Richard Case Nagell

Richard Case Nagell

Richard Case Nagell was born in Greenwich, New York, on 5th August, 1930. Educated in Albany, Nagell, joined the United States Army at Albany in 1948. During the Korean War he was awarded the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart and at the age of twenty became one of the youngest men in history to receive a field promotion to the rank of Captain.

In November, 1954, Nagell suffered severe injuries in an air crash. After recovering he was transferred to Army Counter Intelligence Corp. He served as a CIC officer in both Korea and Japan. In March, 1958, Nagell married a local woman. The couple had two children but the marriage ended in divorce.

Nagell reached the rank of Second Lieutenant by the time he left the army in October, 1959. As a result of his accident he was judged to be 50% disabled and was placed on a disability pension. In December, 1959, Nagell found work as an investigator with the Department of Employment in Los Angeles. In March, 1961, Nagell did a similar job with the California Beverage Control Board. He held the job until being sacked in June, 1962. The following month he was admitted to the Wadsworth Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles, California in what was alleged to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the chest.

According to Nagell, when he recovered he began working for theCentral Intelligence Agency as a double agent. This involved becoming an activist in the American Communist Party. This included distributing Marxist propaganda in Mexico.

Nagell also claimed he was involved in monitoring a group of Cuban exiles plotting against Fidel Castro. In 1963 Nagell discovered that this group was planning to assassinating John F. Kennedy while making it appear that it had been ordered by Castro. When he told the KGB they ordered him to warn Lee Harvey Oswald about what was happening. Nagell also claimed he warned the FBI and CIA about the plot.

In September, 1963, Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, Texas, and fired two shots into the ceiling and then waited to be arrested. Nagell claimed he did this to isolate himself from the assassination plot. This was successful and Nagell was charged with armed robbery and ended up spending the next five years in prison.

On his release Nagell told Jim Garrison about his knowledge of the assassination of John F. Kennedy . He claimed that David Ferrie, Guy Banister, and Clay Shaw were involved in this plot with Lee Harvey Oswald. However, Garrison decided against using him as a witness in the court-case against Shaw.

Dick Russell wrote about Nagell in his book, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992). Nagell claimed the initial plan to assassinate President John F. Kennedy was financed by Haroldson L. Hunt and other individuals. The operation was to be performed by a anti-Castro group. According to Nagell the conspirators believed that if they set-up Lee Harvey Oswald, a well-known supporter of Fidel Castro with links to the Soviet Union, the assassination would result in a full-scale war against Cuba.

Richard Case Nagell was found dead on 1st November, 1995. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Coroner's Office said Nagell had a history of heart disease, and that his body was discovered on the floor of the bathroom at his home in Rampart, Los Angeles.

Primary Sources

(1) Richard Nagell, letter to J. Lee Rankin (20th March, 1964)

I informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation on September 1963 that an attempt might be made to assassinate President Kennedy. Was the Commission advised that the day before Mr. Kennedy visited Dallas, I initiated a request through jail authorities to the FBI asking that they contact the Secret Service in order to inform them of the same information?

(2) Joseph F. Alderete, United States Department of Justice, Report of Psychiatric Examination on Richard Case Nagell (17th June, 1966)

On the 20th of September, 1963, the patient allegedly entered the State National Bank in El Paso, Texas and thrust a .45 caliber revolver through the window and allegedly pointed it at a woman teller and exclaimed, "This is a real gun, lady." When the teller allegedly fled from the window to take cover, it is further alleged that the patient fired two shots into the wall above the head of the teller and then he left the bank and went to his automobile which was parked in the vicinity of the bank and was there apprehended by the El Paso police. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years; however, prior to his being convicted and sentenced, he was sent to the US Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation. On the basis of the psychiatric evaluation performed at that time, he was found to be competent to return to the court for sentencing. As stated previously he received a ten year sentence. Following sentencing, it is alleged that he took an overdose of drugs in the El Paso county jail and was then transferred to the US Public Service Hospital at Fort Worth where it is alleged that he refused to cooperate with the hospital officials. He was subsequently transferred to Leavenworth where he continued to serve his sentence until recently when the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed his previous conviction with instructions that a new trial be granted.

The court in El Paso then committed him to the Medical Center for evaluation prior to his new hearing. Information from the US Attorney's office in El Paso indicates that on or about the 9th of April, 1966, that Nagell barricaded himself in his jail cell and refused to come out. The 18th of April, 1966, Jesse L. Dobbs, US Marshal from San Antonio, Texas talked to Nagell and was able to get him to agree to leave his cell and was thereafter transported to Springfield, Missouri.

