Monday, 31 August 2009

Edward Kennedy and Chappaquiddick

All the obituaries of Edward Kennedy have argued that he was clearly not telling the truth about what happened at Chappaquiddick. I agree, but what was the truth of what happened the night that Mary Jo Kopechne died? First of all I want to establish the agreed facts about the case.

Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne left the Lawrence Cottage at around 11.15 p.m. on 18th July, 1969. Kennedy claimed that he was giving her a lift back to her hotel. The last ferry was at 12.00. The party only had two cars. The six women at the party had been told that they would be taken back to their hotels via that ferry.

Although he had been on the island many times Kennedy took the wrong turning. Locals claimed this was almost impossible to do. To make this wrong turn at this point the driver had to ignore: (1) A directional arrow of luminized glass pointing to the left; (2) The banking of the pavement to accommodate the sharp curve; (3) The white line down the centre of the road. (4) The fact that he was now driving on an unpaved road.

According to Kennedy he had the accident on Dike Bridge at 11.30. He made several attempts to rescue Mary Jo. Although there were three houses with lights on close to where the accident happened. Kennedy walked back to Lawrence Cottage. This was a 1.2 mile walk that took approximately 23 minutes. The route involved passing the Chappaquiddick Fire Station. The station was unlocked and included an alarm. The Fire Captain (Foster Silva) lived close by and would have been there within 3 minutes. According to Silva once sounded “half the people living on the island would have turned up within 15 minutes”.

Kennedy claimed he got back at the cottage at 12.20 a.m. He got the time from the Valiant car while he sat in the back seat discussing the problem with his two friends, Joe Gargan and Paul Markham. This was a lie. It was later discovered that the Valiant car (rented for the weekend) did not have a clock.

According to their testimony Kennedy, Gargan and Markham then went back to the scene of the accident and tried to get Mary Jo out of the car. After 45 minutes they accepted defeat. Kennedy, told the men he was going to report the accident once back in Edgartown. He then swam back as he thought the last ferry had gone. This was a risky thing to do and as Kennedy admitted afterwards, he nearly drowned getting to his hotel.

Gargan and Markham claimed they got back to the cottage at around 2.15 a.m. If so, this leaves an hour accounted for. This point was not explored at the inquest.

Jared Grant operated the Chappaquiddick Ferry. The last ferry usually went at midnight. However, that night his last run was 12.45 a.m. He did not actually close the ferry until 1.20 a.m. He later testified that he saw several boats “running back and forth” between the island and Edgartown. During this period he was never approached by Kennedy, Gargan or Markham.

That night Kennedy spoke to the room clerk at the Shiretown Inn at 2.30 a.m. According to Gargan this was to establish an alibi. At this stage he intended to claim he had not been driving the car.

Records show that Kennedy did not make any phone calls from the hotel. All his close political advisers confirm they did not receive calls from Kennedy that night. If they had, they would have told him to report the accident straight away. Kennedy made his first call (to Helga Wagner) a 8 a.m. the next morning.

Two friends of Kennedy, Ross Richards and Stan Moore, met with him in his hotel just before 8 o’clock. They reported that he appeared to be acting in a relaxed way and did not appear to be under any stress. Soon afterwards, Paul Markham and Joe Gargan arrived at the hotel. According to Richards they were “soaking wet”. It was while talking to Markham and Gargan that Kennedy became visibly upset.

Lieutenant George Killen, who interviewed all those people who had contact with Kennedy that morning in the hotel, became convinced that it was at this stage that Kennedy first discovered that Mary Jo Kopechne was dead. Richards also agreed with this analysis.

Kennedy returned to the island on the ferry at 9.50 the following morning. It was only once back on the island that he reported the accident.

John Farrar, a scuba diver, got the Mary Jo’s body out of the car. He believed that she found an air-pocket in the car and probably lived for about an hour. This view was supported by the medical examination of the body. The doctor claimed she had died of suffocation rather than from drowning.

Farrar found it difficult to believe that Kennedy would have been able to get out of the car once it went into the water. Others at the crime scene took a similar view. Lieutenant Bernie Flynn said: “Ted Kennedy wasn’t in the car when it went off the bridge. He would never have gotten out alive.”

There is one major problem with these timings. At about 12.45 Kennedy’s stationary car was seen at the intersection on Dike Road near the bridge by Christopher ‘Huck’ Look, deputy sheriff and part-time police officer. Look claims that a man was driving and that two other people were in the car. Look approached the car on foot but when the driver saw his police uniform the car then sped off down Dike Road. The car had a Massachusetts registration letter L. It also had a 7 at the beginning and at the end. Only eight other cars of this type had this number plate. They were all later checked out. Kennedy’s car was the only one with that number plate that was on the island that night.

