James Files

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James Earl Files (born January 24, 1942), also known as James Sutton,[a] is an American prisoner at the Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois[2][3] who stated in a 1994 interview that he was the "grassy knoll shooter" in the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy.[4][5][6] Files has subsequently been interviewed by others and discussed in various books pertaining to the assassination and related theories.[5][6] In 1994, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was quoted as having investigated Files' allegation and found it "not to be credible".[4][7]

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.[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] Files was convicted of the attempted murder of two police officers during a roadside shootout in 1991 and sentenced to fifty years.[2][10]

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.[6][11] 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][4]

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] Many conspiracy believers state that Files' story was concocted to achieve notoriety and royalties.[10] According to Bugliosi, very few within the community of people who believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy respect him or his story.[2] Conspiracy author Jerome Kroth described Files as "surprisingly credible" and said his story "is the most believable and persuasive" about the assassination.[2]

According to John C. McAdams, Files has changed his story on numerous occasions.[12]


  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 0-393-04525-0. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ Illinois Department of Corrections. "ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INTERNET INMATE STATUS : N14006 - FILES, JAMES". Springfield, Illinois: Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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 1-59797-489-7. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Urban, Jerry (March 5, 1994). "JFK the target of mobsters?". Houston Chronicle (Houston, Texas). p. A35. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ Levin, Hillel (November 2010). "How the Outfit Killed JFK". Playboy. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ a b 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ The Assassin From Blockbuster Video

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