Wednesday, 22 May 2019 00:32

Mark Shaw, Denial of Justice

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Shaw's book is largely a combination of recycling Kilgallen’s biographical material, his past writing about Melvin Belli, and trying to sell the reader on his remarkably unconvincing ideas about a Mob hit on JFK.

A little more than two years ago Mark Shaw published his book about the life and mysterious death of reporter Dorothy Kilgallen. I wrote a review of The Reporter Who Knew too Much which—with reservations—considered it creditable, and worth reading.

Shaw has now produced a sequel to that volume called Denial of Justice. From the minute I removed the book from its package I had trepidations. Why? Because this follow-up volume is actually about a hundred pages longer than the original. Yet, from the title, and from what I had read about Shaw’s attempt to get the Kilgallen case reopened and reviewed—which was unsuccessful—I thought this book would be much shorter. I mean, what could be so long and involved about his attempt to get the case before a grand jury?

The answer to that question explains why the book is such a disappointment. Only a small percentage of the work is about the author’s dealings to reopen the Kilgallen case. I would estimate that this topic takes up about 10% of the 456 pages of text. So what is in the rest of the book?

Well a lot of it is a recycling of the Kilgallen biographical materials from the previous book. I would say that about the first 85-90 pages is more or less taken from the first book. At that, it is quite adulatory. Shaw is so intent on making Kilgallen into a female Sherlock Holmes that he simply glides over such things as her agreement with the guilty verdict in the Bruno Richard Hauptmann case. (p. 18) This, of course, concerned the kidnapping and murder of the 20-month old infant child of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. That case was one of the most sensational American trials in the first half of the 20th century. Books by authors like Lloyd Gardner and the multi-volume set by Mike Melsky certainly put the idea that Hauptmann was guilty into limbo, if not to bed. (See this for one reason why.) Yet Shaw does not even hint that Kilgallen could have been wrong on this case.

In another effort to inflate his subject, Shaw quotes from a story she wrote in the summer of 1959 about the new Castro regime in Cuba. From two rather terse paragraphs—five sentences total—Shaw concludes that Kilgallen was the first reporter to reveal that the Mafia was cooperating with the CIA to kill Castro. (p. 66) I have read and reread this passage four times. I disagree that this is what she was saying. And since those plots did not actually get underway until the summer of 1960, Shaw is doubly wrong. (See the CIA Inspector General Report, p. 3)

Kilgallen did do a good job on the famous Sam Sheppard murder case. That case, which took place in Cleveland, dragged on for over a decade. Kilgallen was correct: Sheppard did not kill his wife. (p. 54) She also played a part in getting his case successfully appealed. It was his performance in this case that made F. Lee Bailey one of the most prominent criminal defense lawyers in America. It also helped Kilgallen get a publishing contract for her book called Murder One, which was issued posthumously.

Early on in Denial of Justice, Shaw says that Kilgallen was good friends with President Kennedy. (pp. 1, 6) The problem is that he provides little or no evidence for that idea. The closest I could find is that she brought her son to visit the White House and Kennedy granted them a brief visit and gave him a couple of souvenirs. (p. 77) I fail to see how this establishes them as good friends.


Right after this, Shaw gives us a hint at what this book will really be about. He devotes a chapter to the alleged affair between Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. He then tries to say that the FBI had investigated this and found it to be a fact. (p. 80) Not so. And in the memo he uses it is quite clear that the source is that frightful piece of rightwing fruitiness, Frank Capell’s pamphlet, “The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe.” It is natural that the Bureau would do this, considering J. Edgar Hoover’s sour relationship with Bobby Kennedy. Further, as more than one author has noted, Hoover and Capell often shared information since they were both intent on continuing the legacy of the McCarthy era. (Probe Magazine, “The Posthumous Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, Vol. 5 No. 1, p. 8) But, beyond that, both men used entertainment reporter Walter Winchell as an outlet for distributing their slanders. FBI executive William Sullivan wrote that Hoover encouraged the Bureau to disseminate Capell’s smear. Sullivan then observed that it was a baseless libel. Hoover had agents tail RFK and they discovered he was both a social drinker, and a Puritan. (Sullivan, The Bureau, p. 56)

Shaw then goes on and uses another discredited document, this time from the CIA. In this one, Monroe allegedly phoned Kilgallen and said that President Kennedy had discussed with her a visit to a secret air base designed for outer space creatures. The author tries to qualify this exhibit by saying it is open to conjecture. It’s worse than that. As intelligence analyst John Newman told me years ago, the document is a fraud. (“Posthumous Assassination,” Probe, p. 33) He explained to me that there are things in it that should be redacted and are not, while there are things that should not have been that were. Shaw should have never used it. For as writers like Seamus Coogan have shown, people in the UFO community have manufactured such CIA documents in the past. And like this one, they have used the name of James Angleton as a signatory.