Christopher ‘Huck’ Look appears to be a convincing witness. There seems to be no reason why he should lie about what he saw on the morning of the 19th July, 1969.

Therefore we have the situation where Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne left the Lawrence Cottage at around 11.15 p.m. For some reason Kennedy returns to the cottage at 12.20 a.m. However, it is not to report the accident as at this stage the car has not yet had the accident on Dike Bridge.

Lieutenant George Killen, who investigated the case, was convinced that Kennedy had intended to have sex with Mary Jo in the car. He was drunk (evidence suppressed in court showed that Kennedy had consumed a great deal of alcohol that day). When Look approached Kennedy’s car, he feared he would be arrested. Therefore he sped off into the darkness. Afraid that Look would catch him up he gets out of the car and persuades Mary Jo to drive off (she herself has consumed a fair amount of alcohol. Kennedy then walks back to the cottage. When Mary Jo does not return Kennedy becomes convinced she has had an accident. Kennedy then goes back to his hotel leaving Markham and Gargan to search for Mary Jo. It is not until the next morning they discover what has happened. They then go to Kennedy’s hotel to tell him the news. This fits Killen idea that Kennedy did not know about the accident until the morning meeting with Markham and Gargan.

Killen’s theory fits all the established facts in the case. However, it does not explain Kennedy’s behaviour. Once he discovered that Mary Jo was dead, it would make far more sense to tell the truth. This story was more politically acceptable than the “leaving the scene of the accident” story. I therefore reject Killen’s theory.

I find Richard Sprague’s theory more convincing. Based on research carried out by Robert Cutler, Sprague argues that Kennedy was framed for Mary Jo’s murder. To quote Sprague:

They ambushed Ted and Mary Jo after they left the cottage and knocked Ted out with blows to his head and body. They took the unconscious or semi-conscious Kennedy to Martha's Vineyard and deposited him in his hotel room. Another group took Mary Jo to the bridge in Ted's car, force fed her with a knock out potion of alcoholic beverage, placed her in the back seat, and caused the car to accelerate off the side of the bridge into the water. They broke the windows on one side of the car to insure the entry of water; then they watched the car until they were sure Mary Jo would not escape.

Mary Jo actually regained consciousness and pushed her way to the top of the car (which was actually the bottom of the car -- it had landed on its roof) and died from asphyxiation. The group with Teddy revived him early in the morning and let him know he had a problem. Possibly they told him that Mary Jo had been kidnapped. They told him his children would be killed if he told anyone what had happened and that he would hear from them. On Chappaquiddick, the other group made contact with Markham and Gargan, Ted's cousin and lawyer. They told both men that Mary Jo was at the bottom of the river and that Ted would have to make up a story about it, not revealing the existence of the group. One of the men resembled Ted and his voice sounded something like Ted's. Markham and Gargan were instructed to go the the Vineyard on the morning ferry, tell Ted where Mary Jo was, and come back to the island to wait for a phone call at a pay station near the ferry on the Chappaquiddick side.

The two men did as they were told and Ted found out what had happened to Mary Jo that morning. The three men returned to the pay phone and received their instructions to concoct a story about the "accident" and to report it to the police. The threat against Ted's children was repeated at that time.

This theory does fit the evidence available. However, I am not convinced that Kennedy would have gone along with it as a result of the threats made on his children. Although I am aware that several people with information on the Kennedy assassination have not come forward because of threats made against family members.

The problem with the research of people like Damore, Cutler and Sprague is that they have concentrated on investigating Edward Kennedy. I believe the answer is contained in an investigation of Mary Jo Kopechne.

In the books on the case, the authors point out that Mary Jo had worked as a secretary for Robert Kennedy. This work began after the death of JFK. Before this she had worked for George Smathers of Florida. Smathers had been a long-term friend of JFK (they first started womanizing together in 1949). However, Smathers disagreed with JFK over his Cuban policy. He was one of those who believed that JFK should have ordered an invasion of Cuba in order to remove Fidel Castro.

Kopechne’s room-mate in Washington was Nancy Carole Tyler, Bobby Baker’s secretary and mistress. Smathers and Baker were also close friends. In fact, they were business associates. They were both involved in vending machines. Smathers and Grant Stockdale (another close friend of JFK) formed a company called, Automatic Vending. With the help of Baker they providing vending machines to government institutions. However, in 1961 Automatic Vending was sued for improper actions in getting a contract at Aerodex. As a result Stockdale was forced to resign as ambassador to Ireland.

