Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Camden, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey

Camden, N.J. My hometown, the place where I was born and raized, the son of Camden police officer, World War II combat hero and detective in on the capture of Howard Unruh, one of the first, if not the first contemporary, post-war spree killer.

Besides being my hometown Camden NJ was also the home of Walt Whitman, Jersey Joe Walcott, Angelo Erracatti and Marco Reginelli, the Philadelphia mob boss before Angelo Bruno.

Camden is also where Jim Braden was taken into custody as a material witness in a gambling case in 1948, an arrest report that was withheld from TV journalist Peter Noyes when he requested it while working on a book on the assassination of JFK.

Braden it seems, was also taken into custody as a suspicious person at the scene of President Kennedy's murder in Dallas in 1963, and his 1948 arrest in Camden came to the attention of Noyes and is mentioned in his book, A Legacy of Doubt (1976). Because they didn't respond to his request, Noyes claimed that the Camden police department were controlled by the mob.

Through the efforts of my father I obtained Braden's 1948 Camden arrest report and shared it with other researchers, including Noyes, who mentioned it to G. Robert Blakey, the second chief counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

"Legacy of Doubt" by Peter Noyes was published in 1973 (Pinnacle Books, Oct. 1973) in a pulp paperback with a cover that screamed “A JOURNALISTIC BOMBSHELL! – Startling new evidence about the JFK and RFK deaths!”

Noyes, a veteran CBS TV producer and journalist wrote, “The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, left a legacy of doubt in the minds of every American who lived through those horrifying moments in Dealey Plaza. For a time, the very structure of the Republic seemed threatened…”

Noyes book reads like an old fashioned Sam Spade detective novel, complete with gangsters, dames and cops on the take, as he describes meeting former FBI agent Bill Turner, who unsuccessfully tries to get Noyes and CBS to air his bootleg copy of the Zapruder film. On his way out the door, Turner throws Noyes a bone – check out this guy – Jim Braden, who reportedly lived in Beverly Hills and was taken into custody at Dealey Plaza.

Noyes went to the official records and discovered that on September 10, 1963, Eugene Hale Brading notified the motor vehicle department that he changed his name to Jim Braden and requested new identification under that name.

When Noyes asked then LAPD Chief of Detectives Bob Houghton about Eugene Hale Brading, and he asked the FBI (File #799431), they learned that EH Brading was a member of the La Costa Country Club and was in the vicinity of the Ambassador Hotel when RFK was murdered, besides being at Dealey Plaza.

As Noyes reports in his book, “Houghton,…eventually satisfied himself after several thousand man-hours of investigation that Eugene Hale Brading was not connected with the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. Shortly after Houghton began working on the RFK case, he signed a contract with Random House to write a book about the assassination called ‘Special Unit Senator.’ That was the name Houghton had given the investigating task force looking into Robert Kennedy’s murder. In the police department, the task force was better known as the SUS detail…”

“The SUS task force compiled a comprehensive report on Gene Brading,” wrote Noyes, “then turned it over to the FBI. The investigators who made the report stressed to me that they regarded it as a matter of great importance and fully anticipated it would be turned over to U.S. Attorney Matt Byrne. Their paramount interest, or so they told me, was in the possible role organized crime might have played in the JFK assassination. By coincidence, at that time Matt Byrne’s office was conducting an extensive investigation of the Mafia. And I was quite interested in Byrne’s decision to subpoena one of the most powerful figures in the Cosa Nostra, the tough and vicious Carlos Marcello, of New Orleans, who had made no secret of his contempt and hatred for both John and Robert Kennedy.”

“But Byrne always insisted to me that he was never given the SUS report on Brading by the FBI…..” note Noyes. “Despite the official roadblocks set up by the FBI there was a great body of information available.”

From various sources, Noyes pieced together some basic background: “Eugene Hale Brading was one of three sons born to Charles and Millie Brading, a relatively poor but hard-working couple from the plains of Kansas. It was a closely knit family, and many years later, when Brading acquired a degree of affluence, he purchased a retirement home for his parents in the coastal cit of Santa Barbara, California.”

“Brading was only nineteen when hew as first sentenced to prison in Kansas for burglary in 1934…paroled…in 1938, (he) proceeded to moved to a much faster paced environment in Miami, Florida, where he quickly became associated with the hoodlum element. On February 24, 1941 he was arrested in Miami for running a gambling house. He was fined $200 after being convicted of bookmaking, and was given a suspended six-month jail sentence. On three different occasions he was arrested in Florida for selling World War II gasoline-ration coupons on the black market. The third time he was sentenced to one year in jail.”

