June 23, 1989: Transcript of tape-record statements of Jim Blackburn and Freddy Kassab to parole board re: Jeffrey MacDonald's
eligibility for parole
Tape from the files of Freddy Kassab provided by Bob Stevenson,
brother of murder victim Colette, and used with his permission
and the permission of Jim Blackburn
Note from Christina Masewicz: I translated this from the tape
SWORN STATEMENTS OF ALFRED G. KASSAB AND JAMES L. BLACKBURN
June 23, 1989 SWORN STATEMENTS OF ALFRED G. KASSAB AND JAMES L. BLACKBURN
FS: Female Oath Taker; JB: James L. Blackburn; AK: Alfred (Freddy) G. Kassab
FS: --the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
AK: I do.
FS: Would you raise your right hand? Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
JB: I do. Let me for the record introduce myself and Mr. Kassab and first explain why we are here and what we are trying to do here today. Today is June the 23rd, 1989. To my left is Mr. Alfred Kassab, known to most everyone as Fred or Freddy Kassab. My name is Jim Blackburn. I'm an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina. During the late 1970s, and specifically in July and August of 1979, I was the primary trial prosecutor in the case of United States of America versus Jeffrey Robert MacDonald. Dr. MacDonald at that time was a defendant in a federal criminal murder case. He was convicted by a jury of the second degree murder of his wife Colette MacDonald, the second degree murder of his daughter Kimberley MacDonald and the first degree murder of his daughter Kristen MacDonald.
After the jury returned its verdict of guilty on all three charges, MacDonald was sentenced by Judge Dupree to three consecutive life sentences in federal prison. MacDonald has now served a portion of that first ten year term. It is our understanding that he may be eligible for consideration for federal parole on or about the 5th day of April, 1991. Because of the uncertainty of the future for any of us, we thought it a good idea to put down for the record in the future both of our views as to our beliefs as to why we think MacDonald should be denied federal parole in 1991.
And to that end, I am going to interview here this morning Mr. Kassab and ask him a number of questions. Before I do, let me say for the record that as the prosecutor in that case, I became convinced, was convinced, am convinced, absolutely beyond any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Jeffrey Robert MacDonald in the murders of his family. I believe Mr. Kassab was likewise so convinced.
But to that end, I want to ask Mr. Kassab this morning a number of questions relating to his views not only of those crimes, but what it has done to his life and the life of his wife Mildred and let you, the Parole Commission, hear firsthand from him as to his experiences over the last 19 years. The murders did not occur until the 17th day of February, 1970. So we're talking about a span of about 19 years.
Mr. Kassab, you have been following this case, of course, since the murders were in fact committed the 17th of February, 1970. Tell us, if you can, why your interest in the case has consisted at a high rate of interest for so long over the last 19 years.
AK: Well, first because of necessity. When your daughter and grandchildren are murdered, you're bound and determined that whoever committed the murders should be caught and punished. The case has dragged on over the years and has been in court and in and out of court for almost 19 years. And the intense publicity given to the case has kept us really involved physically and mentally.
JB: When you say "we," you're talking about Mildred.
JB: Mildred is not here today. Where is she?
AK: Mildred is home because I didn't want her to come. Because Mildred has had two heart attacks over the last few years. And I didn't want to put any more pressure on her. I feel, and she will so assert, that I speak for both of us.
JB: Now, you live in Rockledge--
AK: Rockledge, Florida, yes.
JB: How long have you lived--
AK: We've lived here for about a year and a half.
JB: Where did you live prior to that time?
AK: Prior to that, we lived in New Jersey.
JB: And is that where you were living when these murders occurred?
AK: No, we lived on Long Island when the murders occurred.
JB: Now, Colette was your stepdaughter.
AK: That's correct.
JB: And as such, there was no blood relationship. The fact that she was your stepdaughter as opposed to the fact that she was your natural daughter, did that make any difference in your desire to see that justice was done in this case?
AK: None whatsoever. Colette and I could not have been any closer than if I'd have been her natural father.
JB: How old was Colette when you first met her?
AK: When I first met Colette, she was approximately thirteen years of age.
JB: And what were the circumstances under which you met Colette?
AK: I met Colette when I was courting her mother. It's quite awhile back now.
JB: Well, Kimberley and Kristen were, of course, not your natural grandchildren. What was the relationship that you had with your grandchildren?
AK: Well, I had the same as any other grandparent. Colette, as often as I saw the children, we were just like grandfather and two granddaughters.
JB: What about your relationship with Colette?