Smathers and Stockdale were also involved in another vending machine company with Baker called Serve-U-Corporation. Others involved included LBJ’s close friend, Fred Black and mobsters, Ed Levenson, Benny Sigelbaum and Sam Giancana. Established in 1962, the company provided vending machines for companies working on federally granted programs.

The contracts that Automatic Vending and Serve-U-Corporation got were part of a much larger project. Baker was a key figure in this. So also was LBJ and Suite 8F Group based in Houston, Texas. All these people were part of what Dwight Eisenhower called the Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

The CIA became involved in this project when John McCone was appointed as Director of the CIA in November, 1961. Several members of the Senate objected to his appointment, pointing out the large sums of money McCone had made from military spending in the 1940s and 1950s. By the 1960s he had invested most of his profits into the oil industry: Panama Pacific Tankers Company, a large oil-carrying fleet, and Standard Oil of California. McCone’s main support came from Democrats in the South and in California. As Storm Thurmond said that after studying McCone’s past he came to the conclusion that it “epitomizes what has made America great”. McCone’s post as Director of the CIA, was confirmed and the Senate did not even force him to sell his shares in the oil industry.

Members of the Suite 8F Group made their money by controlling the appointments of key posts in the administration and the chairmanship of the key Congressional committees. This enabled large government contracts to be placed with companies such as Brown & Root, General Dynamics, Bell Corporation, Kerr-McGee Oil Industries, Humble Oil, etc. All these companies were based in Texas. However, with the arrival of McCone, they were going to have to share their profits with California.

JFK became aware of this scandal during the 1963 investigation into the TFX scandal. In November, 1963, Fred Korth, JFK’s Navy Secretary, was forced to resign as a result of accusations of corruption following the award of a $7 billion contract for a fighter plane, the TFX, to General Dynamics, a company based in Texas. Korth was a member of the Suite 8F Group and had only got the job on the recommendation of LBJ. JFK was in a difficult situation. He knew how deep this scandal went. Korth was only one of the many people who had been placed in positions where they could place lucrative government projects.

The Kennedy brothers were also implicated in this scandal. Not that they were bribed with money. Baker had entrapped them with the provision of sexual services. This included several women linked to the KGB. For example, Ellen Rometsch, Maria Novotny and Suzy Chang. It is difficult to know if JFK intended to take on the Suite 8F Group. All we know is that JFK was assassinated days after Korth was forced to resign.

Johnson could not afford to appoint another Texan in this key post of Navy Secretary. Instead he selected Paul Nitze, the husband of Phyllis Pratt, a Standard Oil heiress. As with John McCone, this project was seeing a merging taking place that involved the oil and armaments industries in Texas and California.

As secretaries of Bobby Baker and George Smathers, Nancy Carole Tyler and Mary Jo Kopechne were in a good position to know what was going on. Tyler was Baker’s long-term mistress and was initially not a problem. Mary Jo was in a different category. I suspect that Mary Jo knew there was a link between Bobby Baker’s activities and the assassination of JFK. Maybe she even told Robert Kennedy about this. However, he was not in a position to do anything about it. His main concern was preserving JFK’s good name. If he could do that, he would later become president. RFK kept Mary Jo quiet by appointing her as his secretary. Maybe he even told her about her long-term strategy.

Mary Jo was not the first person to discover that RFK was unwilling to take on the Military Industrial Congressional Complex in 1963.

On 26th November, 1963, Grant Stockdale (George Smathers and Bobby Baker’s business partner) flew to Washington and talked with Robert and Edward Kennedy. It is not known what Stockdale told the brothers. On his return Stockdale told several of his friends that "the world was closing in." On 1st December, he spoke to his attorney, William Frates who later recalled: "He started talking. It didn't make much sense. He said something about 'those guys' trying to get him. Then about the assassination."

Stockdale died on 2nd December, 1963 when he fell (or was pushed) from his office on the thirteenth story of the Dupont Building in Miami. Stockdale did not leave a suicide note but Smathers, claimed that he had become depressed as a result of the death of JFK.

In 1964 Baker’s secretary, Nancy Carole Tyler, was called before the Senate Rules Committee . She took the fifth amendment and refused to provide any information that would implicate Baker in any corrupt activities.

Tyler believed that Baker would leave his wife. When he refused, she became very angry and according to Baker, made scenes. This included threats to commit suicide. On 10th May, 1965, Robert O. Davis took Tyler out on a short plane trip. The plane crashed a few hundred yards from the hotel that Baker owned.