“Intelligence information indicted that Brading was slowly weaving his way into the mob’s hierarchy and that he was a man who was going places. In 1948 while using the alias of Harry Eugene Bradley, he was arrested in Camden, New Jersey, as a material witness in a criminal case. (Camden police have since refused to divulge any details concerning that arrest, but it must be noted that there was considerable organized crime in the Camden area at the time, and Brading’s sudden appearance there came as no surprise to investigators who have studied his background.)…” [Legacy of Doubt, p. 40]

On reading that last passage, I gave Noyes’ book to my father, then a Lieutenant in the Camden, N.J. Police Department. While today Camden is recognized as America’s “most dangerous” city, it was not so then – in 1948, though organized crime and the Syndicate were getting organized. The Philadelphia “family,” later to be led by Angelo Bruno, was in 1948 headed by Marco Riginelli, who lived in the Walt Whitman Hotel in Camden. Then a close-knit operation, gambling, booze, prostitution and drugs were the main interests in a geographic area that encompassed Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, from Trenton to Atlantic City.

The next day my father handed me the 1948 Camden PD arrest file on “Harry Eugene Bradley” also known as Eugene Hale Brading, including a front and side mug shot, details of the arrest and a three page rap sheet of previous arrests, and an attachment from the FBI requesting they be notified of any information about this individual.

Like he would be at Dealey Plaza as Jim Braden, Brading was taken into custody as a material witness, though in the Camden incident, he wouldn’t be asked to just make a statement and be released on his own recognizance, but would be mug shot, fingerprinted and held as a witness in a gambling operation of Dominic Mattia. I recognized the name of the arresting officer – Mr. Bobiac, who also ran a TV repair shop, but he had since past away.

Curious, I looked up Dominic Mattia in the phone book and found he lived in a new development in nearby Cherry Hill. Unabashed, I drover over and knocked on his door. When Mattia answered, and I asked him if he recalled the 1948 arrest in Camden, he did. Mattia explained that there was a card game going, a high stakes card game that was raided, and Mattia and Brading were just two of the guys in the room at the time. “It was a coincidence we were together,” Mattia said.

I was in my early 20s at the time and it was one of my first forays into the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy.

Making copies of Jim Braden’s Camden arrest file, I sent one to Peter Noyes, another to the Assassination Archives and Research Center in DC and others to a few independent researchers who I knew were interested. Later, in 1977, I hand delivered a copy to the Philadelphia law office of Richard Sprague, when he was appointed the first chief counsel to the HSCA, and I learned that he had his staff read Noyes’ book.

I knew Jim Braden’s testimony before the HSCA would be important, mainly because of his movements, residency at the Cabana Hotel and sharing an office in New Orleans on the same floor in the same building (Pere Marquette) as G. Ray Gill. Since Jim Garrison obtained the phone records of Gill’s office, and knew about some phone calls that established a pattern of evidence, I mistakenly believed that it would be properly investigated.

After Richard Sprague was forced out of the HSCA and G. Robert Blakely was appointed chief counsel, I thought Blakely’s academic background in the study of organized crime at Cornell, and his development of the RICO Act as a prosecution tool, that the Braden angle would be investigated.

When Braden was finally called to testify before the HSCA, he did so in executive session, for two days, even though, as a reading of his testimony shows, he wanted his story to be told so he could be publicly exonerated. Instead, when the HSCA concluded its business, it published a series of reports and exhibits, like the Warren Commission, but then sealed the rest of its records for 50 years as Congressional Records.

According to House Rule 36, all Congressional Records are sealed for 50 years, and Congress, unlike the CIA and every other branch of government, exempted itself from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

After the HSCA folded up its tent and sealed its records, I got a phone call from Michael Ewing, who worked with Blakely at the HSCA and was co-authoring a book with Blakely on how JFK was killed by the mob. I respected Ewing from his previous book, “Coincidence Or Conspiracy,” profiles of the major players in the JFK assassination, including one on Jim Braden, a book that he co-authored with Bernie Festerwald, Esq., founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center.

Ewing had been talking with Peter Noyes and learned that I had obtained Jim Braden’s 1948 arrest report from the Camden, NJ PD, and wanted a copy.

I explained I had given a copy to Sprague and the HSCA, but Ewing said that Sprague didn’t turn over all his files to Blakely when he left, and I said I was glad he didn’t because they would now be locked away for 50 years. I did send him a copy, but made him aware of my anger at the records being sealed.

Although Blakley said that he was content to “Rest on the judgment of historians in 50 years,” others were not, and the JFK Act was passed in 1992 that ordered the release to the public of all government records related to the assassination of President Kennedy. The HSCA records of their investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which included evidence of conspiracy, continues to be withheld from the public.

In his testimony before the HSCA, Braden made it quite clear that he wanted his story to be told in public, but his DC attorney at the time does not know what became of him.

When I was in California, I checked in at La Costa Country Club, which was open to the public, and the golf pro recalled Braden but didn’t know where he went after being booted from the club. The address in Atlanta where he was living when he testified before the HSCA was no longer valid. The “Jim Braden” whose name and phone number are listed in the LA phone book, is a black guy who is not the Jim Braden from Dealey Plaza.

If Jim Braden is still alive, he would be in his upper 80s, probably living near a golf course, possibly near Atlanta, or close to Santa Barbara, California, where his mother was last known to be living.

It would be greatly appreciated if anyone could put me in contact with Jim Braden, aka Edgar Eugene Brading, aka Harry Eugene, as I believe he is still alive today.

JFKresearch Photo Gallery 4 / Jim_Braden_Mug_Shot

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