The Murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did Segregationists Hire the Mob?
In a book published in 2008, Legacy of Secrecy, we finally learned about a 1968 Justice Department memorandum that got withheld from congressional investigators. Based on confidential information from informants, including a "well-placed protege of Carlos Marcello in New Orleans," the memo says, "the Cosa Nostra [Mafia] agreed to 'broker' or arrange the assassination [of King] for an amount somewhat in excess of three hundred thousand ($300,000) after they were contacted by representatives of 'Forever White,' an elite organization of wealthy segregationists [in the] southeastern states. The Mafia's interest was less the money than the investment-type opportunity presented; i.e., to get in a position to extract (or extort) governmental or other favors from some well-placed southern white persons, including the KKK and White Citizens' Councils."
The memo was based on sources located by a journalist named William Sartor. The FBI didn't show much interest in going after his leads, but Sartor had uncovered information about a pre-assassination meeting between Ray and three of Marcello's associates in New Orleans—after which Ray left town with $2,500 cash and a promise of $12,000 more "for doing one last big job in two to three months." Turns out that journalist Sartor was in Texas in 1971, preparing to interview a nightclub owner linked to Marcello, when he was found murdered.
That same Justice Department memo stated that one participant in the plotting was "Frank [C.] Liberto…a Memphis racketeer and lieutenant of Carlos Marcello." What's noteworthy about this is that Liberto's name came up in recent years with two other people tied to the King case. One was Lloyd Jowers, who owned Jim's Grill across the street from the Lorraine Motel. In 1993, facing a possible indictment by Ray's last attorney, William Pepper, Jowers went public with Sam Donaldson on ABC's Prime Time Live.
Jowers said he'd been asked to help in the King plot by a gambling associate of his, a Memphis produce dealer named Frank Liberto who had a courier deliver $100,000 for Jowers to hold at his restaurant. Jowers claimed Liberto told him that there would be a decoy, apparently Ray, and that the police "wouldn't be there that night." We know from other research that four tactical police units pulled back from the vicinity of King's motel on the morning of the assassination, making it much easier for an assassin to get away. [Watch Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura on truTV]
In a taped confession he later gave to King's son, Dexter, and ex-U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Jowers elaborated that planning meetings for the assassination had taken place at his restaurant. The plotters included three Memphis cops he knew, and two men whom he believed were federal agents. Shortly before the assassination, Jowers was promised a substantial sum if he'd receive a package and pass it along to someone else. When it arrived he opened the package, found a rifle inside and stashed it in a back room until another man came to pick it up on the day of the murder. Jowers said he had been instructed to be standing outside his back door that night at 6 p.m. That was when one of the same Memphis policemen handed him a still-smoking gun, which Jowers broke down into two pieces, wrapped in a tablecloth and hid in his shop until it was picked up the next day.