Many Watergate aficionados may recall Leon Jaworski as a hero of Watergate who stepped into the shoes of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who had been fired by Richard Nixon in the famous Saturday Night Massacre. Although depicted as pillar of judicial rectitude, Jaworski was in fact a corrupt man with blood on his hands - he was an accessory to murder after the fact.
Jack Hamann, in his fascinating account of Jaworski’s corrupt prosecution of a World War 2 riot, shows a prosecutor so hell-bent on prosecution of innocent men that he traduced in the most despicable way American justice. This same man would later serve as prosecutor at Nuremburg, Warren Commission counsel, President of the American Bar Association, and political backer of George Bush.
We see that Jaworski's corrupt handling of the riot case would reveal itself again in the Warren Commission where he aided the cover-up of the murder of a President.
The case began with the lynching murder of Italian POW private Guglielmo Olivotto at Fort Lawton near Seattle, WA on August 14, 1944, whose body was discovered by Private Clyde Lomax, a white man. Jaworski, who had eyed the big time in Nuremburg stepped forward to prosecute the case as a surefire ticket to the judicial proceedings in Europe after the war.
The murder of a POW created quite an embarrassment for the White House insofar as the planned prosecution of war crimes would create a credibility problem for the Americans if it could not handle this case with utmost rectitude.
Jaworski demanded complete control of the investigation and prosecution, whereupon he promptly indicted 43 black American soldiers of rioting and 3 of whom he charged with first degree murder on October 27, 1944. He intimidated and coerced these men and other witnesses to provide prescribed answers to questions, threatening many of them with lynching if they did not cooperate.
Jaworski’s twisted case rested upon the unsubstantiated pretext that the black soldiers were resentful of the 2d class treatment they had received against the equal or better treatment of the Italian POWs.
The 43 defendants were forced to share 2 lawyers who had 10 days to prepare their cases. The 5 week trial resulted in the conviction of 28 soldiers by a 9 man panel of white officers.
The prosecutors at the time did not know the news of the egregious mishandling of the criminal investigation had triggered an investigation by the Pentagon headed by General Elliott Cooke. The scathing report resulted in the firing of the fort commander Harry Branson.
The Cooke report called the investigation “’reprehensible’” and the chief investigator, working for Jaworski, stated ‘“no part [of the investigation] was handled correctly.”’ Yet with two weeks before the trial, the report was suppressed and Jaworski charged ahead with all of his ill gotten evidence.
In 2003, Hamann finally unearthed the classified Cooke report which revealed a far different story than that of Jaworski. The white GIs were highly resentful toward the Italian POWs because of their lenient treatment including permission to attend USO dances. Many of these men, who had lost family in the North African and Italian campaigns, harbored deep grudges against the Italians, especially when they were taking their women. Fighting broke out the three nights prior to August 14 on which night soliders rioted at the fort.
The Cooke report also laid out evidence sufficient to implicate Private Lomax in the slaying of Olivotto, the former whom Jaworski called as a witness against the 43 black soldiers.
Thanks to Hamann’s book On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, Congress and the Pentagon worked to reopen the case in 2005. An 18 month review by the Pentagon yielded a complete exoneration of the soldiers, honorable discharges, plus back pay with compound interest awarded on October 26, 2007. We salute Jack Hamann!
Given what we know from the Cooke report, we can only conclude that Leon Jaworski knowlingly and maliciously obstructed justice in the case of murder, and these contributed to its cover-up, making him an accessory after the fact to murder.
Justice Denied, Jack Hamann
Copyright 2010-12 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.