I-Team: The JFK Conspiracy Theory - 8 News NOW

Investigative Reporter George Knapp & Photojournalist Matt Adams

I-Team: The JFK Conspiracy Theory

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Nearly 50 years after the assassination of President John Kennedy, seven out of 10 Americans say they do not believe the official explanation that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Sunday is the anniversary of that dark day. And for one Las Vegas man, it will bring back a flood of memories about the only criminal case ever brought to trial in connection with the JFK assassination.

There are so many alternative versions and conspiracy theories floating around, chances are we may never hear a definitive and credible explanation for what really happened. The public, almost instinctively, doesn't buy the lone gunman theory. One man who has good reasons to doubt that theory is a Las Vegan who was once one of the best known people in America.

He was the opening act in Las Vegas for such entertainers as Bobby Darin and Robert Goulet, and like many of us, got hooked on JFK.

If you were watching television in the 1970's, you saw John Barbour. He was not only a friend and writer for the likes of Frank Sinatra, but produced and co-hosted the most popular television show in America, Real People. The one story that still haunts Barbour decades later is Jim Garrison's probe of the JFK murder.

"Redd Foxx once said, 'heroes aren't born, they're cornered.' I was cornered into the Garrison thing, the same way Garrison was cornered into his investigation," said Barbour. He says he twice tried to get Jim Garrison's story told to a wide audience but both times he was thwarted. He ended up producing his own documentary based on the most intensive interview Garrison ever gave. Garrison came to focus on the assassination simply because so many of the key figures had operated in his city prior to the dark events of November 22nd. He studied the Warren Commission Report which put the sole blame on Lee Harvey Oswald.

"He realized that, to believe the Warren Report, you couldn't read it, so he reopened the investigation into the assassination," Barbour said.

Garrison focused on a CIA connected New Orleans businessman named Clay Shaw. His prosecution of Shaw was portrayed in Oliver Stone's controversial movie, JFK. Shaw was not convicted, in large part because of overt interference from the CIA, including a smear campaign against Garrison and the infiltration of his office by government agents.

"If he had nothing, they would have just stepped aside and let him fall on his face. Instead they spent two years throwing road blocks in the way," said Barbour. "Lee Harvey Oswald killed nobody at all. John Kennedy was killed by a major force. The simplest way to describe it is the CIA," Garrison said.

Among the most compelling arguments developed by Garrison was the absurdity of the so-called magic bullet theory. More importantly, Garrison used the FBI's own files to prove that Oswald wasn't the shooter.

"The paraffin tests show that Oswald had not fired a rifle," Garrison said. Barbour says the Mafia was involved, but only at the direction of those in the government who wanted Kennedy dead.

"If the federal government thought that the Mafia had killed Kennedy, there wouldn't be a pizza parlor in America," said Barbour. He believes the plot has its roots in Las Vegas, 300 yards from where we taped our interview. It began when the CIA asked the late Robert Maheu to recruit mobsters to kill Fidel Castro. Later, some of those same gangsters were tasked with the Dallas operation. Garrison said there is ample proof of more than one shooter that day, a conclusion also reached by the House Select Committee.

Of all his television memories, Barbour treasures his time with Jim Garrison. "It was the most compelling disturbing thrilling heartbreaking three-and-a-half hours I have ever spent," he said.

John Barbour's film, The Garrison Tapes, was shown at a couple of film festivals but has never been seen by the larger public. You can watch it in segments on his website.

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