When first interviewed shortly after arrival at the Medical Center, the patient stated that he intended to cooperate to the fullest extent; however, when asked if he had any questions, he said, "Yes." He then asked if the psychiatric reports would be made available to the US attorney and when he was told that this was the common procedure, he stated that he would not cooperate. It was explained to him that this was the normal policy and procedure and that the US Attorney would make available to his attorney, the defense attorney that is, any information that was transmitted from the Medical Center to the US Attorney. That is to say, copies of any report that we make to the US Attorney would be made available to the defense attorney for Nagell. This failed to calm the patient and he persisted in stating that he would not cooperate. A review of the record indicates that this has been the pattern that Nagell has followed in the past. After a few days, Nagell was called down to my office and I explained to him that the problem that the court presented to me in his regard [sic] and the tests and observations that I intended to make in order to resolve these questions. He was advised that I would resolve these questions with or without his cooperation, but that he would not be forced to take any tests that he did not care to cooperate in taking. After thinking the matter over for a few days, Nagell elected to cooperate to the fullest extent and has answered all questions put to him and undertaken all tests requested of him.

Based on his past suicidal attempts history and his recent history of barricading himself in the El Paso jail, on admission to the Medical Center, Nagell was housed on the acute psychiatric ward where he could be held under maximum security and close observation. He showed no suicidal tendencies during the period of observation nor any tendency to act out, therefore, he was subsequently moved to an open population ward where he is presently housed, and will likely remain housed there until the court calls him and returns him to El Paso for his new hearing....

The record also alleges that he worked for approximately one year for an unpopular political party. The unpopular party being implied as the Communist Party. Nagell, in the course of his interview, emphatically stated that he was not and had never been a communist. He further stated that the association was alleged to have been made because he had carried some communist propaganda material for distribution in Mexico at the request of a friend. He admits that this was poor judgment and feels that he was used.

(3) Richard Case Nagell, letter to Arturo Verdestein (8th October, 1967)

After perusing your comments about the First Day's reporting of the Great Bank Robbery - random shots, 27 centavos, gambling activities, etc. - I am more convinced than ever that you should see the transcripts of the first and second trial record. As for myself, I've never read either transcript, though I would bet that I could give a fair account of both without much error. I wrote sis again, this time asking her to send everything.

Here's a more up-to-date lead on Abe Greenbaum: "Informant F-HC reports subject handed suspected courier forty pieces of silver on 10/21/62 at Laredo, Mexico, for delivery to nuclear physicist residing in house on 92nd Street, New York City. S/A B. O. Schernnn, Washington, D.C. Field Office, reports subject seen 11/28/62 walking east on Beacon Street, constantly checking for tail, suddenly dashing into parked limousine sporting U.S.S.R. Embassy license plates, which speeds away, runs red light, terminating surveillance as Agent Schernnn forced to brake bicycle to avoid breaking the law. Informant F-111-B reports subject and suspected courier observed at King's Tavern, Wilmington, Del. on 12/6/62, paying for drinks with strange-looking silver dollars taken from bulging briefcase carried by subject. Subject now suspected of being Mr. Big in Communist plot to disrupt U.S. economy by flooding country with hard cash.

Abe Greenbaum, long suspected leftist is actually confirmed rightist, in deep cover, working plausible denial bit with one of nation's leading and best-financed foreign policy-making firms.

(4) Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (1988)

Nagell answered a few questions. Had he actually been in physical association with Lee Oswald? Right there with him? Yes, he replied. And with other men connected with Oswald? The answer was yes. Where did this occur? In New Orleans and in Texas.

I asked him whether these other men and Oswald all were working together on the project or whether the others were manipulating Oswald. He thought this question through at some length. Then he said that he did not pretend to have been close enough to know for sure, but his intuition was that the others had manipulated Oswald from the outset.

I asked him the names of the other men. He hesitated, but when the answer came, it was specific: Guy Banister, Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie.

With what organization were these men connected? Now he looked at me with a half smile and shook his head slowly. I pressed. Were they connected with the C.I.A.? "I cannot discuss or name any government organization," he replied. In spite of the troubles he had been through, he would not say a word about the intelligence community at large, with the single exception of the F.B.I.'s having ignored his warning letter about President Kennedy's murder. And that was the sum of Nagell's story. Beyond the precise parameters he had established he would not be budged a centimeter.

