THE HSCA ON JACK RUBY'S MAFIA LINKS

Compiled by Michael T. Griffith

Excerpts from the HSCA Report

The evidence available to the committee . . . showed that he [Ruby] had a significant number of associations and direct and indirect contacts with underworld figures, a number of whom were connected to the most powerful La Cosa Nostra leaders. Additionally, Ruby had numerous associations with the Dallas criminal element.

The committee also examined allegations that, even before the 1947 move to Dallas, Ruby had been personally acquainted with two professional killers for the organized crime syndicate in Chicago, David Yaras and Lenny Patrick. The committee established that Ruby, Yaras and Patrick were in fact acquainted during Ruby's years in Chicago, particularly in the 1930's and 1940's. Both Yaras and Patrick admitted, when questioned by the FBI in 1964, that they did know Ruby, but both said that they had not had any contact with him for 10 to 15 years. Yaras and Patrick further maintained they had never been particularly close to Ruby, had never visited him in Dallas and had no knowledge of Ruby being connected to organized crime. Indeed, the Warren Commission used Patrick's statement as a footnote citation in its report to support its conclusion that Ruby did not have significant syndicate associations.

On the other hand, the committee established that Yaras and Patrick were, in fact, notorious gunmen, having been identified by law enforcement authorities as executioners for the Chicago mob and closely associated with Sam Giancana, the organized crime leader in Chicago who was murdered in 1975. Yaras and Patrick are believed to have been responsible for numerous syndicate executions. including the murder of James Ragan, a gambling wire service owner. The evidence implicating Yaras and Patrick in syndicate activities is unusually reliable. Yaras, for example, was overheard in a 1962 electronic surveillance discussing various underworld murder contracts he had carried out and one he had only recently been assigned. While the committee found no evidence that Ruby was associated with Yaras or Patrick during the 1950s or 1960s, it concluded that Ruby had probably talked by telephone to Patrick during the summer of 1963.

Included among Ruby's closest friends was Lewis McWillie. McWillie moved from Dallas to Cuba in 1958 and worked in gambling casinos in Havana until 1960. In 1978, McWillie was employed in Las Vegas, and law enforcement files indicate he had business and personal ties to major organized crime figures, including Meyer Lansky and Santos Trafficante.

Ruby traveled to Cuba on at least one occasion to visit McWillie. McWillie testified to the committee that Ruby visited him only once in Cuba, and that it was a social visit. The Warren Commission concluded this was the only trip Ruby took to Cuba,39 despite documentation in the Commission's own files indicating Ruby made a second trip.

Both Ruby and McWillie claimed that Ruby's visit to Cuba was at McWillie's invitation and lasted about a week in the late summer or early fall of 1959. The committee, however, obtained tourist cards from the Cuban Government that show Ruby entered Cuba on August 8, 1959, left on September 11, reentered on September 12 and left again on September 13, 1959. These documents supplement records the committee obtained from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) indicating that Ruby left Cuba on September 11, 1959, traveling to Miami, returned to Cuba on September 12, and traveled on to New Orleans on September 13, 1959. The Cuban Government could not state with certainty that the commercial airline flights indicated by the INS records were the only ones Ruby took during the period.

Other records obtained by the committee indicate that Ruby was in Dallas at times during the August 8 to September 11, 1959, period. He apparently visited his safe deposit box on August 21, met with FBI Agent Charles W. Flynn on August 31,(2) and returned to the safe deposit box on September 4. Consequently, if the tourist card documentation, INS, FBI, and bank records are all correct, Ruby had to have made at least three trips to Cuba. While the records appeared to be accurate, they were incomplete. The committee was unable to determine, for example, whether on the third trip, if it occurred, Ruby traveled by commercial airline or some other means. Consequently, the committee could not rule out the possibility that Ruby made more trips during this period or at other times.

