James Earl Files (born January 24, 1942), also known as James Sutton,[a] is an American prisoner at the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois who stated in a 1994 interview that he was the "grassy knoll shooter" in the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. Files has subsequently been interviewed by others and discussed in various books pertaining to the assassination and related conspiracy theories. In 1994, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was quoted as having investigated Files' allegation and found it "not to be credible".
Files was convicted of the attempted murder of two police officers in 1991 and sentenced to fifty years at Statesville Correctional Center.
An "anonymous FBI source", later identified as Zack Shelton, has been reported by some researchers as having told Joe West, a private investigator in Houston, in the early 1990s about an inmate in an Illinois penitentiary who might have information about the Kennedy assassination. Retired FBI agent Zack Shelton has been involved in investigations against Files for stealing trailers from the Great Lakes area. Later, Shelton was funded by Wim Dankbaar, a Dutch citizen and business man, in investigating Files as a lead resulting in material that appears in relayed in the BRI Video DVD documentaries I Shot JFK: The Shocking Truth and Confessions From The Grassy Knoll: The Shocking Truth. On August 17, 1992, West interviewed Files at Statesville. After West's death in 1993, his family requested that his friend, Houston television producer Bob Vernon, take over the records concerning the story.
Vincent Bugliosi, author of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has characterized Files as "the Rodney Dangerfield of Kennedy assassins." According to Bugliosi, very few within the community of people who believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy respect him or his story. Author Jerome Kroth described Files as "surprisingly credible" and said his story "is the most believable and persuasive" about the assassination.
According to John C. McAdams, Files has changed his story on numerous occasions. Other critics have questioned the historical accuracy of some of his claims, plus inaccurate descriptions of the weapon he says he used.
- United States of America Assassination Records Review Board: Public Hearing. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. November 18, 1994. pp. 27–32.
- Bugliosi, Vincent (2007). "Other Assassins". Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 917–919. ISBN 0-393-04525-0. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- Illinois Department of Corrections. "ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INTERNET INMATE STATUS : N14006 - FILES, JAMES". Springfield, Illinois: Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Hanchette, John (September 29, 1994). "Sleuths plan JFK assassination conspiracy convention". Sun-Journal (Lewiston, Maine). Gannett News Service. p. 12. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- McAdams, John (2011). "Too Much Evidence of Conspiracy". JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think about Claims of Conspiracy. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc. p. 188. ISBN 1-59797-489-7. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Kroth, Jerome A. (2003). "Chapter 5. Paradox". Conspiracy in Camelot: The Complete History of the Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Algora Publishing. pp. 195, 197, 215–223. ISBN 0-87586-247-0. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Urban, Jerry (March 5, 1994). "JFK the target of mobsters?". Houston Chronicle (Houston, Texas). p. A35. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
- Levin, Hillel (November 2010). "How the Outfit Killed JFK". Playboy. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- Hersh, Burton (2007). "Chapter 19 - The Patsy". Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-7867-3185-0. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- "Zack Shelton 2013 interview on Outsight Radio Hours". Archive.org. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
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James Files is currently housed at the Danville Correctional Facility in Danville, Illinois