AK: Colette and I were very close. Colette--as a matter of fact, she would never allow anybody to call me her stepfather. She always said, "that's my father. " This is no--not meaning that she didn't live her--love her own father. But he had died several years prior to that. And she and I had grown very close. And she considered that I was her father.
JB: Freddy, if I can call you that on this tape, you had also known Jeff MacDonald for a long, long time. When did you first meet MacDonald?
AK: I first met MacDonald probably within a month or two after I met Colette for the first time. Because at that time, they were in junior high school together. And he would come over to the house, and, you know, have dinner every once in awhile. Or he and Colette used to go to the movies. And I used to take them--either I took them or I brought them home, one of the two.
JB: This is when he was a teenager.
AK: That is correct.
JB: So they dated as teenagers before they were married.
AK: Oh, yes.
JB: It really did not surprise you, I take it, that they got married later on.
AK: Oh, no. No, no. It didn't surprise me at all. Because they--they went out together as children. And there was only a period of about, I think, a year or a year and a half where they weren't seeing each other, where they had a falling-out as most young people do. But aside from that possibly year, year and a half when they weren't together, otherwise than that, they were always together.
JB: Freddy, what was Colette's feelings towards Jeff during those teenage years and prior to her marriage to him?
AK: Well, I think that she liked him very much. She--
JB: There's no doubt in your mind that she loved him when they got married.
AK: Oh, none whatsoever. She was deeply in love with Jeff. And there was never anybody else that I ever heard of except one young man that she went out with once in awhile during that period of a year and a half when they weren't seeing each other. But aside from that, it was always Jeff.
JB: I take it you and Mildred were pleased when they decided to get married.
AK: Oh, yes. We didn't--we had no objections to the married--marriage. Because he was a nice, presentable young man. Good mind, got good marks in school, good potential for the future. So therefore, we saw nothing wrong with them getting married.
JB: When these murders first occurred and MacDonald was first accused by the military in 1970, you were widely quoted as being MacDonald's number one defender and friend and fan, I suppose. Is that true at that time?
AK: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Because when the murders occurred, I think I reacted as any other normal person would with the crimes being as violent as they were and as horrendous as they were, that you could not attribute such a crime to somebody that you'd known for that many years. We just felt it was just out of the question that he could have committed that type of a crime. And the Army gave us absolutely no information on the crimes. The FBI would give us no information on the crimes. The only information we got was from MacDonald himself or what we read in the newspapers. Until the Army hearings were over.
JB: You did not attend the Army hearings, did you?
AK: No, the Army hearings were closed to the public. They were closed to everybody except his mother. The special dispensation was given to her to attend the hearings.
JB: Did you have a chance to read a daily transcript during the Army hearings of what was going on?
AK: No. I didn't get a copy of the Army hearings until December of 1970 after MacDonald got out of the Army.
JB: Now, you changed your mind, Freddy, concerning MacDonald's guilt in this case. Can you tell the Parole Commission when and why that occurred?
AK: Well, it didn't occur all at once. The thing that first started me thinking was when MacDonald called me--I think it was somewhere around the 17th of November after the charges had been dropped against him by the Army. And he told me that he had gone out on the town--he used the word "we" as though there were other people with him. And that they were looking for these so-called hippie murderers. And that he found one and killed him.
Now, that made me a little uneasy. I investigated that situation and found it to be a fabricated story. But even that, of course, did not convince me that he had--you know, that he had committed the murders. I thought he was just trying to make like he was a big shot. But when I got a copy of the transcripts of the Army hearing and I read them thoroughly over and over, I became pretty well convinced that he was guilty.
JB: Did that conviction grow with time?
AK: Oh, yes. It grew every day as I investigated what he had said happened in the house that night and it was against the true facts that the Army had accumulated. Then I started working with the Army, who reinvestigated the case for a second time starting in 1971 through the middle of 1972. And I was privy to most of their investigation. And then became thoroughly convinced by the middle of 1971 that he was guilty.
JB: Freddy, you once liked Jeff MacDonald. He was once the husband of your daughter
Colette and the father of your two grandchildren, Kimberley and Kristen. Was it difficult for you to conclude that he was, in fact, guilty of these murders?
AK: Very difficult. Because if you know somebody and you assume it is perfectly normal and a regular person, then to find out that they had committed such a horrendous crime, it is very, very difficult thing to swallow.
JB: I remember Mildred saying to me one time many years ago that she thought the saddest thing of all was the fact that it was he who she became convinced had killed his people. Is that your feeling as well?
