James Earl Files (born January 24, 1942) is allegedly a former Central Intelligence Agency/Mafia hit man who claims to have been the grassy knoll shooter in Dealey Plaza on the morning of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
James E. Files was born in a small country farmhouse just outside Oakman, Alabama, on January 24, 1942. His older sister, Mary Pearl Files, was born at the same farmhouse in 1936. Files states that he used the name "Sutton" until 1963. The Sutton/Files family moved to Melrose Park, Illinois, in the late 1940s, where he grew up in an Italian neighborhood. He was labeled as a "juvenile delinquent" by the local police chief, bought his first car at age 14 and rode motorcycles and raced stock cars when he was in his early to mid-20s. Files states that he joined the U.S. Army in 1959, entered the 82nd Airborne Division and was sent to Laos as part of Operation White Star. Files says he did intelligence work and that he was among the first U.S. covert combat troops sent into Laos in 1959.
There is much debate over Files' military service. According to Wim Dankbaar’s site, Files has stated that his military service records have been erased by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and that this is why the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and private investigative agencies have been unable to find any trace of his military records. In 1995, however, John C. Grady, the official historian of the 82nd Airborne and the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, claims to have located Files' U.S. Army serial number and a Veterans Administration claim number in an "inactive" file at a remote regional VA office and through the VA computer in St. Louis. After an 18-month search, Grady verified that Files had indeed entered the U.S. Army in 1959 and went into the 82nd Airborne before being sent to Laos on July 10, 1959. One year later, in early 1996, Grady checked the service record of Files again. No records were found, and all files under the name "James E. Files" were marked "no further information available." This needs to be called into question, as Files stated in an 1994 interview that his legal name until 1963 was 'James Sutton', and not 'James Files'. If this is true, then the army would not have any record of "James E. Files".
After 14 months in military service, Files claims, he was scheduled to be court-martialed at Ft. Meade, Maryland for allegedly killing two of his own men to "save face" with the Laotian Army. Files also claims that it was at this time he was rescued and recruited by CIA agent David Atlee Phillips, although no solid evidence of this is known to exist. It was also through David Atlee Phillips that Files claims to have met Lee Harvey Oswald (Phillips was Oswald’s controller, according to Files). Files says that Phillips gave Files the early model Remington XP-100 “Fireball” that was used to deliver the headshot (more alleged info here). Very little is known about Files' involvement in the CIA.
In a 1994 interview, Files gives his account on how he had gotten involved in organized crime:
“Well, I first became... it's a strange way to start out... but I was racing stock cars and driving at a local track and Mr. Nicoletti had taken a shine to my driving and he'd watched me on several occasions and he had asked me once if I would drive him one evening. I took him out and test drove his car that we'd just picked up a brand new Ford...and he was pretty well pleased with my driving and from then on I became more like an assigned driver to him and I did several drivings for him on different jobs that he did.”
(full interview here)
Files was chosen to drive for Charles Nicoletti in late 1961 or early 1962 and eventually became a "favorite" of Nicoletti. He also claims to have done several “hit jobs” for Nicoletti prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and to have impressed Nicoletti on several occasions with his firearms skills. He claims that Mafia vehicles had custom interior features, like fold-down rear seats and removable side door panels, which would be used to hide weapons.
2. A former CIA-U.S. Army intelligence officer who was stationed in Florida in 1963 has also identified James E. Files as being involved with the JM/WAVE CIA covert headquarters in Miami during the early 1960s.
4. The garage owner (where Files was once employed) stated that Nicoletti would only let Files "touch" or work on Nicoletti’s personal vehicles.
5. Two of Files' Chicago "buddies" recall Files and Nicoletti as "being very close”
Through a lengthy interview, taped in 2003, Files gave the following account of the chain of events that occurred in the assassination of John F. Kennedy:
One evening in the spring of 1963, Files was playing a pinball machine when Mr. Nicoletti approached him and said they were going to go for a drive. During that drive, Mr. Nicoletti revealed a plan to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. This plan had come from collaboration between the CIA and the Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, and the job had been delegated to Mr. Nicoletti. In the months leading up to the assassination, several locations were considered, including Chicago. Ultimately, Dallas, Texas, had been chosen as the location of the hit.
