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New Evidence To Be Revealed Who Really Killed Martin

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This fall, it looks like the assassination of Martin Luther King will be coming back to haunt us. Six and a half years after the killing, and after wide suspicion that a coveredup conspiracy was responsible for it, the case may be reopened. James Earl Ray, the "lone gunman" now in jail for shooting King, is well on his way toward geting a new trial which his lawyer, Robert 1. Livingston, thinks will exonérate him of guilt. Furthermore, Livingston thinks the real killers will be found - and that they will turn out to have had something to do with the shooting of President John Kennedy in 1963. "There is a possible connection between the Kennedy assassination and the King assassination," says Livingston, "and the whole thing is being covered up by the federal government, the Department of Justice and the State of Tennessee. The more we go into it the more we discover has been covered up here." On October 22, assuming no legal obstacles arise, Ray will have an evidentiary hearing before U.S. Dist. Judge Robert McRae in Memphis to determine whether he should get a new trial. Ray himself will be among those testifying. Livingston is optimistic about its outcome: "We honestly feel this evidentiary hearing is going to show the world exactly the extent of this coverup." On April 3, 1968, Dr. King arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, to support a garbage workers' strike. The next evening as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, a single rifle shot him in the neck and killed him instantly. The assassination sparked riots in cities across the country. The FBI and newspapers circulated an artist's sketch of the man whom a witness, the proprietor of a rooming house overlooking the scène, thought did the shooting. A high-powei ed rifle was found in fl a stairwell at the rooming house in a bundie of i belongings M of James Earl fl Ray, an ■ caped fl ouri prisoner. I The rifle itselt was traced to Ray, who had rented a room in the building the same day; it was covered with his fingerprints. Ray became the prime suspect and was eventually caught in England where he had fled. On March 10, 1969, he pleaded guilty in return for a 99-year sentence. It was a simple case from the legal standpoint - the "lone nut" was caught and convicted, and the case was supposed to be closed. But to a lot of people something seemed fishy. When Ray was arrested it was noted that he didn't look anything like the original FBI sketch of the killer. (Later versions of the sketch had been redrawn to match Ray's features.) Some pólice authorities said Ray could not have traveled as freely as he did, nor switched identities with such ease, without organized help. Ray himself maintained to anyone who would listen that he was the tooi of a conspiracy. At his guilty plea hearing he tried to teil this to the court, but was stopped by the judge and by his own lawyer, Percy Foreman. A couple of weeks later, Ray tried to revoke his guilty plea, saying he had been pressured into it, but the court turned down this move. Ray has since been claiming that a man he knew only as "Raoul" did the shooting while he was elsewhere. Last May Ray described for the first time what he did the day King was killed. Who Is Raoul? Ray said he met the man named "Raoul" in Canada in 1967, and that Raoul convinced him to join a gun-running team. Ray said the man had him buy the rifle that pólice discovered in the stairwell. He delivered it to Raoul and another man at the rooming house on April 4, 1968. They gave him $200 and instructed him to go to a movie. He drove to k a gas station instead; on _ coming back, he found "the whole block iwas sealed off and k pólice were all k over the place." He did a UK turn and fled. B realiiiig. he Bsays, how he ■ had been set IWJB up as the HHÊ fall guy. This might sound like the sort of alibi one could expect as a matter of course. However, a suspicious character matching the original FBI sketch had indeed attracted attention in the cafe below the rooming house about an hour before the shooting. He was a major suspect at first and the pólice arrested him, only to release him under what some officers thought were strange circumstances about an hour later. The same character, apparently, showed up a few days later at the office of Russell X. Thompson, a Memphis lawyer. The man did some gun-drawing stunts and said he knew all about the shooting, and that Ray had not done it. He asked if Thompson would represent the man who did the killing, a friend of his. He identified himself with the phoney name of Tony