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Defense Attorneys: Sinatra Kidnapping a “Publicity Hoax”

Feb. 11, 1964 - Defense attorneys for three alleged kidnappers of Frank Sinatra Jr. contended today that the defendants were partners in a hoax engineered for publicity purposes. They charged that the 19-year-old singer’s abduction from a Nevada lodge last Dec. 8 was part of “a planned, contractual agreement.” Mrs. Gladys Root of the defense counsel told a Los Angeles jury that this was “an advertising scheme” conceived by young Sinatra so that “he might make the ladies swoon like papa.”

George Forde, another defense attorney, said “there is and was no case” of kidnapping. He described young Sinatra as “a man of limited talent but great ambition” who was making $100 a week singing with the Tommy Dorsey band. Since the abduction, young Sinatra has become an international celebrity and has been offered $100,000 for his kidnapping story, Forde said. He said evidence would be presented to show that a mysterious “financier” was involved in the abduction. He declined to elaborate.

The defense allegations came in opening statements to the jury. Earlier, the Government prosecutor, Thomas Sheridan, said charges of kidnapping and conspiring to kidnap would be proved against all three defendants — Barry Keenan (left), Joseph Amsler (middle), and John Irwin (right). They were arrested within a week of the abduction and only a few days after Mr. Sinatra was released unharmed in West Los Angeles. Virtually all of the $240,000 ransom paid by Frank Sinatra Sr. has been recovered. Young Sinatra arrived home last night from Europe but was not present in the courtroom.


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