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Frank Sinatra Sr. Testifies at L.A. Kidnapping Trial

Feb. 19, 1964 - Frank Sinatra Sr. testified today in Los Angeles that he received eight telephone calls from an alleged abductor during the three days his son was held captive last December. All the phone conversations were recorded by the FBI. The tapes will be played to the Federal court jury trying three men on charges of kidnapping and conspiring to kidnap 20-year-old Frank Sinatra Sr. Mr. Sinatra said “the voice,” as he labeled the caller, had sounded worried and had apologized for the episode.

The prosecution contends that John Irwin, 42, a house painter, made the calls. Irwin’s co-defendants, Barry Keenan and Joseph Amsler, both 23, are accused of taking young Sinatra from a motel at Lake Tahoe at gunpoint last Dec. 8. He was released unharmed three days later in West Los Angeles after having been held in a hideout in suburban Canoga Park. Mr. Sinatra obtained his son’s release by paying $240,000 ransom. Virtually all the money has been recovered.

The elder Sinatra testified that he had received instructions on paying the ransom in the fourth phone conversation. He said he had been ordered to wrap the money in a 22-inch-high package in the following denominations: 700 $100 bills, 700 $50 bills, 4,000 $20 bills, 4,000 $10 bills, and 3,000 $5 bills. Mr. Sinatra identified a small black suitcase as that in which the money was delivered at a West Los Angeles service station.

Defense counsel objected to the phone-call evidence on the ground that it had been obtained by illegal wiretapping. Thomas Sheridan, prosecutor, said the calls had been taped by the FBI with Mr. Sinatra’s consent, hence, he said, they were legal.

On cross-examination, Mr. Sinatra said he had received two phone calls from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during the case, one in Reno and the other in West Los Angeles. “He called me as a friend,” the singer added.

He denied repeatedly that he had foreknowledge of the abduction. “It was not a publicity stunt,” he asserted.


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