Benavides and once he left, Thompson had no way to trace him. Thompson never learned anything more about the "friend." The man later told a similar story to two Memphis ministers, this time calling himself J. Christ Bonneveche. Ray's new lawyer, Livingston, says he has been in contact since last March with a man who claims to be an intermediary for the two actual gunmen. A Plot Livingston is now convinced the assassination was plotted by four right-wing "wealthy, socially prominent Americans" at least one of them black and at least one from Memphis, who wanted to see the country's foremost leader of the black movement killed. They were to pay the assassination team $250,000, says Livingston. However, only $100,000 was paid and the gunmen are now said to be ready to testify against their employers in return for immunity from prosecution. "There are three men who propose to testify to give a complete exposé of the King murder case," Livingston insists, "and to give names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the four Americans who hired them to kill Dr. King. They justify their actions and rationalize that they were doing what was best for national security." Wayne Chastain, a veteran reporter for the Memphis Press Scimitar who was covering King's entourage when he was shot, and who has also been investigating the case, has opinions of his own about Livingston's mysterious men. "I don't think these guys are genuinely interested in seeking immunity," he says, and remarks that they might be trying to use Livingston to get information, perhaps to threaten Ray with. "1 think they're using Livingston as a forum to accomplish their ends." Chastain has followed Livingston's intermediary around Memphis and thinks he knows his real identity. Livingston acknowledges that Chastain may be riglit. "All I know about this man is what he has told me. I make no conclusions." Another of Ray's lawyers, Bernard Fensterwald, declines to discuss the case at all. Fensterwald is the executive director of the Committee to Investígate Assassinations, and for a time served as ney for Watergate burglar James McCord. Soldier of Fortune Chastain has a book forthcoming on the assassination, which is being serialized in Computers and People magazine, published in Newton. The magazine's maverick editor, Edmund C. Berkeley, has used his computer industry trade journal as a repository for assassination articles in the last four years. In his book, Chastain focuses on the identity and career of the rooming house cafe's suspicious character, alias Raoul, alias Tony Benavides, alias J. Christ Bonneveche. Chastain gives him the code name of Jack Armstrong. This is similar to his alleged actual name, which is fairly common knowledge in conspiracy research circles. (Livingston voices no opinión on whether Armstrong is involved but says emphatically that his contact is not Armstrong.) Armstrong is a southern-born soldier of fortune, and a gun runner. He made his living on one side orthe other of most of the Latin American rêvolutions from 1954 to the early '60's, after fighting behind the lines in North Korea. He flew planeloads of guns to Fidel Castro's guerrilla forces and was deeply involved in Havana intrigue during the last months of Cuba's Batista regime. He says he became disillusioned with the Cuban revolution once Castro's communist positions became evident; some speculate that hewas a CIA agent from the start. After Castro took over, Armstrong had a book ghost-written about his exploits in Cuba. In the book, he describes how he tested a bazooka by using it to blow up a speeding pólice car carrying four of Batista's Military Intelligence Service officers; how he assisted at the machine gunning of Batista men who had just paid for a planeload of arms;how he was a familiar figure in the Sierra Maestra field headquarters of Fidel and Ra ui Castro and Che Guevara, and how he plotted, with two Florida policemen, to kidnap a Cuban senator out of Miami. Writing in late 1959 or 1960, he ends the book swearing to come back and overthrow Castro. "I'm not a moralist or a deep thinker," he says. 