AK: Yes. But it took me about six months to convince Mildred after I became convinced, to convince her that he had committed the murders by showing her the proof.
JB: Why do you think that's so? Why do you think she resisted for some time?
AK: It's because of the same feeling that I had originally. And it is the same feeling that I think almost everyone who meets MacDonald and talks to him, it has been shown by psychiatrists and psychologists that the man is what they refer to as a true psychopath. He is exceedingly believable when he talks to you. And he puts on an air of complete innocence. And he's convincing. He's very articulate. He doesn't shake very easily, as you know from having him on the witness stand. He comes across very well.
JB: Is there any doubt in Mildred's mind today about his guilt in these crimes?
AK: Not one iota.
JB: Is there any doubt in your mind that he's guilty of these crimes?
AK: None whatsoever. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.
JB: Freddy, a number of people have asked me over the years, and I suspect have asked you as well, that you and Mildred have seemed to be obsessed about this case, that you have let it destroy or ruin both your lives, that you have spent time on it that perhaps better would have been spent somewhere else. I think what I want you to do is just tell the Parole Commission: do you think you have been obsessed about this case? And is that something that you think you should have done?
AK: Yes, I think we have been obsessed. And people have accused me of running a vendetta. But one must remember that everything that I did and that my wife did, our aim was to get the man tried and convicted. And everything we did was within the system, within the legal framework if you will. It could have been very easy to seek vengeance outside of the system. But what I wanted was within the system to get him convicted. And it was done.
JB: The fact that it's been in the courts so many times before 1979 and since then I think the U. S. Supreme Court seven times, the fact that there's been continuing publicity about the case and the fact that there's, as I said, been in the court so much, is this another reason why you have had to spend so much time on the case that you otherwise might not have spent?
AK: Absolutely. Because as I said before, he is very convincing. And he's convinced a lot of people that he is innocent. What information he gives them is the information he wants them to know. He doesn't give them the other side of the story. And so therefore, anytime there's been publicity on this case with appeals, what is enumerated are the things that he appeals on and his side of the evidence, which I'll assure you most of it is fabricated. Some of it has been exaggerated. Other parts, they've taken the truth and twisted it. Now, when the public hears these things, they don't know about the evidence against him. That is not presented. What is presented is what he says. And that--that is wrong.
JB: What do you think, Freddy, these murders and the aftershock of the murders and the 19 years since then and your interest and involvement in it, what has it done to your life and to Mildred's life?
AK: Well, it's sort of put an end to our lives from what normally people do with their lives and go on. And a lot of people--there have been a lot of other people who have had similar occurrences happen to them. But a given period of time after the occurrence, they have a chance to recuperate. We have never had that chance. Because this case has never been out of the headlines for 19 years. It has never been out of the court system for 19 years. I think it's the only case in history, murder case, that has been to the U. S. Supreme Court seven times. And every time, he has lost.
JB: You have talked a lot about this case over the years. You have given numbers of interviews. You have been portrayed on television in a miniseries. You've been portrayed in a best-selling book. Has it been difficult for you to talk to people about the case? Does it bother you emotionally?
AK: When I'm giving the interview or when I'm doing something, it does not affect me as much as when I--after I've done it. Then it catches up with me, immediately afterwards.
Then I go home and I'm sort of incapacitated for a few days.
JB: Do you and Mildred dwell on the case or the deaths of your family often?
AK: Well, we have no choice. It's being so much in the foreground and the publicity, so much publicity has been given to the case. And we have to stay on top of it because, for one, the purposes of this tape, I want to be sure that he serves out his sentence the way it should be served out. I don't want him walking around the streets.
JB: How old are you now, Freddy?
AK: I'm now sixty-eight.
JB: And Mildred is a little older.
AK: Mildred's a couple of years older than I am.
JB: Which brings us to this question. What is it, in speaking directly to the Parole Commission, that you want the Parole Commission to do?
AK: Well, I want them to consider very carefully the severity of the crimes, that two small children were murdered by their own father in a brutal way. And that Colette was murdered in a brutal way. It is my contention that had the jury stayed out another hour, that they would have come back with three murder ones rather than two murder twos and one murder one. Because they would have come to the realization that Colette survived the initial attack on her. Kimberley survived the initial attack on her. And it wasn't until maybe a half an hour or maybe even an hour later that he attacked them a second time. Now, if the jury'd just stayed out a little bit longer, I think you'd have got three murder ones.
JB: So you would--you don't think MacDonald ought to be paroled anytime soon, do you?
