|Born||James Earl Files
January 24, 1942
|Other names||James Sutton|
|Criminal charge||Attempted murder (2 counts)
Aggravated discharge of a firearm
Aggravated battery with a firearm
|Criminal penalty||50 years|
|Criminal status||Paroled in May 2016|
|Date||May 7, 1991
|Location(s)||Round Lake Beach, Illinois|
|Weapons||AKS 7.62 semiautomatic rifle|
|May 7, 1991|
|Imprisoned at||Stateville Correctional Center
Danville Correctional Center
James Earl Files (born January 24, 1942), also known as James Sutton,[a] is a former American prisoner. In 1994, while serving a 50 year sentence for the 1991 attempted murders of two police officers, Files gave an interview stating that he was the "grassy knoll shooter" in the 1963 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 theories. In 1994, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was quoted as having investigated Files' allegation and found it "not to be credible".
Files has stated that he was born in Alabama, moved to California with his family shortly thereafter, then to an Italian neighborhood in Chicago. 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, 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. Files was initially imprisoned at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois before being transferred to Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois. Files was paroled in May 2016.
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. On August 17, 1992, West interviewed Files at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois. 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." Despite the fact that Files has not received any royalties and has refused any fame, including turning down Oliver Stone for the rights to use him in his 1991 film on the JFK assassination, many conspiracy believers state that Files' story was concocted to achieve notoriety and royalties. According to Bugliosi, very few within the community of people who believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy respect him or his story. However, conspiracy author Jerome Kroth described Files as "surprisingly credible" and said his story "is the most believable and persuasive" about the assassination.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hytha, Michael (February 20, 1996). "Awed by mob, he just bit bullet, pulled trigger" (PDF). Contra Costa Times. 85 (272). Walnut Creek, California. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
- Hytha, Michael (February 20, 1996). "Illinois inmate says he did it" (PDF). Contra Costa Times. 85 (272). Walnut Creek, California. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
- "The People Of the State Of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee v. James Files, Defendant-Appellates.". findacase.com.
- Illinois Department of Corrections. "ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INTERNET INMATE STATUS : N14006 - FILES, JAMES". Springfield, Illinois: Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
- 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.