During most of my flight home I reflected long and hard on my Central Park meeting with Richard Case Nagell. I had studied him closely for all of the three hours or so we were together, and I was satisfied that weaving a fabricated tale was not in this man's makeup. On the other hand, there seemed to be no getting around the fact that his account was not easy to digest. I concluded that I would probably have to chalk up the Central Park scene to experience.

Many years down the road I found myself reading an account of Nagell's arrest by East German police as he attempted to cross back into West Germany. Richard Case Nagell definitely was not your basic insurance salesman.

(5) Dick Russell, speech at a conference in Washington (October, 1995)

In April of 1994, which was about a year and a half after my book came out, I came down the stairs one day and heard my answering machine going - and recognized this voice. Picked it up, and sure enough, it was Richard Nagell. He had received some documents I'd sent him, including the Hensen document, and some CIA files about his notebook names. And was calling me, and talking as if no time had passed. Just commenting on these documents, talking about the description of Elrod Henson and the CIA document, the Laredo codename that fit somebody that he'd run into at the time...

"And then, as the conversation went on, it began to seem very strange to me, because he hadn't even mentioned the fact that I'd written this book, this massive book about him. And finally - I'd also written him a number of letters when I was putting the book together, hoping that he would get back in touch with me at that time. So I said, 'Dick, I'm really glad to hear from you. But,' I said, 'I wrote you a number of letters over the last few years.' And he said, 'Oh, really? I think maybe I've gotten one or two of them.' And I said, 'You are aware that I've written a huge, unauthorized biography of you...?' And he said he had no idea.

"I had sent him the book. And obviously he had never received it - I think he was telling me the truth. He began going on about how the Post Office was still checking on his mail, and somebody was running off with stuff, and he had no idea...

"So I said, 'I can't believe none of your friends wouldn't have told you that this book was out.' He said, 'Well, I don't have that many friends, and the ones I do don't speak - a lot of them don't even speak English.

(6) John Kelin, Fair Play Magazine (February, 1996)

In late October of last year, author Dick Russell said of Richard Case Nagell, "I would hope, someday... we will finally know everything he knows" about the assassination of President Kennedy. No one knew it at the time, but when Russell spoke those words, Nagell only had about one week to live. The former intelligence agent died on November 1, at the age of 65...

Nagell, who claimed to have had foreknowledge of the JFK assassination and the activities of Lee Oswald, was considered by many to be one of the last people alive with information that could crack the Kennedy case. Indeed, his death has led to speculation that such information may be forthcoming. Dick Russell wrote that Nagell had stashed certain pieces of evidence as "life insurance" that would surface in the event of his death. These were said to include an audio tape recording of a conversation Nagell secretly made of himself, Lee Oswald, and several alleged assassination conspirators, and a photograph of Nagell and Oswald in New Orleans.

Staff members of Probe, the newsletter of the Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination, report going to Nagell's apartment as soon as they learned of his death. They write that "the inside door to the apartment was open and one could look inside. By November 4th, the place appeared to be barren. If Nagell left anything of importance behind, it doesn't seem to have been there."

(7) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2003)

On September 20, Richard Nagell walked into the State National Bank in El Paso, approximately half an hour before closing time. He approached a teller window and politely asked for one hundred dollars in American Express travelers checks. When the clerk placed them on the counter Nagell, saying nothing, reached into his jacket, drew a Colt .45, deliberately aimed it towards the ceiling and fired two shots. He then returned the pistol to his belt, turned and walked out the front door. He made no demand for money at any point.

Upon exiting the bank, he stopped briefly at a street comer then walked to his car and briefly waited there. Eventually, he pulled into the street and was motioned to pass by another motorist but then Nagell noticed a young policeman, backed his car up on the sidewalk and waited for the officer to approach. When the officer came up to his window, Nagell calmly told him "I guess you've got me, I surrender" and raised his hands.

The ramifications of this incident in an El Paso bank are extensive. They are covered in detail in an extensive investigation by Dick Russell in The Man Who Knew Too Much Nagell's activities in 1963, his legal manipulation (including frequent prosecution recourse to psychiatric examinations to keep him off the record in 1964), the refusal to provide him with his own possessions confiscated upon his arrest for use in his trial, his long quest to regain custody of his children and his efforts to communicate what he knew to Congress and various investigations are far beyond the scope of this manuscript...

When his car trunk was examined (at his suggestion), authorities found a number of most interesting items. Unfortunately, the majority of these were never formally entered into the record and most were not returned to Nagell after his conviction for bank robbery was eventually overturned.

The items that are available are amazingly similar to items also in the possession of Lee Oswald. They include:

(1) One miniature Minolta camera and developing kit.

(2) Fair Play for Cuba leaflets.