Right after this, Shaw describes J. Edgar Hoover phoning Bobby Kennedy about his brother’s assassination. He then writes that, on the day of the assassination, Kilgallen began to wonder why President Kennedy was killed. (p. 87) He adds that she watched the Dallas Police press conference with Oswald (which was on at after 1 AM on Saturday on the east coast where she lived). Now, I must note here that Shaw’s footnoting is quite skimpy and violates several tenets of academia. One of which is that the reader should be able to locate a literary reference from the footnote. In violation of that rule, Shaw often references information by just noting the book title, without any page number. He will also attribute information to a newspaper, without any date! (See p. 461 for examples of both.) In the incidents above, in describing Kilgallen’s thoughts and actions on the day of Kennedy’s murder, he goes beyond that: there is no footnoting at all. If there is no source for this information, then why did the author use it? If there is a source, then why not list it?

This occurred again just a few pages later. (p. 95) Shaw writes that when Lyndon Johnson announced the members of the Warren Commission, Kilgallen “began background checks on each one.” Again, this is an important point that goes unreferenced. President Johnson’s announcement occurred on November 29, 1963. Was Kilgallen really that interested in the JFK case, and that suspicious, at this early a date? If Shaw thought it was important enough to include, then why did he not give the reader a source? In the same vein, Shaw also writes that Kilgallen was immediately suspicious of attorney Melvin Belli entering the case on behalf of Jack Ruby. (p. 93) Again, this is an important point. Again, it goes unreferenced. Several pages later, Shaw repeats the pattern. He writes that Kilgallen had a meeting on January 22, 1964 with her editor at the Journal-American. She told him that Ruby was the key to solving the case. (p. 104) Why be so specific about the date of the meeting and then leave it unsourced?

The next major part of the book concerns the trial of Jack Ruby. In this section, Shaw decides to focus on Melvin Belli. For example, he says that Jack Ruby’s idol was west coast mobster Mickey Cohen. (p. 104) As anyone who has studied Ruby for any length of time understands, this is not accurate. Ruby idolized Lewis McWillie above any organized crime associate. (Michael Benson, Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, p. 272; Jim Marrs, Crossfire, first edition, p. 393) The source for that information is Ruby himself. But since Shaw is going to try and somehow insinuate that Belli’s defense of Ruby was influenced by the Mafia, and since Belli represented Cohen, then Shaw prefers Cohen as Ruby’s idol. Even though Ruby is on record with McWillie.

On the eve of Ruby’s trial, Kilgallen wrote an important story about an arrangement that the court had made which allowed the defense to get documents from Washington about Ruby, as long as they asked for nothing about Oswald. (p. 106)

Kilgallen deserves credit for writing this story, but I think Shaw underplays its importance. After all, the reporter wrote, “It appears that Washington knows or suspects something about Lee Harvey Oswald that it does not want Dallas and the rest of the world to know or suspect.” She then added that it looked like Oswald had passed on to the status of a “classified” person, about whom only a few government agents know the whole truth. In and of itself it would appear that Washington had more on Oswald that it wanted to conceal than it had on Ruby. But the second reason this is important is that it appears that the goal was to prevent any connection between the two. Yet even the Warren Commission had suspicions that Ruby and Oswald could be connected. The two lawyers who worked on the Ruby angle—Burt Griffin and Leon Hubert—wrote memos in March and May of 1964 saying that if there was a connection between the pair it was through the anti-Castro netherworld of arms dealings. (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 350-51) The exposure of that netherworld was something that Washington wanted to avoid. The Commission certainly did.

Concerning the Ruby trial, Kilgallen was granted a five-minute interview with the defendant by co-counsel Joe Tonahill. Shaw labels this discussion as “secret information”. The reader has to ask: How does he know what the information is? Shaw writes that Kilgallen had pages of notes and she went into a nearby anteroom to check and recheck what she had written down. (pp. 112-13) Again, he gives no references for these actions. And since in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much he says her files disappeared, how can he call this “secret information” or know how many pages of notes she wrote about it? He also writes that “hour by hour, day by day, Kilgallen was on the prowl.” (p. 115) The unavoidable meaning of this is she was investigating the JFK case continuously. Again, Shaw supplies little or no evidence to show such was the case. Kilgallen was simply doing too many other things for her to be on the JFK case every day 24/7. As he describes, she was doing a TV show, a radio show, and a syndicated column. Plus she was covering other criminal cases. I think any knowledgeable, objective reader would have to say that—without the proper annotation—the author is indulging himself in too much dramatic license. If only that were the sole flaw in the book.

But he then goes beyond even his previous hyperbole. He writes that her upcoming book, Murder One, would be “the dagger that would expose the conspirators.” (p. 115) Again, if Kilgallen’s files on the JFK case disappeared after her death, then how on earth does Shaw know what she thought about who killed Kennedy? And beyond that, what her evidence was to prove her case? In the space of two books, clocking in at over 800 pages of text, Shaw does not come near to adducing anything close to a case that Kilgallen could have brought forth in any criminal proceeding. Taking trips to New Orleans to meet with nameless, faceless people, of which there are no records in existence concerning what was discussed, does not amount to a case. I am not disparaging Kilgallen’s efforts. They were clearly singular and commendable for a member of the MSM. What I am questioning is why Shaw feels it necessary to aggrandize them to the extent he does.


