The FBI gave Greg Scarpa Sr. a wad of cash, a gun, and instructions to find out where three slain civil rights workers were buried in 1964, according to Linda Schiro. Those killings formed the basis of the film Mississippi Burning, which told quite a different story.
With the charges against the former G-Man dropped, the world will never know how Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin L. Reichbach would have ruled in the case of the People of the State of New York versus R. Lindley DeVecchio. As noted earlier in the Voice, the former FBI agent put his fate in the hands of Reichbach, a former Sixties student activist at Columbia, rather than try his luck with a Brooklyn jury.
But in the judge’s four-page decision to accept the District Attorney’s motion to drop the charges, Reichbach offers a fascinating coda on a case in which the lines between G-Man and gangster became entirely blurred.
Reichbach salutes the FBI agents who put their career on the line to say that DeVecchio had grown too close to his informant Greg “the Grim Reaper” Scarpa, while he excoriates the FBI brass who turned their eye from obvious criminality for tips that were of a questionable value.
Commenting on Linda Schiro’s testimony that Scarpa traveled south in 1964 at the behest of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to strong-arm witnesses to find out where three slain civil-rights workers were buried, Reichbach said it paralleled some of the techniques being used in the war on terror today.
“That a thug like Scarpa would be employed by the federal government to beat witnesses and threaten them at gunpoint to obtain information regarding the death of civil rights workers in the south in the early 1960s is a shocking demonstration of the government’s willingness to employ criminality to fight crime. It is redolent of the current mindset of some in the government who argue that the practice of terror and torture can be freely employed against those the government claims are terrorists themselves: that is permissible to make men scream in the name of national security.”