Saturday, March 30, 2019

Case Study No. 3 - Jim Braden

CASE STUDY No. 3 – Jim Braden

Peter Noyes, a Los Angeles, California based mainstream TV network producer and editor was perusing the 24 volumes of Warren Commission supporting testimony and documents looking for a local angle to pursue. Noyes found it in the statement made by Jim Braden after he was taken into custody as a suspicious person at the scene of the assassination of President Kennedy.

In his statement Braden said that he asked where he could find a pay phone and was directed to the second floor of the Dal-Tex building where he made his phone call and then took the elevator down. The elevator operator then notified a policeman that Braden was a stranger in the building, didn’t work there, and was acting suspicious so Braden was taken into custody by Dallas Sheriff Deputy Lummie Lewis, who took him to the nearby Sheriff’s office where Braden was directed to make the statement and released.

In an attempt to locate Braden Noyes contacted the California drivers license bureau and learned that shortly before visiting Dallas Eugene Hale Brading had officially changed his name to Jim Braden, and had an extensive arrest record for minor crimes, such as selling gas coupons during WWII.

Without actually interviewing Braden, Noyes learned as much about him as he could, discovered he was a member of the prestigious and mob connected La Costa golf club, and with a partner, was kicked out of Dallas by Sheriff Bill Decker for philandering rich widows, for which they were nicknamed “The Honeymooners.”

One of the rich widows that Braden and his friend targeted was the wife of a chief executive officer of the Magnolia Oil company, which comes into play later in the game as Magnolia employees Volkmar Schmidt and his two roommates hosted a party in order to introduce Lee Harvey Oswald to Michael Paine. While Paine didn’t show up, Ruth H. Paine met Marina Oswald, and they became fast friends, and Volkmar Schmidt talked at length with Oswald, calling Oswald’s attention to the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler and suggesting that General Walker should be killed as Hitler should have been. Shortly thereafter Oswald purchased the rifle through the mail and is accused of taking a shot at Walker that missed.

I picked up a copy of Noyes’s book shortly after it was published in the mid-1970s, a blue pulp paperback called “Legacy of Doubt” at a drugstore book rack. In his book Noyes mentions that Braden, under the name Eugene Hale Brading, had been arrested in Camden, New Jersey in 1948 as a material witness in a gambling incident. Because the Camden police didn’t respond to his request for a copy of that arrest report, Noyes said that there was a lot of organized crime activity in Camden at the time and the Camden police were controlled by the mob.

Since my father was a Lieutenant in the Camden Police at the time, I showed him the book and the next day he handed me the original arrest report, a mug shot and a two page rap sheet of Brading’s previous record. He said that since the file was in the dirty, dusty basement of Camden City Hall, the secretaries didn’t want to go down there to retrieve the record for Noyes.

I made copies of the arrest report, mug shot and rap sheet and sent them to Noyes, Bill Turner and a few other researches and tried, but failed to locate Braden to interview him.

When the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was formed and Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague was named its first Chief Counsel, a newspaper report mentioned that Sprague was going to conduct a homicide investigation, much like he had previously convicted the killer of the United Mine Workers Union. The news report also mentioned that Sprague had his staff read Noyes’ book.

So I took a copy of Braden’s 1948 arrest report, the mug shot and rap sheet in a yellow manila envelope and hand delivered it to Sprague’s Philadelphia law office. I also kept track of the HSCA, knew that former Philadelphia Magazine reporter Gaeton Fonzi was hired by Sprague, as he had previously worked for Sen. Richard Schweiker (R. Pa.) on the Church Intelligence Committee.

While I didn’t know it at the time, Sprague had Jim Braden testify in executive session for two days, but because of Sprague’s procedures and determination, he was blackballed and forced out of office and replaced by G. Robert Blakey, then the head of the Cornell University Institute for the Study of Organized Crime. I thought Blakey would continue the investigation, but he said their responsibility was to write a report.

With the release of the HSCA Report, Blakey locked the remaining records away stating that he would rest on the judgment of historians in fifty years.

