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Woman Says She Was Link Between JFK And Mafia

February 22, 1988 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman who 12 years ago described having an affair with President Kennedy in the White House says her terminal cancer led her to admit another secret, that she was a conduit between him and the Mafia.

″Now that I know I’m dying and nothing more can happen to me, I want to be completely honest,″ said Judith Campbell Exner, 54, in an interview published in the Feb. 29 issue of People magazine.

″If I’d told the truth, I’d have been killed. I kept my secret out of fear,″ she said.

Exner said she arranged about 10 face-to-face meetings between John F. Kennedy and Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana while she and Kennedy were having an affair in 1960-61.

″I was in a sense a courier and I would pass messages between Jack and Sam when Jack wanted a meeting, and they were always instigated by Jack, never by Sam,″ she said in an interview recorded Sunday and broadcast today on ABC- TV’s ″Good Morning America.″

Jeff Smith, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in Washington, said, ″There has been no comment and there probably will not be a comment″ from the Kennedy family.

Exner said she witnessed at least one of the Kennedy-Giancana meetings, and repeatedly crossed the country carrying envelopes between Kennedy, Giancana and another mobster.

Exner first spoke publicly of her affair with the president in 1975, but told the Senate intelligence committee that year that Kennedy was unaware of her links to Giancana. Exner’s name came up in Senate hearings into the Kennedy administration’s attempts to use the Mafia to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Exner said she now was revealing the Kennedy-Giancana link because she suffers from terminal cancer and wants ″to put my life in order so that I may die peacefully.″

Kennedy ″knew everything about my dealings with Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli (the Chicago mob’s man in Las Vegas) because I was seeing them for him,″ she said.

The magazine said Exner produced plane tickets, hotel bills and her appointment books from 1960 to 1962 to support her contentions.

Exner said Frank Sinatra introduced her to Kennedy at a Las Vegas hotel on Feb. 7, 1960, and she and Kennedy began an affair about a month later. Shortly thereafter, Sinatra introduced her to Giancana in Miami Beach.

The article contained no response from Sinatra, who has always denied having ties to mobsters. There was no answer Sunday evening at the Los Angeles offices of his spokeswoman, Susan Reynolds.

G. Robert Blakey, a University of Notre Dame law professor who has argued that the Mafia participated in a plot to kill Kennedy, said Sunday he was skeptical of Exner’s claims.

″The original story she told is true, but for her to suddenly elaborate on it after 13 years later suggests she’s untrustworthy,″ he said.

Exner said Kennedy first suggested she act as his contact with Giancana at dinner in his Georgetown townhouse on April 6, 1960. He had been discussing the upcoming West Virginia primary with a lobbyist when he turned to her and said, ″Could you quietly arrange a meeting with Sam for me?″ according to Exner.

″I think I may need his help in the campaign,″ Kennedy allegedly added.

She said she arranged a meeting between the men at a Miami Beach hotel on April 12. Exner said she continued to set up meetings after Kennedy won the Democratic nomination and the general election.

She also carried sealed envelopes between Kennedy, Giancana and Roselli that ″weighed about as much as a weekly magazine and felt as if they contained papers. But I don’t know because I never looked inside,″ she said.

When Exner complained to Kennedy that she was being followed by FBI agents investigating Giancana, she said the president told her, ″Don’t worry, Sam works for us.″ He later told her the surveillance ″is just part of (FBI Director J. Edgar) Hoover’s vendetta against me.″

By the summer of 1962, her affair with Kennedy had ended, she said, and she drifted into a brief affair with Giancana that ended when she rejected his proposal of marriage. He was shot to death in 1975, and Roselli was killed a year later.

She said in the TV interview of her fear of testifying fully before the Senate committee that ″after Johnny Roselli appeared before the committee he was killed. Sam Giancana was killed weeks before he was to appear before the committee.″