Federal marshals pulled one of James earl Ray's brothers out of a halfway house in St. Louis this week and him back in jail to await an investigation of a complaint that he lied to the House Assassinations Committee.
U.S. Parole Commission officials said they decided to "retard" the parole of John L. Ray - who had been scheduled to be released from the halfway house yesterday - on the strength of allegations from the committee's chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey.
Parole authorities will attempt to determine "whether or not Mr. Ray has committed a new criminal act," U.S. regional parole Commissioner Robert Vincent of Kansas City said yesterday. He said there was nothing unusual about sending Ray, 46, back to jail in the meantime.
Ray's Washington lawyer, james H. Lesar, sharply questioned the action. He also accused several members of the committee of bullyboy tactics against John Ray in two secret sessions this spring before the subcommittee investigating the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"God knows what they think the perjury is," Lesar told a reporter. He said subcommittee officials confiscated notes he took from the transcript of John Ray's first appearance April 17. At a subsequent hearing May 9, Lesar protested, subcommittee Chairman Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.) "told me not to talk to anybody about what John Ray had said.
James Earl Ray is serving a 99-year prison term in Tennessee for King's 1968 murder. The committee has reportedly been investigating contentions that the assassination may have been, in some respects, a family affair.
John Ray, who, like his brother James, has a lengthy criminal record, was released from the Federal pentitentiary in Marion, III., this spring from an 18-year term for bank robbery to await parole at the Dismas House, a pre-release facility, or "halfway house" in St Louis. He was to have been paroled yesterday after serving more than eight years of his sentence.
After john Ray's first appearance before the King subcomittee on April 17, however, Assassinations Committee Chairman Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), in a statement for the Congressional Record, raised the prospect of contempt proceedings against both John Ray and a sister, Carol Pepper.
Stokes said that "Mr. Ray refused to disclose information clearly within his knowledge by systematically relying on a supposed lack of recollection . . ."
Ray was called back before the subcommittee May 9 at another secret session where, according to informed sources, he gave a series of responses that the subcommittee deemed perjurious. No formal charges have been filed, but Justice Department officials said they are trying to determine whether to seek an indictment. Meanwhile, it was learned, Deputy Assistance Attorney General Robert L. Keuch told the Parole Commission in a June 14 letter that a preliminary review indicated that Ray had testified falsely.
At the behest of the Assassinations Committee, Blakey also sent Parole Commission officals statements from congressional witnesses concerning some bank robberies in which Ray had denied participation and for which he had never been prosecuted.
Charging that his client was being railroaded, Lesar protested that, during a break in the April hearing, Rep. Floyd J. Fithian (D-Ind.) "personally threathened" to write the Parole Commission about John Ray.
At another point, during one of the hearings, the lawyer continued, "Fauntroy threatened to put John Ray in the D.C. jail. He said, in substance: "It's not a very nice place; you've never been there, Mr. Ray, but I'm you sure you wouldn't like it.
Lesar said he regarded the remark "as an attempt to intimidate John probably based on the belief that John Ray would be afraid of blacks" in the D.C. jail.
A spokesman for Fauntroy said "the congressman has no comment at all on the allegation." Contacted in Indianapolis, Fithian said that "Mr Lesar is, as you know, a very excitable person." As for Lesar's assertions that the committee had sought to bully his client, Fithian said:
"That's Mr. Lesar's right to say that as a lawyer for a witness before the committee. I would have no comment on it."
U.S. Parole Commission Chairman Cecil C. McCall said in a statement that the commission had decided to hold up John Ray's parole until July 16 "for the purposes of conducting a hearing to determine the validity of the allegations . . ."
By contrast, regional Commissioner Vincent said in an interview from Kansas City that he hadn't ordered a hearing yer because first "we have to investigate in terms of our won due day n ithe St. Clair County Jail in Belleville, III. Should a hearing be ordered, Vincent said, he will be moved back to the federal penitentiary at Marion.
there was also some confusion over the procedures under which Ray's parole was held up. Justice Department officials had recommended action under regulations calling for vote by U.S. parole commissioners in Washington as well as the regional commissioner in the field.
A Parole Commission spokesman told a reporter at first that Vincent acted on his won under other authority available to him, The spokesman called back later and said a vote had been taken after all, with two commissioners here concurring with Vincent by telephone. The spokesman said he did not know when this had been done.