'Til do anything for money, for anyone but a Communist. If I can live high till I'm 40 that's enough for any man." (He is now 44.) Early associates of Armstrong, says Chastain, describe him as a natural bom fighter. One said, "I believe that Jack is a true psychopath . . . or a sociopath, as psychiatrists use the term today." He is now living in a rural área of the South, raising cotton, soybeans and cattle and occasionally making long trips away from home. He is said to delight in attending cattle auctions and always pays cash for the prize steers he pur chases. Armstrong had strong FBI and CIA ties, and charges against him in the U.S. had a curious way of getting dropped. In the early '60's, Armstrong was in the middle of the anti-Castro guerrilla milieu of Cuban exiles along the MiamiLouisiana axis who were responsible, "There is a possible connection between the Kennedy assasination and the King assasination, " says Ray 's attorney, Robert Livingston. "The whole thing is being covered up by the federal government, the Department ofJustice and the State ofTennessee. " backed by generous CIA help, for the Bay of Pigs invasión. This, incidentally, is the same milieu from whieh the Watergate burglars were drawn. and into which many investigative trails concerning the President Kennedy assassination seem to lead. Indeed, this unofficial suspect bears a close resemblance not only to the FBI sketch of King's assassin. but to one of the famous "three tramps" arrested when Kennedy was killed, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. They were picked up less than 30 minutes after the shots. Their pictures were taken as pólice led them across the Plaza to a sheriffs office. Strangely, no record of their booking exists. They merely disappeared from public scrutiny on entering the building. Furthermore, their guards included a man in a Dallas pólice uniform who. investigators claim, was not a policeman at all. No records of him exist either. Assassination conspiracy theorists have made much of the "three tramps" affair. This isn't Armstrong's only possible connection with the JFK shooting. He is mentioned in the appendix of the Warren Commission Report on that assassination as being linked to Jack Ruby in a 1961 gun-running scheme for anti-Castro guerillas. Jack Ruby was the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the only assassination suspect, on national TV. Ruby died of cáncer three years later. TWO POINTS James Earl Ray's attempt to get a new trial does not yet involve such exotic matters. "The conspiracy will not be gone into at any great length at this evidentiary hearing on October 22," says Livingston. "The two points that will be dealt with are whether Ray in fact freely and voluntarily pleaded guilty, and whether or not he had the assistance of competent, effective legal counsel in Mr. Percy Foreman." If it's proved that Ray was coerced into his guilty plea, or that Foreman had interests other than Ray's in the case, the way would be paved for a new trial, which would take place sometime next year. Ray and his legal team contend that Foreman "sold out" Ray to preserve the economie value of a book about his life, in which Foreman had 60 percent royalty rights. A book about a non-assassin wouldn't be worth much. Foreman denies the charge, pointing out that he was already rich enough to have no pressing interest in the amount of money involved. Ray's third lawyer. James Lesar, has termed Foreman's denial "just one lie after the other." "We expect to prove at this evidentiary hearing." Livingston stresses, "that from the time of his arrest to the date he pleaded guilty, everybody that had dealings with James Harl Ray conned the man. I think the world's going to be surprised to say the least, to see what's going on. I don't continued on page 18 Martin Luther continued from page 9 Jkll CJ think the conspiracy will be an issue in the evidentiary hearing, but I think we '11 be able to show evidence of a coverup of a conspiracy by the federal government and the State of Tennessee." Others watching the case, like Chastain, say Livingston is "unrealistic" in expecting to prove so much. One difficulty is that Ray himself won't talk. Livingston says Ray would fear tbr his life if he did. "He feels he's winning in the courts, which he is, and he feels that if he is not a prosecution witness, he might have some measure of safe - ty if he is released from prison in the future." At any rate, October 22 seems to be a date to watch. The State of Termessee is trying to delay Ray's hearing past that time by challenging the broad discovery motions Judge McRae granted to Ray's lawyers, but that move is not considered likely to succeed. For a decade, numerous people have been trying to find conclusive proof of wide conspiracy behind the assassinations that have so influenced recent American history. Thousands of details point in that direction, but solid evidence of guilt on the part of any one conspirator - the smoking pistol, as it were - has always seemed elusive. Given the past history of promising assassination leads that never quite got anywhere, the upcoming Ray case may also lead nowhere. On the other hand, it could also open up the questions of the '60's assassinations more effectively than anything in the last half dozen years. The Boston Phoenix