Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Killer Klansman's Mob Claim

Gregory Scarpa Sr.Greg "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa via Wikipedia

Former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen, serving 60 years for the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers, has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI paid an organized crime figure to beat and intimidate people to extract information in his case.

In all, the 16-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., against the FBI and Mississippi Attorney General's Office, claims the FBI used secretive and illegal tactics that violated Killen's rights to a fair trial and suppressed his constitutional right to speak freely over the years. It alleged the state of Mississippi knew about the FBI abuses but chose to cover it up during Killen's second trial, in which he was convicted.
Edgar Ray Killen is escorted into the Neshoba County Courthouse in
 Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 2005.
Marianne Todd, Getty Images
Edgar Ray Killen is serving a 60-year sentence after being convicted on manslaughter charges in the deaths of three civil rights workers. Here, he is shown before his sentencing in June 2005.

The suit alleges that the FBI in 1964 became frustrated with the investigation into three missing civil rights workers and turned to Colombo crime family mobster Gregory Scarpa Sr. (aka the "Grim Reaper"), saying Scarpa intimidated, assaulted and pistol-whipped local residents to help locate the "burial site of the murdered civil rights workers and obtained confessions for the prosecution."

In turn, the suit alleges the FBI paid Scarpa at least $30,000 and gave him "carte blanche to engage in all types of legal and illegal activities."

The FBI declined to comment. Mississippi Attorney Gen Jim Hood said in a statement: "I get sued every day and criticized for playing by the rules and doing my job. I guess I am getting used to the job. Our in-house lawyers are defending state agencies in over 3,000 lawsuits pending against us now, and this is just another one of them."

In a 1967 federal trial, seven people were convicted and eight acquitted in the deaths of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Killen and two other men got off as the result of a hung jury.

But in 2005, Killen was convicted in state court on three counts of manslaughter and got 60 years. Killen, 85, who is in a maximum-security prison in Pearl, Miss., has denied guilt, according to his attorney.

Books and articles have noted that Scarpa, who died in 1994, was a longtime FBI informant.

The Associated Press reported that Scarpa mistress Linda Schiro testified in a 2007 trial in New York involving suspected crooked FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio. Schiro said she saw Scarpa shove a gun into a Klansman's mouth in Mississippi to get information for the FBI.

Authorities found her testimony suspect overall, and the agent was cleared of having played a role in some mob murders.

Still, after that trial, New York Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach expressed concern about Schiro's testimony, the AP reported.

"That a thug like Scarpa would be employed by the federal government to beat witnesses and threaten them at gunpoint to obtain information ... is a shocking demonstration of the government's unacceptable willingness to employ criminality to fight crime," the judge said in a court order.

Killen attorney Rob Ratliff told AOL News that he pieced together the allegations in the lawsuit from public FBI documents and newspaper clippings, and was hoping to get more documents through discovery in the lawsuit to fill in some holes.

While Ratliff admits the mob allegations are the headline grabber in the case, he said there is something that outrages him more. The suit alleges that one of the lead defense attorneys in the first trial in 1967, Clayton Lewis, was an "ongoing paid informant for the FBI."

Ratliff said that tainted the second trial, which relied on the reading into the record a lot of evidence presented in the first trial because many witnesses were dead.

"Those are the kind of things that are mind boggling things to me," he said.

He said he hopes any newly discovered material in the lawsuit will aid Killen's appeal on his criminal conviction in federal court. Killen exhausted his appeals in state court.

"We just want to know what happened," Ratliff said. "Who did what, and to whom, in the investigation of the case. If they want to reprosecute him while he's still alive, that's fine, but let's do it with an open book, let's disclose everything."



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