At this point, Files had not been considered as a shooter in the coming assassination. He was assigned only as an aide to Mr. Nicoletti in weapon arrangements and to survey the location. A week before the assassination, Files drove into Dallas and stayed at the Lamplighter Motel in Mesquite, Dallas, where he called Mr. Nicoletti as well as David Atlee Phillips (who he claims was his “controller”). He claims that the next morning Lee Harvey Oswald (who shared the same “controller”) showed up at the hotel. Over the next five days, Files and Oswald spent the days together (a picture, which Files says was taken by Oswald, can be found here). Files claims that he and Oswald went to an empty field to test fire the weapons and calibrate the scopes that were to be used on President Kennedy, and that Oswald was picking up the shells as Files fired them. He also claims that he and Oswald never spoke of the assassination the entire time.
Two days before the assassination, Mr. Nicoletti arrived in Dallas and told Files that Johnny Roselli had flown in as part of a CIA abort team to call off the hit, but said that he was going ahead with the hit anyway. He then asked Files, since Johnny Roselli would no longer be the other assassin, if Files would like to be a backup shooter, to which Files agreed. Files states this is how he became the other gunman.
When Files had volunteered as the backup shooter, he was given specific guidelines by Mr. Nicoletti:
1. He was not to fire unless absolutely necessary
2. He was not to harm Jacqueline Kennedy
3. They were going for a headshot, and he was to fire only if there had been no headshot
Following these guidelines, Files chose to use a 1962 prototype bolt-action Remington XP-100 “Fireball” given to him by CIA agent David Atlee Phillips. The location he chose for cover was the infamous “grassy knoll”. He states that he was wearing a “reversible” jacket to look like a railway worker, and that he kept the Remington XP-100 “Fireball”, as well as specially-made “mercury rounds” in a small suitcase.
Files states that he had loaded a special wax-tipped mercury round into the Remington XP-100 “Fireball”, and waited in the rail yard for President Kennedy. When President Kennedy came into view, he claims that he was aiming for President Kennedy’s right eye in his scope when he was coming down Elm St. When shots started, he began counting the shots as misses, and had to take the shot as instructed if no headshot had been made. When no headshot had been made, he claims he took his shot, and that his shot was the fatal bullet that took President Kennedy’s life. Afterwards, he packed the gun in the suitcase, bit the shell casing, left it sitting on the stockade fence, and walked away. He claims that he walked to an arranged meeting place (a car garage) where Charles Nicoletti and Johnny Roselli were waiting for him. Files drove them to a gas station to drop them off, and he drove back to Chicago.
Files has been taped in two interviews:
During these two interviews, Files has made the following statements:
Files' claims have created heated debates among JFK assassination researchers, even between those who firmly believe in a conspiracy. Noted JFK researchers  as Jim Marrs, Robert Groden, David Scheim, John R. Craig, Gary Shaw, Barr McClellan, Dick Russell and Fabian Escalante give credence to his confession. Critics have pointed to claims that he has changed his story on numerous occasions, the historical inaccuracy of some of his claims,, and inaccurate descriptions of the gun he says he used.
Files at one point was close to being featured in an NBC documentary, but the deal fell through when NBC decided to check out his story, and hired Edward Epstein to vet it.
In brief, NBC retained me as a consultant for their planned story on Files. I hired the detective firm of Jules Kroll. JK established from telephone records Files was in Chicago, not Dallas, on November 22, 1963. We then placed a call to Files from Dick Clark's office (DC was producer), and I interviewed Files about Kroll findings. He said he had a twin brother, who no one knew about, and whom he met shortly before November 22, and who he murdered after November 22. He said it was his twin brother in hospital with his wife, not him. His wife, however, said there was no twin, and Kroll confirmed there was no twin. My view then and now is that Files invented the story for the money it would earn him.
However, James Files, in a letter he wrote to Mrs. Pamela Ray, a person with whom he developed a close relationship, said:
"The Kroll Agency tried everything they could to discredit me. One story they put out was that I couldn't have been in Dallas that day, as my wife was giving birth to our daughter that day. When I was asked about it, I said yes, I was at the hospital that day. But that means Kennedy was not assassinated until September 26, 1966. I said that is the day my daughter was born, go check the hospital records. That ended that."
Dutch JFK researcher Wim Dankbaar also counters the claims.  Dankbaar also published a phone conversation with Faith Files, ex-wife of Files, who corroborated a number of claims, disputed by others.