More Crackpot Garrison Witnesses
Journalist James Phelan on a Small But Typical Sample

There was a musician named Donald Norton who showed up in Vancouver with the story of two "CIA missions" involving Garrison's suspects. He claimed to have met Shaw in August 1962, in Alabama, and to have received from a man accompanying Shaw an attaché case containing $50,000 which Norton delivered to "Harvey Lee" in Monterrey, Mexico, in exchange for certain "documents." The Harvey Lee had turned out to be Lee Harvey Oswald. In an earlier "CIA operation", he said, his agency contact had been David Ferrie. Although a polygraph test by a newspaper indicated deception on Norton's story, Garrison sent an aide to Vancouver to interview him and brought him to New Orleans for further questioning.

Another witness surfaced in Boston. He wrote a letter to Garrison claiming to have a photograph taken in Jack Ruby's Dallas nightclub a few weeks before the assassination. The photo, he said, showed Ruby, Oswald, Perry Russo, and the informant, a twenty six-year-old dishwasher. Garrison's office sent him an airline ticket to New Orleans, which the dishwasher cashed and never used. He showed up in his hometown in Maine, confessed that he had written the letter while drunk, and admitted not only that there was no photo but that he had never been in Dallas.

One of the most remarkable volunteers was a backwoods Louisiana preacher, the Reverend "Sliding Clyde" Johnson, who almost made it to the witness stand in the Shaw trial. Johnson had been an eccentric candidate for Louisiana governor in 1963, attracting audiences by playing a banjo and sashaying erratically across his impromptu speaker's stand. He told the district attorney's staff that he had met an "Elton Bernard," whom he identified as Clay Shaw, in a Baton Rouge hotel in September 1963. Shaw was accompanied by three men, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and a big "Mexican looking" fellow. He said he heard one of the three say "he would get him" and Shaw declare "others are working on this" and "he's got to come down from Washington." The preacher declared that Shaw gave him a brown envelope containing $5,000 in $100 bills, and gave similar thick brown envelopes to both Ruby and Oswald. Despite his peculiar public record and manifest instability, the Garrison staff processed Sliding Clyde as a prospective witness. His story bolstered the weakest aspect of the case against Shaw -- the necessary overt acts that had to arise out of a conspiracy in order to make it an actionable plot. Pressured by Shaw's attorneys to specify these acts, Garrison filed a reply declaring that Shaw had met with Oswald and Ruby at the Capital House Hotel in Baton Rouge on September 3, 1963, and had there given them money. Later, Johnson fled to a backwoods cabin in Mississippi, ignored a Garrison subpoena and was dropped from the case. So was the Baton Rouge "overt act."

Little of this desperate behind-the-scenes search for witnesses to bolster Perry Russo's story surfaced at the time.

Scandals, Scamps, and Scoundrels, pp. 169-170