James Files

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James Files
James Earl Files

(1942-01-24) January 24, 1942 (age 82)
Other namesJames Sutton
Criminal statusParoled in May 2016
Criminal chargeAttempted murder (2 counts)
Aggravated discharge of a firearm
Aggravated battery with a firearm
Armed violence
Penalty50 years
DateMay 7, 1991
3:45 pm
CountryUnited States
Location(s)Round Lake Beach, Illinois
Target(s)David Ostertag
Gary Bitler
InjuredDavid Ostertag
Date apprehended
May 7, 1991
Imprisoned atStateville Correctional Center

James Earl Files (born January 24, 1942), also known as James Sutton,[a] is an American former prisoner. In 1994, while serving a 50-year sentence for the 1991 attempted murders of two police officers, Files gave interviews stating that he was the "grassy knoll shooter" in the 1963 assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy.[3][4][5] Files has subsequently been interviewed by others and discussed in multiple books pertaining to the assassination and related theories.[4][5] In 1994, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was quoted as having investigated Files' allegation and found it "not to be credible".[3][6]

In 2010, Playboy magazine published an article by Hillel Levin in which Files also implicated Charles Nicoletti and John Roselli in the assassination of Kennedy.[7] In 2022 Ted Nelson posted a video interview with Files on his YouTube channel.[8]


The wooden fence on the grassy knoll, where Files claims to have made his shot.

Files has stated that he was born in Alabama, moved to California with his family shortly thereafter, then to an Italian neighborhood in Chicago.[9] On May 7, 1991, Files and his friend, David Morley, were involved in a roadside shootout in Round Lake Beach, Illinois, with two police officers, Detective David Ostertag and his partner, Gary Bitler. Ostertag and Bitler tried to apprehend the two for driving a stolen vehicle. During the shootout, Morley shot Detective Ostertag in the chest. Both Files and Morley shot at Detective Bitler but missed. Files and Morley then fled on foot but were arrested a few hours later. Files was charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count each of discharge of a firearm, aggravated battery with a firearm and armed violence. In August 1991, a jury found Files guilty of two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 30 years for the shooting of Detective Ostertag and 20 years for attempting to shoot Detective Bitler.[2][10][11] Files was initially imprisoned at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, before being transferred to Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois.[2][12] Files was paroled in May 2016.[12]

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.[5][13] On August 17, 1992, West interviewed Files at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois.[2] After West's death in 1993, his family requested that his friend, Houston television producer Bob Vernon, take over the records concerning the story.[2][3] Vernon is the owner of a bullet casing with teeth marks on it, even though it was not found until 1987.[10]

Critical analysis[edit]

Vincent Bugliosi, author of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has characterized Files as "the Rodney Dangerfield of Kennedy assassins."[2] According to Bugliosi, very few within the majority of Americans (75%) who believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy respect him or his story.[2] However, psychology professor Jerome Kroth described Files as "surprisingly credible" and said his story "is the most believable and persuasive" about the assassination.[2]


  1. ^ In his testimony before the Assassination Records Review Board, Robert G. Vernon said that the name "James Sutton" was an alias.[1] In Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi wrote that "James Sutton" was his "true name".[2]


  1. ^ United States of America Assassination Records Review Board: Public Hearing. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. November 18, 1994. pp. 27–32.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Bugliosi, Vincent (2007). "Other Assassins". Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 917–919. ISBN 978-0-393-04525-3. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Hanchette, John (September 29, 1994). "Sleuths plan JFK assassination conspiracy convention". Sun-Journal. Lewiston, Maine. Gannett News Service. p. 12. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  4. ^ a b 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 978-1-59797-489-9. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c 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.
  6. ^ Urban, Jerry (March 5, 1994). "JFK the target of mobsters?". Houston Chronicle. Houston, Texas. p. A35. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Levin, Hillel (November 2010). "How the Outfit Killed JFK". Playboy. Archived from the original on June 9, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
  8. ^ Nelson, Ted. "CONFESSION OF JFK SHOOTER-- detailed and plausible". Youtube. Ted Nelson. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  9. ^ Hytha, Michael (February 20, 1996). "Awed by mob, he just bit bullet, pulled trigger" (PDF). Contra Costa Times. Vol. 85, no. 272. Walnut Creek, California. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Hytha, Michael (February 20, 1996). "Illinois inmate says he did it" (PDF). Contra Costa Times. Vol. 85, no. 272. Walnut Creek, California. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  11. ^ "The People Of the State Of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee v. James Files, Defendant-Appellates". findacase.com. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Illinois Department of Corrections. "ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INTERNET INMATE STATUS : N14006 - FILES, JAMES". Springfield, Illinois: Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  13. ^ 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 978-0-7867-3185-5. Retrieved March 7, 2012.