AK: Not anytime soon. I think that since the court sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences, that consecutive means consecutive. And the theory of the U. S. Board of Prisons that they aggregate sentences to me is totally erroneous.
JB: Freddy, what was Colette like?
AK: Colette was just an ordinary, all-American type girl who was extremely well-liked by all her schoolmates and college mates. Girls all liked Colette. Nobody was ever jealous of
Colette. She was a bright student. She was a good-looking girl, not tremendously beautiful, but a good-looking girl. And everybody liked her. I never met anybody that didn't like her.
JB: Do you and Mildred miss Colette?
AK: Oh, God, yes. And the children.
JB: Life hasn't been quite the same.
AK: It's never been the same since that day. Never been the same.
JB: Freddy, is there anything else that you can think of, taking this opportunity, that you would like to say to the Parole Commission? Maybe something that I haven't asked you about, but something that's inside you that you would like to summarize your feelings about this?
AK: Yes. And that is that MacDonald has never shown any remorse. Of course, as a psychopath, he could care less whether he killed two people or 100 people. It wouldn't make any difference to him in his mind anyway. And some people might say, well, he'll never commit another crime like that. But he might. And this does not absolve him of the crimes that he has committed. And that for anybody to assume that serving ten short years in prison for a crime of this type is totally insufficient.
JB: Anything else you want to say?
AK: No, except that I would beseech the Parole Board to think very carefully and to thoroughly follow the guidelines that have been set down for consideration of parole in a case such as this.
JB: I would like to also take just a moment to express to the members of the Parole Commission my own personal views about MacDonald. And my own personal views about what the Parole Commission should do with respect to the decision that it has to make. I was an Assistant United States Attorney when I assisted in prosecuting MacDonald ten years ago. I'm in private practice today. I am no longer with the government. Though ten years have passed since that time, rarely does any day go by that someone does not mention to me something about the MacDonald case or it comes up in my own mind about the MacDonald case.
I think once you're involved in this particular situation and the tragedy that occurred to these people, you cannot get over it. I spoke to Mildred just two days ago on the telephone. And she said to me how sad it was that ten years later we were still all so touched by what happened 19 years ago. There is a temptation because of the passage of time to forget or let it go away or sweep it under the rug as though it did not happen or it was not as bad as what occurred.
I would urge the Parole Commission to remember that Jeff MacDonald is not the victim in this case. He is the only one alive who was in the house that night in February of 1970. He has been prosecuted vigorously, both in the trial court and the appellate courts for a number of years. But that is what should have happened. He was the perpetrator of these crimes, not the victim. He is the one who caused these trials to take place and his appeals to take place, not the other way around.
I would urge the Parole Commission as Freddy has said here so eloquently today to remember Colette and Kristen and Kimberley MacDonald. They would very much like to have been here for these last 19 years and to have had the opportunity to live their lives out to the full length of the line, which they should have been allowed to do. MacDonald had no right under any law to take their lives from them. Yet, the evidence is overwhelming that he did so and convicted him. And the appeals from that case were all affirmed ultimately by the United States Supreme Court.
I know that the last number of years perhaps have been difficult for MacDonald, his family and his friends. But they have likewise been exceedingly difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Kassab and their friends. But perhaps it has been most difficult of all for those who are not here, Colette, Kimberley and Kristen. It would be a tremendous tragedy for the Parole Commission to determine that MacDonald has suffered enough by 1991 and to release him on parole at that time. Because Colette and Kimberley and Kristen aren't going to be on parole ever again. I would urge as strongly as I know how that the Parole Commission deny in 1991 any parole for MacDonald and that he should serve his sentence as Judge Dupree gave it to him. Because he took three lives, not just one. And those life sentences which he was given were not concurrent sentences. They were consecutive. He should be required to serve those sentences for the just punishment for those horrible acts which he committed. As was stated a long time ago in the courtroom, it is so late in the day, it is time that someone speak for truth and justice and keep MacDonald in prison. Thank you. [long pause]
I would like to add on behalf of Mildred, on behalf of Freddy, on behalf of Brian Murtagh who also assisted so tremendously in the prosecution of this case and without whose help it could certainly not have been won is the thought that I tried to express to the jury ten years ago in my closing argument to that jury an expression of what all of us in that courtroom felt for Colette, for Kimberley and of Kristen. If in the future, you should cry a tear, cry one for them. If in the future, you should say a prayer, say one for them. And if in the future, you should light a candle, light one for them.
[END OF TAPE]