Shaw is clearly in the “Mob killed Kennedy” camp. Therefore, he makes Melvin Belli—a man he wrote a book about—a supporting player in his volume. He spares little time or effort to insinuate that Belli was negatively influenced by underworld figures in his defense of Jack Ruby. Shaw notes that Belli was really a personal injury lawyer; so why did he take on a criminal case? Belli began his career as a criminal lawyer and did criminal cases, thereafter switching over to the civil side. Anyone can gather this by reading his autobiography. But every so often he would try a criminal case. (My Life on Trial, pp. 82-83) This is not at all uncommon. A lawyer friend I know is mainly a civil attorney. But he takes on one criminal case per year just to stay in practice. Both Robert Tanenbaum and Richard Sprague began as criminal attorneys. But later in life they took on civil cases. To further darken Belli, Shaw quotes what the San Francisco lawyer told an acquaintance. Belli said words to the effect that the Ruby case was rigged, and he was going through the motions. If Belli said this, it does not necessarily mean what Shaw implies it to mean. The reason why it does not is an important factor that the author minimizes.

From the beginning, Belli felt that the whole court procedure in the Ruby case was stacked against him. And he saw this as a reflection of the city’s power structure working through the judicial system. It is a recurrent theme throughout Belli’s book on the Ruby trial Dallas Justice. In fact, Belli states this clearly on pages 2 and 3 of that book. There he writes that the fact that he was not granted a change of venue to San Antonio was a serious error by the judge, since he did not feel that he could find a fair jury in Dallas. He repeats this halfway through the book: “We of the defense were convinced that we had already lost the case—had lost it the moment our change of venue motion failed….” (p. 138) When the jury came in, Belli told Ruby not to be upset with the verdict. He told him he had tried the case for an appeals court and he would win there. (Belli, p. 256) This is what happened. Ruby’s verdict was overturned on appeal. Phil Burleson, Belli’s assistant, was part of the appellate team.

Belli was so disturbed by the unfairness of the proceeding that he shouted and screamed about the verdict to the press. He refused to shake hands with the judge. He declared that his client had been railroaded, the trial had been a kangaroo court, and that the city had covered itself in shame. He got so angry and frustrated he was shouting through tears. (p. 257) Does this sound like a lawyer who threw a case?

To go through the whole catalogue of unfairness in the proceedings would take another essay. But to point out just one angle: the reason Belli tried to secure a change of venue was because he was not going to find a fair jury in Dallas. In 1964, you could only serve on a Dallas jury if you were married and owned property. (Belli, p. 134) Of the first 162 jury candidates, there were 8 African Americans. Since he ran out of challenges, Belli had to accept a member of the Dallas police reserve. (Belli, p. 137) He also had to accept the aunt of the DPD public relations officer. (Belli, p. 143) When he requested extra challenges, the motion was denied. But even at that, Belli was convinced some candidates had lied to get on the jury. (Belli, p. 132) As we know today, through exposés of the Henry Wade regime—and as Belli had figured out back then—DA Henry Wade had an investigative team that screened jury candidates in advance. This helped him win a remarkable percentage of convictions, some of them returned in 5-7 minutes. (Belli, pp. 110-11)

Belli tried to get his client off on a plea of psychomotor epilepsy. He had four doctors who would testify to this defense. (Belli, pp. 63-76) Belli did not believe that Ruby was a part of any conspiracy. To my knowledge he never changed his mind on this issue. Like many previous critics, Shaw states that Belli should have pleaded his client guilty and arranged a lower charge, like manslaughter. Belli notes in his book that the police would have countered that with 4 statements that would have undermined that defense by showing premeditated murder. The most damaging was Officer Patrick Dean’s claim that he overheard Ruby saying he wanted to kill Oswald since Friday night. (Belli, p. 167) Belli decided to gamble on what amounted to an insanity defense, which really technically was not insanity. As any psychiatrist will tell you, and unlike what Shaw states, epilepsy does not denote a state of insanity.

Shaw quotes extensively from the transcript of the Jack Ruby trial. He makes much of a witness named Garnet Claude Hallmark. Hallmark testified that on November 23rd, he overheard Ruby using a phone at a private parking lot to call someone about the expected transfer of Oswald to the county jail and how it might be delayed. Ruby then added that he would be there for the transfer. This is interesting testimony. But Hallmark testified before the Warren Commission. So it was not available to Kilgallen simply because of her presence at the Ruby trial. And disagreeing with Shaw, Ruby was not using any kind of reporter “cover” at this time. (Shaw, p. 148) What he was doing was calling a reporter friend, Ken Dowe, at radio station KLIF. This is why he told Hallmark he was “making” like a reporter. Later on, Shaw admits that Hallmark’s testimony is in the Commission volumes, but he adds it is not part of the conclusions. (Shaw, p. 178) That is because, of course, the Commission concluded there were no conclusions to draw about a plot. Both Oswald and Ruby did what they did acting alone.

