A New Jersey paralegal with a longstanding interest in government corruption filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the F.B.I. on Monday, seeking the release of the full case file on a murderous Brooklyn Mafia informant — papers she believes may shed light on the possible involvement of a dead New Orleans crime boss in the killing of President John F. Kennedy.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington by the paralegal, Angela Clemente, asks the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make public any documents it may still hold related to the mobster, Gregory Scarpa Sr., who for nearly 30 years led a stunning double life as a hit man for the Colombo crime family and, in the words of the F.B.I, a “top echelon” informant for the bureau.
In her suit, Ms. Clemente asked the bureau to release all papers connected to Mr. Scarpa (who died of AIDS in 1994 after receiving a blood transfusion), especially those related to Carlos Marcello, a New Orleans don suspected by some of having played a role in the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
Ms. Clemente filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mr. Scarpa’s file in April, and the F.B.I. acknowledged her request in a letter on June 9, saying that bureau officials would search their records for relevant papers. Ms. Clemente’s lawyer, James Lesar, said that the F.B.I. had not yet told her if it would release the file or not, but that under federal law, a lawsuit can be filed compelling the release of records 20 working days after such a letter is received.
John Miller, a spokesman for the F.B.I., did not return phone calls on Monday seeking comment on Ms. Clemente’s suit. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said officials would review the suit and respond if needed in court.
In pursuing the Scarpa file and its potential to flesh out Mr. Marcello’s possible role in the Kennedy killing, Ms. Clemente is following a trail blazed in part by G. Robert Blakey, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame who also served as the chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which from 1977 to 1979 investigated the killings of President Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While the Warren Commission said there was no link between Mr. Marcello and the president’s death, Mr. Blakey’s report to the House was considerably more circumspect, saying the F.B.I.’s “handling of the allegations and information about Marcello was characterized by a less than vigorous effort to investigate its reliability.”
Ms. Clemente is in possession of several heavily redacted papers from the Scarpa file, which suggest, however vaguely, she said, that Mr. Scarpa, who spied on numerous gangsters for the F.B.I., may also have spied on Mr. Marcello.
Professor Blakey, reached by phone at his office at Notre Dame on Monday, said he had seen the papers, adding that no matter what the unredacted versions might eventually reveal, he was convinced that he should have seen them 30 years ago, while conducting his Congressional investigation. “The issue here is not what’s in them,” Professor Blakey said, “so much as that they seem to have held them back from me. I thought I had the bureau file on Marcello — now it turns out I didn’t, did I? So I’m not a small, I’m a major, supporter of what Angela is trying to do.”
Ms. Clemente, 43, often refers to herself as a “forensic intelligence analyst.” She has been researching Mr. Scarpa for nearly a decade as part of a broader project on the improper use of government informants. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has said her work on Mr. Scarpa was instrumental in helping the office file quadruple murder charges against Mr. Scarpa’s former F.B.I. handler, Roy Lindley DeVecchio.
The charges against Mr. DeVecchio were dropped midtrial in October when Tom Robbins, a reporter for The Village Voice, suddenly showed prosecutors taped interviews he made years ago with the main prosecution witness, Mr. Scarpa’s mistress, suggesting that she had changed her account and damaged her credibility.
Faced with the sudden demise of years of investigative work, Ms. Clemente went back, she said, to the redacted papers she already had. She said she was intrigued, after additional study, to discover references to Mr. Scarpa’s apparent involvement in F.B.I. projects in New Orleans in the late 1950s and early 1960s — well before his publicly acknowledged role in helping the Kennedy administration learn the whereabouts of three slain civil rights workers by traveling to Mississippi to threaten a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
She said the F.B.I. had fought her “tooth and nail” in her efforts to obtain the full Scarpa file for Mr. DeVecchio’s trial. The F.B.I. did not return phone calls seeking comment on that allegation as well. “And that,” she said, “is what really piqued my curiosity.”
Thanks to Alan Feuer