(3) The P.O. Box for the Fair Play for Cuba committee in New Orleans, Louisiana. The committee which had only one member. Lee Oswald.

(4) Cuban and Communist literature including the Case against Cuba by Corless Lament, one of the documents also being used in New Orleans by Lee Oswald.

(5) A notebook containing the unlisted telephone number of the Cuban embassy, the same number as found in Oswald's notebook.

(6) The notebook also contained names of individuals who would much later be identified as CIA personnel from its Los Angles office. (The names were submitted by the FBI to the CIA in October '63 and eventually verified by the CIA as being names of actual employees)

In addition, the trial files for Richard Nagell also contain an identification card, the card being a military ID with Nagell's photo and the name and signature of Lee H. Oswald.

(8) Dialogue between John Simkin and Larry Hancock, on the JFK Assassination Forum (10th May, 2004)

John Simkin: Is there official documentation of what was found in Nagell’s car? If so, it seems to be an important factor in understanding what was going on in 1963.

Larry Hancock: There is only partial documentation on the contents of Nagell's car, the items which I discuss in my book were listed on the second page of an FBI report and the first page seems to have vanished. Dick Russell could not find the detailed property reports in the court records nor was there a personal property report e.g. wallet, contents of wallet etc. What is documented is very suggestive but its worth noting that Nagell made continued efforts to get all the personal and car property back to aid in his defense and that was repeatedly denied. In fact only part of it was ever returned and that was many years later as part of his personal law suit.

John Simkin: Has there been confirmation of the warning about the assassination of JFK that Nagell sent to the FBI? This fits in with other evidence that suggests someone was trying to tell the FBI about a possible assassination attempt on JFK. Judyth Baker also claims that Oswald was working with someone else in the team to undermine the assassination. Could that have been Nagell?

Larry Hancock: There is no direct confirmation of a warning letter to Hoover, the only circumstantial points tending to confirm it are covered in the book including the special questions for the very early interview of Marina Oswald - questions sent from FBI HQ that could indicate that Hoover did indeed have an advance warning from Nagell specifically about Oswald.

John Simkin: As to Nagell's mental state, I spent about a year and a half going through literall all his medical records, court records etc before I was convinced that there was a clear pattern which would support him as a viable witness - clearly some of his statements are very conditional in regard to what his goals were at given times, especially during the period when his only main goal was recovering custody of his children. You will find all those documents and my analysis on the CD on Nagell available through Lancer; it's probably the largest composite collection of Nagell documents around.

(9) James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (March, 2008)

I said that by 1975 Martino's information was pretty well known to serious investigators. But really, as Hancock relates it, it was known earlier than that. For by the end of 1968, all of the points -- except as noted -- were working axioms of the New Orleans investigation by DA Jim Garrison. To use just one investigator's testimony, researcher Gary Schoener has said that Garrison was "obsessed" with the Cuban exile group Alpha 66. At one time, he thought they were the main sponsoring group manipulating Oswald, and that they had pulled off the actual assassination.

One avenue by which Garrison was led to believe this was through Nagell. And one thing I liked about the book was that it summarized a lot of Nagell's testimony in more complete, concise and digestible terms than previously presented (see pgs. 39-58). In the first edition of Dick Russell's book, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Nagell's story wandered and got lost in a 900-page mountain consisting of much extraneous and tangential elements. Although Hancock leaves out some rather important details -- which I will mention later -- he does a nice job in distilling and relating its basic outlines. Between the two, because of who he was, his first person testimony, and some evidence he had, I believe Nagell's story easily has more evidentiary value.

Consider: Nagell actually tried to inform the authorities in advance. When they did not respond, he got himself arrested. He was then railroaded -- along with Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden -- because of his attempt to talk. He then wrote letters describing his knowledge to friends while incarcerated (see Probe Vol. 3 No. 1). He then revealed to Garrison assistant William Martin his specific knowledge of two of the Cuban exiles who were manipulating Oswald. One he named as Sergio Arcacha Smith. The other who he only hinted at had a last name beginning with "Q". This could be Carlos Quiroga, or Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero. Since Smith and Quiroga were known associates in New Orleans, I lean toward Quiroga. Nagell actually revealed that he had recorded their incriminating talks with Oswald on tape. Since he -- as well as Garrison -- did not know that Martin was a double agent, it is not surprising that the FBI later broke into his belongings and absconded with the tape, among other things. (Strangely, or as we shall see later, perhaps not, Hancock leaves this intriguing episode out of his book.)