A large part of this section of the book seems to me to be just a recycling of The Reporter Who Knew too Much. Shaw simply quotes witnesses like Bob Bach, and Carmen Gebbia, Marc Sinclaire, and Charles Simpson. This is about the New Orleans trip she was arranging and her comments on how important the JFK case seemed to her. When it comes to recording the date of her death, November 8, 1965, Shaw now raises his elegiac rhapsody to its zenith:

As if to signal a distress from the heavens concerning the passing of one of the most remarkable women in history, what became known as the “Northeast blackout of 1965” happened the next day, the ninth. (p. 189)

Are we now to shove aside the likes of Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Eleanor Roosevelt, Indira Ghandi and Queen Elizabeth for…Dorothy Kilgallen? After all, her passing was symbolized in the heavens by a power blackout of 8 states plus parts of Ontario, Canada. This kind of silliness makes one ask the question: Did anyone edit this book?


To be fair to Shaw, he does introduce a couple of new aspects in his research on Kilgallen’s death. Kilgallen’s daughter Jill said that she felt their phone was tapped. (p. 172) This information was gained through another writer, Susan Edelman, since Shaw did not talk to Jill. (pp. 282-85) Also new are a series of interviews Shaw conducted with a woman named Brenda DeJourdan, the daughter of Kilgallen’s deceased butler James Clement. According to the daughter, Clement was aware of Kilgallen’s writings and research on the JFK case and warned her to be cautious. He even discussed that topic with Marc Sinclaire, one of her hairdressers who also knew about these endeavors. Another rather curious note she brings up is that her father told her the FBI was also there after Kilgallen passed on. This is something that was not mentioned in the previous book. As Shaw acknowledges however we do not know how Clement was aware of this. (Shaw, p. 295)

As I said earlier in regards to the whole Marilyn Monroe imbroglio, since there is not much new about the Kilgallen case in the book, Shaw now begins to inject materials not directly related to her to fill in the book. What he brings in is his own personal ideas about the assassination of President Kennedy. As noted above, Shaw is a devotee of the Mob did it school. Because he spends so many pages on this issue, I had to go back and read his previous book on the subject called The Poison Patriarch. To put it mildly, I am not a better person for that experience. That previous work relies upon two other books, Frank Ragano’s Mob Lawyer and Chuck Giancana’s Double Cross. Surprisingly, John Newman also used the latter in his book, Countdown to Darkness. Because of that carelessness, this might be a good place to discuss why no one should even read those books, let alone use them as references. And along the way, we will show the serious problems with The Poison Patriarch.

Both the Ragano and Giancana books were published back in the nineties: the Giancana volume in 1992, the Ragano book in 1994. What apparently happened is that Chuck Giancana, Sam’s brother, decided to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the film JFK to unleash his “memoir” on the public. Because of its success, Ragano then thought he should do the same. (Attorney Ragano was also having personal problems since he had been charged and convicted for tax evasion in 1990.) This Mob literature postulates that Joseph Kennedy was in bed with organized crime via bootlegging. Without any analysis at all, Shaw adopts this idea as a given in The Poison Patriarch. Hence the title of that book. He then re-uses the thesis in his current volume.

Before buying into this idea, Shaw should have done some research and field investigation on the subject. As both Daniel Okrent—in his history of Prohibition—and David Nasaw—in his biography of Joseph Kennedy—have shown, there is simply no evidence for this Joe Kennedy/Mob association at all from any credible source prior to 1960. Joseph Kennedy did get in the liquor sales business, but it was after Prohibition was repealed. (Okrent, Last Call, p. 367) As Okrent notes, there were numerous times when Joe Kennedy was under investigation, since he was being appointed to prominent federal positions. In fact, he was ultimately appointed to six offices, all the way into the fifties. Each time, he was subjected to inquiries by executive intelligence agencies, and Congress. He was also the subject of prying journalists like Drew Pearson, who had no affection for him or his family and wrote some negative articles about the man. As both Okrent and Nasaw write, not once in any of those six instances was there any word from any quarter about Joe Kennedy and his bootlegging activities. What is especially interesting is that in his first three positions—chair of the SEC, the Maritime Commission, and ambassador to England—these appointments all occurred in the thirties, which was right after Prohibition ended. Everyone’s memories were fresh, investigations were still under way, and people were still in prison. And no one registered a peep about this multimillionaire who was off scot-free and now working for FDR? Okrent actually looked at many of the investigative files and found nothing. (Okrent, p. 369)

What makes the case even more spurious is the fact that the charge was first mentioned in October of 1960, in the St Louis Post Dispatch. (Okrent, p. 369) From the context it is pretty clear what happened. Coming into the home stretch of a very tight race, one of Richard Nixon’s hatchet men—of which he employed many—planted the story to spin the election. It was after this that the mythology was latched onto by rather unsavory characters like mobsters Frank Costello and Joe Bonanno. Costello’s book was published while Joe Kennedy was on his deathbed. And since the MSM is so lacking in journalistic standards, no one questioned it or did a cause-and-effect analysis. Nobody even said: Hey, this is a prime opportunity for all those mobsters to get back at Bobby Kennedy for making their lives so miserable for three years. How bad did it get? As Okrent notes, Al Capone’s 93-year-old piano tuner said that Joe Kennedy came to Capone’s house to trade a shipment of Irish whiskey for a load of Capone’s Canadian variety.