Based on the unusual nature of the 1-day trip to Miami from Havana on September 11-12 and the possibility of at least one additional trip to Cuba, the committee concluded that vacationing was probably not the purpose for traveling to Havana, despite Ruby's insistence to the Warren Commission that his one trip to Cuba in 1959 was a social visit. The committee reached the judgment that Ruby most likely was serving as a courier for gambling interests when he traveled to Miami from Havana for 1 day, then returned to Cuba for a day, before flying to New Orleans.

The committee also deemed it likely that Ruby at least met various organized crime figures in Cuba, possibly including some who had been detained by the Cuban government. In fact, Ruby told the Warren Commission that he was later visited in Dallas by McWillie and a Havana casino owner and that they had discussed the gambling business in Cuba.

It has been charged that Ruby met with Santos Trafficante in Cuba sometime in 1959. Trafficante, regarded as one of the Nation's most powerful organized crime figures, was to become a key participant in Castro assassination attempts by the Mafia and the CIA from 1960 to 1963. The committee developed circumstantial evidence that makes a meeting between Ruby and Trafficante a distinct possibility. . . .

While allegations of a Ruby link to Trafficante had previously been raised, mainly due to McWillie's alleged close connections to the Mafia leader, it was not until recent years that they received serious attention. Trafficante had long been recognized by law enforcement officials as a leading member of the La Cosa Nostra, but he did not become the object of significant public attention in connection with the assassination of the President until his participation in the assassination plots against Castro was disclosed in 1975.

In 1976, in response to a freedom of information suit, the CIA declassified a State Department cablegram received from London on November 28, 1963. It read:

On 26 November 1963, a British Journalist named John Wilson, and also known as Wilson-Hudson, gave information to the American Embassy in London which indicated that an "American gangster-type named Ruby" visited Cuba around 1959. Wilson himself was working in Cuba at that time and was jailed by Castro before he was deported.

In prison in Cuba, Wilson says he met an American gangster/gambler named Santos who could not return to the U.S.A. Instead he preferred to live in relative luxury in a Cuban prison. While Santos was in prison, Wilson says, Santos was visited frequently by an American gangster type named Ruby. . . .

The committee was able . . . to develop corroborative information to the effect that Wilson-Hudson was incarcerated at the same detention camp in Cuba as Trafficante. . . .

The committee investigated other aspects of Ruby's activities that might have shown an association with organized crime figures. An extensive computer analysis of his telephone toll records for the month prior to the President's assassination revealed that he either placed calls to or received calls from a number of individuals who may be fairly characterized as having been affiliated, directly or indirectly, with organized crime. These included Irwin Weiner, a Chicago bondsman well-known as a frontman for organized crime and the Teamsters Union;83 Robert "Barney" Baker, a lieutenant of James R Hoffa and associate of several convicted organized crime executioners: Nofio J. Pecora, a lieutenant of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss in Louisiana; Harold Tannenbaum, a New Orleans French Quarter nightclub manager who lived in a trailer park owned by Pecora; McWillie, the Havana gambler; and Murray "Dusty" Miller, a Teamster deputy of Hoffa and associate of various underworld figures. Additionally, the committee concluded that Ruby was also probably in telephonic contact with Mafia executioner Lenny Patrick sometime during the summer of 1963. Although no such call was indicated in the available Ruby telephone records, Ruby's sister, Eva Grant, told the Warren Commission that Ruby had spoken more than once of having contacted Patrick by telephone during that period. . . .

[After opining that the timing of the long-distance calls was "consistent" with the explanation that Ruby made them to discuss his labor problems, and that "testimony" given to the committee "supported" the view that the calls were "by and large" related to Ruby's alleged AGVA labor problems, the committee then went on to note that at least some of those calls probably involved more than just a discussion of a "labor dispute":]

In light of the identity of some of the individuals, however, the possibility of other matters being discussed [during the long-distance phone calls] could not be dismissed.

