinate Kennedy."


Now 69, Escalante was just 18 when a revolution led by Fidel Castro took power in 1959. In the next few years, he and other young novices built up a counter-intelligence service from scratch.

He was invited to participate in the Spanish crime-writing festival because organizers say fiction falls short of a world Escalante has uncovered, in which the CIA plotted to make Castro's beard fall off or poison Cubans with infected coins.

Escalante belonged to the Q Section in 1961, which had 50 case officers to thwart the efforts of the so-called JMWAVE CIA base in Florida assigned to conduct sabotage operations in Cuba with a $100 million budget and 4,000 agents.

In his book Executive Action, Escalante lists 634 conspiracies to kill Castro between 1959 and 2000, including 168 plots which may have succeeded.

He says the closest the Cuban leader came to death was when a CIA agent working at Havana's former Hilton hotel tried to poison a chocolate milk shake Castro ordered.

However, a capsule containing botulin stuck to the side of the freezer compartment in the bar and broke when the agent tried to pry it loose.

Escalante says the Q Section often intercepted false documents sent by the CIA to their agents in Cuba, which were as good as genuine ones, so he used one for himself.

"Security measures for documents in those days were very lax. There was just ordinary paper, a photo, stamp and plastic cover. So that was how I began to drive, with a CIA license."

(Reporting by Martin Roberts, editing by Paul Casciato)

Source: The Washington Post

[Editor’s Note: Remember, Escalante is the former head of Cuban Intelligence. How much of what the former head of the CIA had to say on this subject would you believe? For more on Fabian Escalante, check out The Dallas-Cuba Connection - 2009 Update.]

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Noted JFK Conspiracy Theorist Robert Groden Files Federal Suit Against Dallas, Claiming He Was Arrested and Harassed in Dealey Plaza

by ROBERT WILONSKY / The Dallas Observer Blog

Maybe you heard: A couple of weeks ago, Dallas police began cracking down on vendors at Dealey Plaza selling maps, magazines, books and other conspiracy-theory whatnots. Deputy Police Chief Vince Golbeck said some folks down there were cussing at and spitting on visitors to the Kennedy assassination site, and "that's not the image we want portrayed."

But Robert Groden hardly fits that description: He's among the best-known and most revered of all the conspiracy theorists. He's served as staff photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Consulted on Oliver Stone's JFK. Wrote a number of books on the assassination you've probably heard of, chief among them High Treason: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy & the Case for Conspiracy.

And, for almost nine hours on June 13, Groden sat in Lew Sterrett after DPD arrested him for selling his magazine JFK The Case for Conspiracy at Dealey Plaza without a permit -- even though the city does not offer permits to sell books, DVDs or magazines at Dealey Plaza. Groden was eventually charged with a Class C misdemeanor and released.

Today (June 30), he filed a federal suit against the city, claiming, among other things, DPD violated his First Amendment rights and falsely imprisoned him.

"If they can do it to me," Groden tells Unfair Park, "they can do it to anyone."

He's also claiming malicious prosecution. The complaint follows. City officials had not yet seen the suit when I asked for a comment.

This, incidentally, is not the first run-in Groden's had with Dallas police.

We first wrote about this in 1997, when Dealey Plaza vendors were under siege by DPD -- and the Sixth Floor Museum had plans to "manage Dealey Plaza," in the words of Jeff West, then the executive director of the museum. Said West, "We have had complaints from visitors about being harassed, accosted and just confused by who these vendors are."

But then, suddenly, police stopped bothering vendors, and it was back to business as usual -- until 2003, when, Groden says, he received 80 citations that were all eventually dismissed. It was, he says, "a case of harassment," nothing less.

Back then, he says, he was prepared to file a lawsuit like the one dropped off in court today by Fort Worth attorney Alex Tandy. But, he says, the City Attorney's Office "made an agreement: If I dropped the suit, they'd leave me alone, and for seven years there hasn't been a complaint or a run-in. Now, there are homeless guys who harass the visitors, but the police know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. But they lied. They broke the agreement."

City attorneys maintain Dealey Plaza is under control of the Park and Recreation Department, and that Section 32.10 of the Dallas City Code makes it illegal to sell merch at the assassination site. It says, in whole:

It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale any food, drinks, confections, merchandise or services in areas under the control of the park board unless such person has a written agreement or a permit issued from the office of the park board permitting the sale of such items. Application for such agreements or permits shall be made to the office of the park board.

City attorneys say that Groden can sell his magazine "adjacent to the outside perimeter of the park or on other public property." But once he steps foot in Dealey Plaza proper, he'll be subject to citation and arrest. Yet Groden says in his complaint when he tried to sell his material from the parking lot, he was also threatened with arrest if he didn't leave pronto.

Attorney Bradley Kizzia, who has represented Groden in the past, disagrees with the city's reading of the ordinance. He sent an e-mail to Assistant City Attorney Jackie Middlebrooks only today, in which he wrote:

We will just have to agree to disagree about the City's dubious allocation of limited police resources to ticket, arrest, and incarcerate JFK assassination researchers in Dealey Plaza. I do not think that the ordinance purportedly relied upon by the City is applicable or otherwise legally enforceable against Mr. Groden's exercise of his First Amendment rights in Dealey Plaza.

As you probably know, Mr. Groden has previously requested but has been denied a permit by the City on the stated grounds that there are no such permits. In fact, as you acknowledged on June 18, no one has ever been issued a permit by the City to sell books, newspapers, or DVDs in Dealey Plaza. The effect of this Catch-22 established by the City is to effectively prevent the sale at the site of the assassination of President Kennedy of any publications that offer evidence of a conspiracy behind the assassination. In my humble opinion, this is not constitutionally permissible. Moreover, I certainly don't think that arresting and incarcerating authors such as Mr. Groden is an appropriate tactic for the City to take under the circumstances. But since the City apparently refuses to discuss some reasonable compromise, it appears that the legal system will now decide what is right and what is wrong in this matter.

More to come in the morning. Till then, the lawsuit's all yours.

[Editor’s Note: In the comment section of The Dallas Observer Blog for this story, Robert Groden posted: “Robert Wilonsky got the story completely right. I thank the Observer and Mr. Wilonsky for taking the time to do the research and for caring to tell the true story that no one else in Dallas media would do so far. The first amendment of our constitution is far more important than any trumped up city ordinance. I've been in Dealey Plaza for fifteen years and have received literally thousands of thanks from visitors for being there. If the Sixth Floor Museum told the truth about the assassination of President Kennedy, there would be little need for people like me to counteract their B.S. The truth is that the Museum and the 'powers that be' want to be a monopoly on the subject of the assassination, especially next year when the Superbowl comes to town. They do not want any alternate views to their disproved official "Oswald acted alone" fiction. Nearly 47 years later, the cover-up still continues.” Sure, Robert.]

Source: The Dallas Observer Blog