What gave it all a gossamer thin cover was the fact that there was a Joseph Kennedy in the transcripts of the Royal Canadian Commission on Customs from 1927. But this was a different Kennedy, one based in Vancouver. That Kennedy, however, did not even own that liquor business. It was owned by Henry Reifel of British Columbia. (Okrent, p. 370) So even though there was no credible evidence to back the idea that Joe Kennedy was a bootlegger, and the people making the claim were murdering criminals who Bobby Kennedy had tried to put in jail, the idea gained currency. This is due to the non-existent standards of our publishing business and MSM. Mark Shaw jumps on the bandwagon. In fact, he goes beyond this. He actually says that this information is in the House Select Committee volumes. (Shaw, p. 50) If one goes through those volumes, especially volumes 5 and 9, where this Mafia angle is explored, the reader will find no mention of Joe Kennedy’s alleged bootlegging. But in book five, it is noted that, by 1963, the Mafia was falling apart due to Bobby Kennedy’s unrelenting pressure tactics. (HSCA, Vol. 5, p. 455) And make no mistake, the House Select Committee pulled out all the stops in investigating this Mob-did-it angle. They used all kinds of official records, not just in Washington, but also from various local police departments. Again, did no one do any editing of this book?

As per Ragano, his book was exposed as a tall tale back in 1994 in the pages of Vanity Fair by Anthony and Robbyn Summers. Ragano wrote that before he died his client Santo Trafficante made a confession to him by calling him up from Tampa. Ragano picked him up and the Don told him that they should have killed Bobby Kennedy and not JFK. As the article notes, HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey found this claim credible. But as the authors showed, Trafficante did not even live in Tampa at that time—March of 1987. He was living in Miami. He only visited Tampa at Christmas. The idea that he would have flown there is made ridiculous since he was on kidney dialysis and had a permanent colostomy bag. On top of all that, Summers and his wife came up with three witnesses to furnish an alibi for Trafficante. (“The Ghosts of November”, 12/94, Vanity Fair) In the face of this, it is shocking that Shaw is at pains to defend Ragano. But somehow he does not reference this essay.

Now, how do Joe Kennedy’s fictional mob ties fit into Shaw’s dubious saga of JFK murdered by the Mob? Well, according to Chuck Giancana—brother of Sam—the Kennedys owed their fortune to their bootlegging. (Chuck Giancana, Double Cross, p. 268) In 1959 Joe Kennedy wanted some help to win next year’s primaries for his son. (Giancana, p. 270) But in addition to that, the Mafia had blackmail material on John Kennedy through Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa had tapes and photographs of a sexual nature on JFK. (Giancana, p. 276) In a scene out of Saturday Night Live, everything is settled between Giancana and the Kennedys in advance of the election. Sam is brought down to Florida for a big conference at the Kennedy compound and they all agree to let bygones be bygones. (Giancana, p. 279) This is the man, Sam Giancana, who Bobby Kennedy had already grilled and humiliated on the stand while serving as chief counsel for the McClellan Committee. In the pages of this book, how close is Giancana to John Kennedy? He tells him he is working for the CIA. Except, there is a little problem here. The time frame on this farcical exchange is late 1959. The CIA/Mafia plots to kill Castro—which Sam Giancana was part of— did not begin until August of 1960. (CIA Inspector General Report, p. 3) Double Cross now goes further. Giancana now gloms onto the whole Judy Exner legend. Building on what People Weekly did in 1988, he now has Exner serving as a messenger between him and Jack Kennedy over the Castro plots—which have not started yet! (Giancana, p. 283)

In the fanciful world of Double Cross, the Chicago Don met with JFK and his father four times during the 1960 primary season. As in many of these tales, the accent is on what the Mafia did to steal the Democratic primary election in West Virginia. In all of these renditions, West Virginia is somehow deemed key to the 1960 primary race. In fact, spread over two months, there had already been ten primaries up to the May 10th West Virginia contest. JFK had won seven of them. The only ones he did not win are the ones he did not run in. The ones he did run in, he won. The lowest percentage vote he gained was 56% in Wisconsin. Which many considered good, since it was right next to rival Hubert Humphrey’s home state of Minnesota. Many had favored Humphrey to win Wisconsin.

Mark Shaw is all too eager accept the spins and inventions of people like Exner, Chuck Giancana, Sy Hersh, and Frank Ragano about West Virginia. When none of them were on the scene. (Shaw, p. 216) But there are much more reliable versions of what happened there. Predictably no one in the MSM has consulted them. Less predictably, no one in the research community has either. It seems time to do so.


There are two good books on the West Virginia primary. They are hard to get, but both are worth reading and referencing since they were both written by observers on the scene. Dan Fleming was a young man who lived in West Virginia before becoming a university professor. He then went back and did a lot of field investigation in digging up witnesses—80 of them—and supplemented that with archival research. He used this to publish his excellent book on the subject: Kennedy vs Humphrey, West Virginia, 1960.