In particular, the committee was not satisfied with the explanations of three individuals closely associated with organized crime who received telephone calls from Ruby in October or November 1963. Weiner, the Chicago bondsman, refused to discuss his call from Ruby on October 26, 1963, with the FBI in 1964, and he told a reporter in 1978 that the call had nothing to do with labor problems. In his executive session testimony before the committee, however, Weiner stated that he had lied to the reporter, and he claimed that he and Ruby had in fact, discussed a labor dispute. The committee was not satisfied with Weiner's explanation of his relationship with Ruby. Weiner suggested Ruby was seeking a bond necessary to obtain an injunction in his labor troubles, yet the committee could find no other creditable indication that Ruby contemplated seeking court relief, nor any other explanation for his having to go to Chicago for such a bond.

Barney Baker told the FBI in 1964 that he had received only one telephone call from Ruby (on Nov. 7, 1963) during which he had curtly dismissed Ruby's plea for assistance in a nightclub labor dispute. The committee established, however, that Baker received a second lengthy call from Ruby on November 8. The committee found it hard to believe that Baker, who denied the conversation ever took place, could have forgotten it.

The committee was also dissatisfied with the explanation of a call Ruby made on October 30, 1963, to the New Orleans trailer park office of Nofio J. Pecora, the longtime Marcello lieutenant. Pecora told the committee that only he would have answered his phone and that he never spoke with Ruby or took a message from him. The committee considered the possibility that the call was actually for Harold Tannenbaum, a mutual friend of Ruby and Pecora who lived in the trailer park, although Pecora denied he would have relayed such a message.

Additionally, the committee found it difficult to dismiss certain Ruby associations with the explanation that they were solely related to his labor problems. For example, James Henry Dolan, a Dallas AGVA representative, was reportedly an acquaintance of both Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante. While Dolan worked with Ruby on labor matters, they were also allegedly associated in other dealings, including a strong-arm attempt to appropriate the proceeds of a one-night performance of a stage review at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas called "Bottoms Up." The FBI, moreover, has identified Dolan as an associate of Nofio Pecora. The committee noted further that reported links between AGVA and organized crime figures have been the subject of Federal and State investigations that have been underway for years. The committee's difficulties in separating Ruby's AGVA contacts from his organized crime connections was, in large degree, based on the dual roles that many of his associates played. (HSCA Report, Section I C 4)

Excerpts from organized crime expert John Davis's book MAFIA KINGFISH, focusing on Ruby's ties to one of the most powerful Mafia figures in the country in the 1960s, Carlos Marcello, who was known to hate Kennedy and who was heard by five people, two of them police informants, to acknowledge involvement in Kennedy's assassination

And what did the Assassinations Committee [i.e., the HSCA] discover about Jack Ruby's connections to the Marcello crime family?

First, the Ruby-Marcello connections in Dallas. The Assassinations Committee established that Jack Ruby was a friend and business associate of Joseph Civello's, Carlos Marcello's deputy in Dallas and the boss of Dallas's relatively small Mafia family, a reality that J. Edgar Hoover tried to keep from the attention of the Warren Commission and which the commission itself suppressed by not mentioning it in its report or published exhibits. Furthermore, it [the HSCA] established that Ruby was on very cordial terms with Joseph Campisi, who, the committee found out, was considered to be the number two man in the Dallas Mafia hierarchy and a man on such friendly terms with the Marcello brothers that he sent the family 260 pounds of homemade sausage every Christmas.

Campisi told the committee that he knew all of the Marcello brothers and used to go often to New Orleans to play golf and go to the track with Vincent, Anthony, and Sammy [Marcello]. It was Vincent who first introduced him to Carlos and Joe, and Carlos had taken to him to such an extent that he invited him several times to his fishing camp at Grand Isle, where Campisi would cook spaghetti for Carlos and all the brothers and their friends.