Blakey then began to write a book that blamed the assassination on organized crime. I then received a phone call from Blakey’s assistant Michael Ewing, who asked for a copy of Braden’s Camden arrest report. I told Ewing that I had given a copy to Sprague and that they should have gotten it from him. But Ewing explained that Sprague took his personal HSCA files with him. I said I was glad he did because it would have been locked away for fifty years if he had given it to Blakey. I did send Ewing and Blakey a copy of the Camden report.

When they sealed the HSCA records for fifty years, I went to the National Archives old original building in downtown DC where I met Marion Johnson, the archivist responsible for Warren Commission and JFK assassination records. I asked him how we could get access to the HSCA records and he said an Act of Congress was required.

As he explained it to me the fifty year rule was established for all Congressional Records because that was the estimated amount of time the people mentioned in the records would be dead.

Johnson also explained that when Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), they exempted Congressional records, so that every other agency of government, including the FBI, CIA and NSA must respond to requests for records, except for Congress.

So with my College associate John Judge we formed the Committee for an Open Archives (COA) and began to lobby for Congress to release the HSCA files.

Many years later, with the release of Oliver Stone’s film “JFK,” Congress was pressed to release not only the HSCA files, but ALL of the government records on the assassination.

One of the first records I requested after the passage of the JFK Act of 1992 was Jim Braden’s two day, secret, executive session testimony before the HSCA, and boy was I surprised. Unlike most reluctant witnesses, Braden was anxious to testify and clear his name.

Braden testified that he flew to Dallas from LA in a private plane with a few other oil speculators and stayed at the Cabana Motel on the night before the assassination. The next day, while his associates visited the offices of H.L. Hunt, he checked in with his parole officer in downtown Dallas near Dealey Plaza.

He was with the parole officer at the time of the assassination, and walked to Dealey Plaza shortly thereafter, where he asked where he could find a pay telephone. He was directed to the second floor of the Dal-Tex building, went there and called his mother in California to tell her about the assassination. As he was leaving, the elevator operator realized he was a stranger in the building and didn’t work there, so he called this to the attention of the policeman – Dallas Deputy Sheriff Lummie Lewis. Lewis took him to the nearby Sheriff’s office where he was told to make a statement explaining his circumstances, and did so, and was then released.

Back at the Cabana Braden found that his associates had suddenly split town in the wake of the assassination, and flew on to Houston. Braden then flew a commercial flight to Houston to catch up with his pals. Then Braden said he flew to New Orleans, where he had spent the previous summer of 1963, working out of the office of oil geologist Vernon Main, Jr. in the Pierre Marquette office building.

There are many problems with Braden’s story, beginning with the fact that his parole officer denied being with him at the time of the assassination. In addition Braden’s lawyer when he appeared before the HSCA was named Twombly, an unusual name that Chauncey Holt had also mentioned as being the owner of a Northern California bank who directed some of his covert operations, including the supplying of fake Secret Service badges to Dealey Plaza on the  morning of the murder. I don’t know if the two Twomblys are related, but when I talked with Braden’s attorney on the phone he had lost track of Braden and denied being related to the California Twomblys and I took him at his word.

The most surprising aspect of Braden’s testimony is the fact that he lived with his wife in New Orleans during the memorable summer of 1963, when Oswald was there.

In addition, Braden said he worked out of Vernon Main, Jr.’s office in the Pierre Marquette building, which just happened to be on the same 17th floor just down the hall from the law offices of G. Ray Gill, Carlos Marcello’s attorney and close friend of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.

In his book Garrison says that he went to Gill’s office because David Ferrie worked there as an investigator on the Marcello case at the time of the assassination. Garrison obtained Gill’s office telephone records and found that one phone call from Gill’s office was to a Chicago number that was listed among the records of the Warren Commission.

Apparently the call from Gill’s office went to the Chicago apartment of Jean Aase (aka West), a number also called by sporting goods salesman Lawrence Meyers, a close friend of Jack Ruby.

A short time before the assassination Meyers had visited Dallas for the opening of the Cabana Hotel, and Ruby had taken Meyers to the Dallas State Fairgrounds where they went to a tent occupied by friends of Ruby who ran a film show called “How Hollywood Makes Movies.” The show was not doing well, so as a favor to Ruby, Meyers invested $500 in the failed enterprise. And when the show closed, Ruby hired roustabout and former Army soldier Larry Craford and Joyce McDonald, who became one of Ruby’s dancers.