What John Kennedy wanted to do in West Virginia was to prove a Catholic could win in an overwhelmingly Protestant state. (Fleming, p. 1) In Wisconsin, there were actually large newspaper ads published urging Protestants not to vote for the Catholic Kennedy. (Fleming, p. 25) West Virginia was only 6% Catholic. In fact, egged on by the Klan, the religious factor was so strong that many in the media again predicted Humphrey would win. (Fleming, pp. 3-4) Bobby Kennedy realized that this Catholic factor would be hard to overcome. So, as campaign manager, he started organizing in West Virginia the year before. (Fleming, p. 7) RFK divided up the state into six regions with a chairman in each. That chairman would organize a “West Virginians for Kennedy” committee.   Bobby would have his brother call the chairman once this was established. Once they were up and running, JFK would actually go down and visit them—in 1959!

Humphrey’s advantages were that he was a Protestant, he was backed by the Teamsters, and was friendly with the powerful Senator Harry Byrd. Bobby Kennedy was quite cognizant of all this and, in fact, he was not sure JFK should even run in the state. The problem was, he did not know what Humphrey was going to do. Bobby thought that if Humphrey ran then JFK had to run, or else it would look like he was running away from a contest he could not win. Therefore, RFK had to plan for that contingency. On the day Humphrey declared he was running, Kennedy did the same. (Fleming, p. 26)

As Fleming makes clear, one of the benefits that JFK had was his brother’s organizational skills. The fact that RFK had spent one year in advance on planning and gathering information about how to win through his local chairmen was very important. Bobby decided on a dual level plan. On the micro level, he would have his chairmen enter into agreements with local Democratic Party leaders, like Ray Chafin. He would then go ahead and purchase slate mailers for them to either mail, print in newspapers, or pass out. At that time, this was a popular method of campaigning in the state. (Fleming, p. 13) The other angle RFK would pursue was a mass media campaign, with TV ads culminating in a final infomercial. (Fleming, p. 1)

Another advantage that Bobby Kennedy had was that West Virginia was a strong union state back then. Many labor leaders believed that Humphrey could not beat Lyndon Johnson, but Kennedy could. LBJ was not perceived as being a friend of labor. (Fleming, p. 12) This idea was boosted by the fact that Kennedy had already won so many state primaries, while Humphrey had only won the local primary in Washington DC. In fact, some of the people in Kennedy’s campaign thought that Humphrey was hanging around in order to play the spoiler role for LBJ, Adlai Stevenson or Stu Symington. (Fleming, p. 31)

The campaign lasted a month on the ground. From the start, JFK took on the religious issue in his speeches. The last ten days he brought in his family members and more staffers. This was supplemented by mailed literature and phone banking to an extent not seen before in the state. By April 13th, less than a month before the May 10th election, Bobby Kennedy had sent out 750,000 pieces of mail. (Fleming, p. 47) The infomercial that the campaign produced and broadcast the Sunday night before the election was described by Teddy White as “. . . the finest TV broadcast I have ever heard any political candidate make.” Again, it partly addressed the religious factor. (Fleming, p. 53) In fact, Bobby Kennedy had so assiduously taken on the religious issue that there began to be a backlash in his brother’s favor. West Virginians now did not want to be considered religious bigots.

JFK won in a landslide, 61-39%. The press looked bad since many of them predicted Humphrey would win a close election. (pp. 66-67) There is no doubt that the Kennedy fortune played a role in all this. Fleming notes that the most credible figures he was able to find were from a Kennedy state campaign manager. Claude Ellis said that the Kennedys spent about 200-300 thousand dollars. (Fleming, p. 120) The media expenditures were not expensive, since back then mass media was very cheap. The more expensive aspect was for the local campaigning. This is where people like Democratic leader Ray Chafin came in.

Chafin published a book in 1994 called Just Good Politics. He told the story at the micro-level. He had been involved in West Virginia politics since the thirties. He did an oral history for the JFK Library in 1964. He noted that, at the beginning, many local political leaders were for Humphrey. One reason for this was that John Kennedy’s Catholicism could sink the ticket in the fall. But, as time went on, many were impressed by the organization that Bobby Kennedy had created. Chafin was also impressed by the way JFK took on the Catholic issue. In his book, he quotes Kennedy as saying, “Nobody asked my brother if he was a Catholic or a Protestant before he climbed into an American bomber plane to fly his last mission.” (Chafin, p. 124) Chafin comments that it was these speeches that really turned the tide in the race—to an extent that few state leaders expected.