Joe Campisi, as we know, owned the Egyptian Lounge. In its interview with Campisi the Assassinations Committee obtained an admission from him that Jack Ruby had dined with him at the lounge the evening before Kennedy was assassinated. Campisi also admitted that he had visited Ruby in the Dallas County Jail eight days after the assassination.

It is one of the practices of the Mafia to visit a member of the brotherhood who has been jailed for a crime in which the brotherhood was involved soon after he first enters his cell. One of the purposes of such a visit is to remind the jailed colleague that he is to keep his mouth shut or else something unpleasant might happen to him or to a member of his family. This is usually done in subtle ways.

Joe Campisi was Ruby's first visitor after his imprisonment for murdering the President's alleged assassin. (Incredibly, the Dallas Police did not record the ten-minute conversation between Oswald's murderer and a man known to be a close associate of Carlos Marcello's deputy in Dallas.) Campisi brought his wife along with him--an unusual move, for Mafiosi almost never include their wives in meetings at which urgent matters are to be discussed, however obliquely. Former Chief Counsel Blakey speculates that Campisi brought his wife along so as not to arouse the police's suspicion. When questioned by the Assassinations Committee as to what Ruby said during their meeting, Campisi did not recall much but did remember vividly what had already become Ruby's stock answer to the question of why he killed Oswald: to spare Jacqueline Kennedy and her children the pain of an eventual trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. (Later a handwritten note of Ruby's to one of his attorneys was discovered in which Ruby admitted he was lying, that a former attorney, Tom Howard, a friend of Campisi's, told him to use the Jacqueline Kennedy story as an alibi.)

Campisi told the committee substantially what he told the FBI three weeks after the assassination: that when he and wife arrived at Ruby's cell, they found him crying: "Here I am fighting for my life and feeling sorry for myself," Ruby was supposed to have moaned, "when I really feel sorry for Mrs. Kennedy and the kids."

Campisi's original testimony to the FBI about his meeting with Ruby in jail, which, in turn, had been transmitted to the Warren Commission, had been a masterful performance. It had conveyed the impression that Mr. and Mrs. Campisi's visit to Mr. Jack Ruby was simply a visit to an old and dear friend who had gotten into a little trouble. It reinforced Ruby's professed patriotic indignation and sympathy for Jacqueline Kennedy and her kids. But fourteen years later Campisi's story did not convince the House Select on Assassinations that the purpose of his visit to prisoner Ruby was so innocent. The committee took note that Jack Ruby had dined with a Dallas-based member of the Marcello organization the evening before the assassination of the President and that the same Dallas-based member of the Marcello organization was the first person to visit Ruby after he had been jailed for the murder of the President's alleged assassin. The committee had little choice but to regard the Ruby-Campisi relationship and the Campisi-Marcello relationship as yet another set of associations strengthening the committee's growing suspicion of the Marcello crime family's involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy or execute the President's alleged assassin or both.

Contributing to that suspicion, the committee discovered yet another friend of Jack Ruby's with a connection to the Marcello organization. His name was James Henry Dolan, and he was a representative of the Dallas chapter of the mob-controlled American Guild of Variety Artists. The committee found out that Dolan was a close friend of Carlos Marcello's lieutenant Nofio Pecora and that Dolan had spent several days conferring with Ruby in Dallas two months before the assassination.

As for Jack Ruby's connections with the Marcello organization in New Orleans, the committee was to confirm certain connections the FBI had been aware of at the time of the assassination but had never forcefully brought to the attention of the Warren Commission. The committee was able to confirm that Ruby met with New Orleans nightclub operators and Marcello associates Harold Tannenbaum, Frank Caracci, Cleeve Dugas, and Nick Graffagnini (one of Pete Marcello's managers at the Marcello-owned Sho-Bar on Bourbon Street) in June and October 1963 and made a telephone call on October 30 to the New Orleans office of Marcello associate Nofio Pecora, whose associate, Emile Bruneau, had bailed Lee Harvey Oswald out of jail that summer. (MAFIA KINGFISH, pp. 449-451)