When Meyers returned to Dallas on November 20, 1963, he was accompanied by Jean Aase, who he called Miss West, and described to the Warren Commission as “a dumb but accommodating broad.”

Jean Aase, the women whose Chicago apartment phone was called from Gill’s office in New Orleans and by Lawrence Meyers, appears to be an innocent cut-out used by these people. While Garrison claimed that it was David Ferrie who made the call to her phone from Gill’s office, it actually could have been anyone in Gill’s office, and she denied knowing David Ferrie or receiving a call from him.

Shortly before the assassination, while Meyers played golf, Jean Aase went shopping with Joyce McDonald the dancer, who is not be confused with Joyce McDonald the Magnolia Oil employee who attended the party hosted by Volkmar Schmidt and his two roommates – all Magnolia employees. The house party was set up specifically for Lee Harvey Oswald to meet Michael Paine, and although Paine didn’t show, his wife Ruth H. Paine met Marina Oswald and they became good friends, until the day of the assassination.

Also at the same party Oswald met Volkmar Schmidt, a German oil geologist who worked for Magnolia who talked with Oswald for two hours, mentioning the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler and suggesting that General Walker should be killed as Hitler should have been. Shortly thereafter Oswald purchased the rifle through the mail and is accused of taking a shot at Walker that missed.

Getting back to Jim Braden, according to Peter Noyes’ book “Legacy of Doubt,” Braden and a friend Victor Pierra, had targeted rich widows who they moved in and lived with before they were kicked out of town by Dallas Sheriff Bill Decker for philandering, and were branded as “The Honeymooners.” One of those rich widows was named Mrs. Little, the widow of a former Magnolia Oil executive.

So on the Thursday night before the assassination, Jim Braden and his associates checked into the Cabana Hotel, and hotel and credit card records indicate they had drinks in the Cabana Lounge.

At the same time in the same place, Lawrence Meyers met his brother and his wife, owners of a Coke a cola bottling company in Brooklyn, New York, who were in Dallas for the Bottler’s Convention that Richard Nixon addressed. Meyers’ brother and his wife had just returned from Mexico City where they visited their son Ralph Meyers, a former Army Security Agency soldier who was previously stationed at a U2 base in Turkey. At the time Ralph Meyers was working as a journalist in Mexico City, and may have been registered at the Cabana Hotel that night, along with Jim Braden and his associates and Larry Meyers and his girl Jean Aase.

Late that Thursday night Jack Ruby arrived at the Cabana to meet Lawrence Meyers, and after meeting Meyers’ brother and his wife, took Lawrence Meyers to Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge for a steak. Ruby’s date that night, Beverly Oliver, said that while at Campisi’s Ruby, Meyers and Campisi went into the private office to make phone calls from the same phone that Dallas Policeman said he talked with Carlos Marcello, a close friend and business associate of Campisi.

The next day Larry Meyers would play golf at a Air Force golf club near Dallas, JFK would be killed, Jim Braden would be taken into custody as a suspicious person at the scene of the crime, and then fly to Houston and New Orleans. In New Orleans Braden would visit his associate Vernon Main, Jr. in the Pierre Marquette office building, just down the hall from G. Ray Gill, from where the phone call to Jean Aase in Chicago was made.

It comes around full circle – phone call to Chicago, Aase and Meyers go to Dallas and cross paths with Jim Braden, who then goes to New Orleans to the same place the original phone call was made.

Coincidence or conspiracy? I don’t know, but these leads have not been properly investigate. I think Vernon Main, Jr. may still be alive. I visited the Chicago apartment where Jean Aase lived, and it is now, and was then, owned by Russian Jews who have kept it in their family for decades.

I tried but failed to find Jim Braden when he was alive, because he truly wanted to talk and get his story out.

The final irony is the HSCA records of the first Chief Counsel Richard Sprague were never obtained by the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) because they had the extensive records of another independent researcher named Richard Sprague, so they are not available and open to the public at the National Archives as they should be and as the JFK requires. 

So the yellow manila envelop with Braden's 1948 Camden arrest report, his mug show and rap sheet that I gave to Sprague is not available from the National Archives and Records Administration, but only available here. 



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