Chafin was important in Logan County. And he had been for Humphrey. But as JFK picked up steam, he requested a meeting with Chafin. Kennedy told him that if he won and became president, he would arrange to meet with him in the White House. There they would discuss how to attack the problems in the southern part of the state. (Chafin, p. 129) This is what changed his mind. He returned the money that Humphrey had given him and went to a meeting with the Kennedy campaign. They agreed to support his local slate and he now began to advise them on an entire state strategy. He told them to spend their money on planning and executing a get-out-the-vote campaign: drivers, poll workers, slate cards with JFK’s name at the top. (Chafin, p. 136) He was asked how much that would cost in Logan County. He said, 35. Meaning 3,500 dollars. The last week of the campaign, he was sent by plane 35,000 dollars in cash. Due to this misunderstanding, Chafin got in contact with many other county leaders who did not have anything like this amount and he now mobilized their get-out-the-vote drives as well. (Chafin, pp. 143-46)

But here is the coda to that individual testimony. Once Kennedy was in the White House, his secretary called Chafin. He was flown up to Washington. Ken O’Donnell escorted him into the Oval Office and said he had ten minutes with the president. Kennedy replied, “I called this man to see me. He has all the time he needs.” (Chafin, p. 153)

As both Chafin and Fleming note, John Kennedy kept his promise. Logan County got a new courthouse. In addition, Kennedy increased the allotment of surplus food to the state. When Chafin complained about that--since it was not far-reaching enough and lacked certain elements of nutrition--Kennedy sent advisors to the state and they devised the origins of the food stamp program for the poor. Defense contracts were increased to bring West Virginia from 50th place to 25th in that category. Unemployment was cut in half by 1963. The I-79 turnpike was extended to West Virginia in 1961. More federal aid went to the state in three years under Kennedy than in 8 years under Eisenhower. (Fleming, pp. 167-68) As Chafin concludes, “With John F. Kennedy’s death, West Virginians lost just about the best friend they ever had.” (Chafin, p. 158)

As Fleming demonstrates, no subsequent inquiry by the FBI or the state Attorney General ever showed any illegality performed in the election. Barry Goldwater then hired former FBI agent Walter Holloway to investigate. He came up empty also. (Fleming, pp. 107-112) Various publications, e.g., the Wall Street Journal, also tried to find illegalities. No one was ever convicted of any violation of the law. (Fleming, p. 116) As a Humphrey advisor told Fleming, Bobby Kennedy ran a very smart race. He did what he had to do, “and if we had the money they had, we would have spent it too.” (Fleming, p. 151) Humphrey himself later said that it was not just money that beat him. He said that Jack Kennedy was at his best in West Virginia and when he was at his best, he was simply not beatable. Humphrey continued that JFK overcame the conventional wisdom about his background and religion and proved the CW was wrong. (ibid)

Chuck Giancana claims that his brother sent Skinny D’Amato to West Virginia to work with local sheriffs and officials. (Giancana, p. 284) Fleming did 80 interviews. No one recalled anyone named D’Amato. Fleming even went to some very shady underworld characters and still nobody recalled him. (Fleming, pp. 170-71)

This is what actually happened in West Virginia. But the lie about mob assistance is worse than that. For, as John Binder has shown, there is not even evidence in the Chicago-mob-dominated wards that Giancana delivered any advantage to Kennedy in 1960. So when one listens to the late Gore Vidal droning on about Sam Giancana and Joe Kennedy and West Virginia, one can dismiss it as nothing but anti-Kennedy drivel. I might also add that this is one of the dangers of the Deep Politics approach. At times, there are no Deep Politics involved. And it just takes good old-fashioned research to figure that out. As biographer David Nasaw describes in detail, at the beginning of Prohibition Joe Kennedy was investing his money in the stock market and in real estate. He then decided to get into the movie business. He set up a distribution and exhibition company. He even purchased theaters in the northeast. (Nasaw, The Patriarch, pp. 59-76) Since he worked at Hayden/Stone, a high-level stock trading company, Kennedy made lots of money on a boom market and turned it over into the film business. Further, at that time, insider trading was legal. (Nasaw, p. 78)

Joe Kennedy resigned Hayden/Stone in 1922 and opened his own banking business. By the time he was 36, he had a Rolls Royce and a chauffeur. (Nasaw, pp. 87-89) In the film business, he made even more money and moved to New York City where he hired a whole staff of servants for an estate. He then bought a second estate with a second staff of servants on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. In one year, 1927, his company distributed 51 films. (Nasaw, p. 107) He also invested in the stocks of certain film companies. Utilizing his insider knowledge, he made millions more. At one time, in the twenties, he was running three film companies. In all of these situations, he received a huge salary—today in the millions—plus stock options, plus he would invest in certain film companies himself. (Nasaw, pp. 119-127) The idea that he would jeopardize all these legal millions to get into criminal bootlegging is simply ridiculous. It is rendered even more ridiculous by the fact that he wanted his children to have political careers. This is why he worked so hard to make money: so they would not have to spend time on that and could just concentrate on politics. As we can see, it worked out pretty well with John Kennedy in 1960.

The last twist of Shaw’s theory about the Mafia and the murder of JFK is the old chestnut about Joe Kennedy insisting that Bobby Kennedy be Attorney General. In Shaw’s superheated cauldron of Deep Politics and Greek-style revenge, this is what triggers the death of JFK: Bobby prosecuting the Mafia, which broke the deal with Giancana. As I have noted previously, Bobby Kennedy was not even JFK’s first choice for Attorney General. Senator Abraham Ribicoff was. (Arthur Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, p. 141) So if Ribicoff had said yes, where would Shaw be? Add that to Joe Kennedy’s broken deal with the Chicago Mob, which we can now see is nothing more than pure moonshine. Because, plain and simple, Joe Kennedy was not a bootlegger. As we have also seen, the Mob did not win West Virginia for JFK. As noted above, they did not even do anything in Chicago. Please, no more Mark.