Tyler’s death must have concerned Mary Jo. Robert Kennedy’s murder on 4th June, 1968, would have been even more traumatic. Had he been killed because he knew the real reason for JFK’s assassination. There was only one person to tell about these events. Edward Kennedy. Did he respond in the same way as his brother? Was he following the same strategy? Would all be revealed when he became president? Was Mary Jo willing to accept this strategy? What about the original conspirators? Were they happy that Mary Jo had information on the assassination of JFK? Were they in contact with Edward Kennedy? Richard E. Sprague believes that the conspirators were keeping him quiet by making threats against his children. Maybe that was what was happening.

This is what I believe happened on 18th July, 1969. The conspirators realized that Mary Jo would, if left to her own devices, would eventually tell her story. At the same time they also feared that Kennedy would eventually abandon this “Camelot Myth” and tell his story. The conspirators could not kill Edward Kennedy as that would make the whole thing too suspicious. However, they could kill Mary Jo without too many people being aware of the links with the deaths of JFK, Grant Stockdale, Nancy Carole Tyler and Robert Kennedy. What was even better was to implicate Edward Kennedy in her death. This would ruin his chance of ever becoming president.

Therefore the conspirators informed Kennedy that Mary Jo was threatening to tell her story to the media. This would implicate the Kennedy family in the cover-up of JFK’s assassination. He was told to arrange a meeting with Mary Jo and to explain why it was important for her to keep quiet for the good of the Kennedy family. If necessary, they would also apply pressure on Mary Jo.

At 11.15 p.m. Kennedy suggests to Mary Jo that they go for a ride. It is not known how Mary Jo responded to Kennedy’s suggestion that she does not reveal what she knows. While in the car with Mary Jo they have some visitors. The men tell Kennedy that they will have a talk with Mary Jo. Kennedy is told to go to his hotel. They probably have even arranged to take Kennedy back to his hotel by boat. He would definitely feel uncomfortable about this but he is in no position to argue with them. Anyway, he does not suspect they plan to kill her.

Before getting the boat Kennedy goes back to the cottage. He cannot tell Gargan and Markham the full story. I suspect he tells them that he has had sex with Mary Jo. However, she responded badly and has driven back to the ferry in the car. (The last ferry was due to leave at midnight). Kennedy says he is concerned about Mary Jo because she had consumed a lot of alcohol during the day. Gargan and Markham give Kennedy a lift to the harbour. Kennedy uses the public phone at the harbour to check that Mary Jo got back to the hotel. He discovers that she is not yet back. Kennedy is worried. He asks the men to search for her in the area he left her while he will return to his hotel by boat.

While this is happening Christopher Look comes across Kennedy’s car (12.45 am.). Look sees three people in the car (Mary Jo and the two men). The car drives off. Look then goes to Lawrence Cottage where he talks to Ray LaRosa, Nance Lyons and Mary Lyons.

Gargan and Markham get to where Kennedy left Mary Jo at about 1.30 am. By this time Mary Jo is dead. In the dark it is impossible to find here. They go back to Lawrence Cottage to get some sleep. At first light they begin their search for Mary Jo. They find the car and make several attempts to see if they can get her out (that is why they are wet when they get to Kennedy’s hotel).

Gargan and Markham now go to Kennedy’s hotel to tell him the news. This is why Kennedy, who previous to this appeared to be calm and relaxed, goes into a state of shock. Lieutenant George Killen and Ross Richards were right when they speculated that Kennedy did not know that Mary Jo was dead until this meeting at 8 the next morning. It also explains why Kennedy did not report the accident when it happened and why he did not phone his close friends for advice. Kennedy now knew he had been set up. He had only two options.

(1) Go to the police and tell all. This would of course mean explaining why he had kept quiet about the assassination of his two brothers. If he did this his political career was over. The lives of his children would be put at risk. What would the public have thought of Kennedy leaving Mary Jo alone with the two men? Also, if he told this story, the Camelot Myth would have been destroyed.

(2) Report to the police that he had been driving the car when the accident took place. After making repeated efforts to save Mary Jo he goes to seek help from Gargan and Markham. They also make efforts to save her life. Suffering from shock he does not report the accident. Nor do his two friends. The reason being is that they thought he was going to do it. They cannot check that he has done it because he leaves them by swimming back to his hotel. The story is completely bizarre but he believes because of Kennedy family power, he might get away with it. He might even be able to keep his seat in Congress. Who knows, after a few years he might even get the chance to be President.

Given these two options, one can understand why he decided to confess to being the driver. He maintains the Camelot Myth. He retains his seat in Congress. However, he does not become President. Nor are the real reasons for the assassination of JFK ever revealed.


Pamela Ray said...

I suspect G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis were some of the men involved that night.

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