Now since Garrison was the first law enforcement authority Nagell confided in directly, and the first person to take him seriously, the DA was clearly interested in the Cuban exile aspect. Especially since Nagell's information was being reinforced to him from multiple angles. For instance, David Ferrie's close friend Raymond Broshears was also quite specific with Garrison as to the importance of Sergio Arcacha Smith. And when Garrison tried to get Smith extradited from Texas, the local authorities, under the influence of Bill Alexander and Hugh Aynesworth, refused to cooperate. (It is puzzling to me that Hancock, who is so interested in the Cuban groups, seems to try to minimize the importance of Smith.)

One thing Hancock makes clear is how Nagell originally got involved in the JFK case. Like many foreign intelligence operatives, one of Nagell's ports of call was Mexico City. As certified by his friend Arthur Greenstein and an FBI memorandum, Nagell was there in the fall of 1962. And at this time, he began acting as a triple agent: "He represented himself to a Soviet contact as a pro-Soviet double agent, while secretly retaining his loyalty to the United States." (p. 54) It was in this pose that he became known to the KGB. When they approached Nagell they asked him to monitor a Soviet defector and his wife. The second mission they had was to infiltrate a group of Cuban exiles. The Russians had discovered a group of them in Mexico City making threats against President Kennedy for his actions at the Bay of Pigs. The Russians had garnered that part of the scheme was to blame the plot on the Cubans and Russians. This is something that, in the wake of the Missile Crisis, the Russians were desperate to avoid. From here, Hancock summarizes the stories of both Vaughn Snipes and Garret Trapnell, people Nagell suspected as being considered as pro-Castro patsies by the Cuban group (pgs 56-58). And it was this trail that eventually led Nagell to New Orleans and Oswald.

(10) Larry Hancock, Education Forum (26th March, 2008)

I wish we all knew the full truth of the conspiracy, however since we do not it seems strange to characterize my view of it with the term "tilt". That implies that someone does know the exact truth and can measure the degree to which others are "tilting" their version of it. The book reflects my research, the sources I found most credible and my own conclusions. I have intentionally introduced certain chapters (including "End Game") as theory and identified specific segments (including the analysis of Johnson's actions) as speculation.

In 1963 Martino was demonstrably associating with and known to CIA officers and military operations staff including David Morales, Rip Robertson and Eugenio Martinez. He played a seminal role in instigating and participating in a risky Cuban penetration mission involving former ambassador William Pawley (the mission also had documented CIA support, not to mention Life magazine photo coverage). After the assassination he was extremely active in promoting the "Castro did it, Oswald was working for Castro" propaganda and aggressively promoted that story to the FBI (at the time only his family knew that was a total creation, shortly before his death he shared it with a business partner and a friend). Unlike Nagel, we have considerable specific information on Martino's associates and CIA contacts; we also have family members that are living and willing to share first hand information about his activities before and after the assassination.

Nagell's story had already been told in detail by Dick Russell and others. Martino's full story had not been told before, indeed nobody had realized that Martino was closely connected to CIA officer David Morales, even mentioning Morales by his real name in his book about Martino's Cuban imprisonment. More importantly, Martino identified himself as being involved in the conspiracy, described his rather minor role and made a series of very specific statements about the conspiracy – which can be tested. A good portion of the book is structured to explore and evaluate those statements. In contrast Nagel made no direct observations about the Dallas conspiracy. He did state that he had become aware of a general plan to kill JFK and blame it on Castro a full year earlier in Mexico, that he observed Cuban exiles impersonating Castro agents in contact with Oswald and tried to warn Oswald off from them. The plot known to Nagell involved something planned to happen in September in or around Washington D.C.; Nagell himself was first on the run from Cuban exiles and then in jail in the weeks before Dallas.

Martino himself described his participation in the conspiracy, his role as a courier and his prior knowledge of the conspiracy. A good deal of the book is devoted to testing his statements to that effect. I will acknowledge that there is ambiguity in my specific wording as to his telephone calls on November 22,, certainly his family was convinced that he was talking to Cuban friends, some in Miami and some most likely in Dallas . One of his good exile friends was admittedly in Dallas that day and Martino himself traveled to Dallas that fall. I will qualify this point in the next edition.

The specification for Oswald's first involvement with Cuban exiles and some sort of plot is based in statements made by Richard Nagell and supported by Nagell's claim to have warned Director Hoover about a September incident and about Oswald. The corroboration is a series, not just one, of letters by Oswald on the subject of his planned relocation to the Baltimore area. Further corroboration comes from the FBI's very early interrogation of Marina on Oswald's possible travel not only to Mexico but also to the Northeast.