With this information, we can flush this part of the book where it belongs: down the garbage disposal.                                                           


The last part of the book gets back to Kilgallen. After assuming his sieve-like Mob-did-it theory is accurate, Shaw now makes a Bob Beamon-size leap and assumes it was Kilgallen’s belief that the Mafia had killed both JFK and Oswald, specifically Carlos Marcello. (Shaw, p. 310) He then outdoes Beamon and says that Kilgallen entered the final phase of her inquiry with the intention of connecting Oswald, Ruby and Marcello into her investigation. And this would be the centerpiece of the book she was writing, Murder One.

How he knows Kilgallen’s evidentiary progression into the final phase of her inquiry, how he knows she thinks the Mafia killed Kennedy, how he knows she is visiting New Orleans to check out Carlos Marcello—these are all nothing but naked assumptions. What makes them even more questionable is that they are assumptions tinted by the author’s own beliefs—not his subject’s.

Shaw now adds information gained through DeJourdan. The problem is, this new information seems to contradict what was in his first book. She tells Shaw that Kilgallen came home with someone the night she was killed. She then adds that her butler/father found her body in the bathroom. (Shaw, p. 325) Shaw then acknowledges that this is not where Marc Sinclaire said he found her, which was in a bedroom on the third floor.

There are two questions this brings up: 1) If this is true, then who brought the body into the bedroom after James Clement discovered it? 2) If this is true, then why did Clement not tell Marc Sinclaire about it? In no other source of this story have I ever seen Sinclaire say that he did not discover the body. Consequently, Clement did not tell him that he had discovered it previously. Shaw adds another assumption: that Clement told Kilgallen’s sleeping husband Richard Kollmar about the dead body in the bathroom. (Shaw, p. 329) This would mean that Kollmar is the one who moved the body and arranged it in the bedroom and that is how Sinclaire found it in the odd position noted in the first book. Shaw then writes: why did Richard wait to inform the police about the discovery of the body hours after he did this? He then qualifies that by saying, we do not really know who alerted the police. But I would add another question: Why would he move the body around and rearrange it in the first place? If DeJourdan is telling the truth, then it would seem to minimize Kollmar as the killer. Why do something that, if discovered, would cast suspicion on you? In other words, if Clement would have talked, the police would have had to ask Kollmar those questions.

Shaw says that it is possible Kilgallen woke her husband and asked for pills to sleep, and he accidentally poisoned her. The problem with this is the same problem as if her boyfriend at the time, Ron Pataky, killed her. Cyril Wecht told me that Nembutal—one of the three drugs found in her body-- was so powerful that it was actually used in executions in several states. How Pataky could have drugged her with it without her knowing it is puzzling. (Shaw says it could have been disguised with tonic water; Wecht disagreed.) The idea that Kilgallen would have used all three at the same time in one night is hard to believe.

The last part of the book deals with Ron Pataky, the chief suspect in the case. Shaw writes that two witnesses who knew Pataky attest to a sexual affair between him and Kilgallen—which Pataky had always denied. Further, that he was the last one to see Kilgallen alive. These two witnesses would not talk to Shaw. One of the witnesses was Pataky’s cousin. Shaw admits that this is hearsay removed since neither witness would talk to him and he is getting the info from another party. (Shaw p. 403) He also says that Pataky saw the completed manuscript of Kilgallen’s interview with Jack Ruby during his trial, which was to be a chapter in her book. When asked what it revealed, Pataky replied, “Nothing anybody should know about.” (Shaw p. 407) Again, this is something said to another party, in this case author Donald Wolfe. Shaw does not even say if he called Wolfe about this conversation. If not, why didn’t he? I mean just to see if Wolfe had it on tape.

He now indulges himself in several pages of a scenario as to how Pataky could have killed Kilgallen. He then ends the book with what should have been the beginning: his attempt to re-open the case. That is, his contacts with the DA’s office in New York in August of 2017. He talked with a detective and an assistant DA. They said they would pursue his leads but ended up concluding there really was no new evidence with which to re-open the case. (p. 436)

Does this end result justify a book? Everything that is new concerning the Kilgallen case—DeJourdan, the two hearsay interviews about Pataky and Kilgallen, his attempt to reopen the case and its termination—this could have all been dealt with on his web site. The rest of the book—which is the overwhelming majority of the text—was, for me, simply filler. It was largely a combination of recycling Kilgallen’s biographical material, his past writing about Melvin Belli, and trying to sell the reader on his remarkably unconvincing ideas about a Mob hit on JFK. Which he then unjustifiably transfers to his subject.

As far as Dorothy Kilgallen goes, Mark Shaw should have quit while he was ahead.

Last modified on Friday, 31 May 2019 11:51
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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