A Profile in Cowardice
Ted Kennedy, the accident, and the cover-up


Chapter 4 - Preparing an Alibi

"I'm going to say that Mary Jo was driving." - Ted Kennedy

Timeline Continued
( excerpts from Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore )

Saturday July 19, 1969

1:45 AM

- Joe Gargan, Paul Markham, and Senator Kennedy arrived at the ferry landing and parked the car facing Edgartown. During their drive from the bridge, Gargan had been insistent: "We have got to report this accident immediately," he had said repeatedly. Markham agreed, interjecting an occasional, "You're right, Joe."
- Markham did not enjoy the same position of authority with Ted Kennedy that Gargan did, and because he "was really in pain, he wasn't being as forceful as I was about reporting the accident," Gargan recalled.

- The Senator was silent during these discussions, but it was clear to Gargan that he did not want to report the accident at this time.
- Kennedy began expressing alternate ideas about the situation:
- "Why couldn't Mary Jo have been driving the car? Why couldn't she have let me off, and driven to the ferry herself and made a wrong turn?"
- Kennedy asked to be brought back to the cottage to establish the story. After a while he would leave.
- Kennedy suggested that when he was back at the Shiretown Inn, Gargan could "discover" the accident and report to police that Mary Jo had been alone in the car.

- Gargan vigorously rejected the idea. "None of us knew Mary Jo very well," he said,"and we had no idea if she could drive a car, or even owned a license. And besides," he reminded Kennedy, "You told me you were driving!"
- Gargan doubted that he could persuade the girls at the party to allow Mary Jo to take the blame for the accident, and reminded Kennedy that their rescue efforts at the bridge may have attracted the attention of a witness who could place the Senator at the scene of the accident. Making a false report to police required an intricate web of lies, and Gargan would be risking his integrity and reputation as a lawyer. Should he be found out, he said,"I could lose my license to practice law."
- To drive home the importance of reporting the accident,Gargan invoked the name of Bobby Kennedy as a reminder of the responsibility the Senator bore to his brother's ideals. When they were boys, Bobby had spent so much time with Ted, telling him "Be disciplined. Be courageous. Meet every challenge with what ability you have." What Bobby would advise, Gargan was certain, would be to take responsibility and report the accident immediately.
- " There was constant pressure on my part, saying it over and over," Gargan said."You have to report the accident at once!"

2:00 AM

- The discussion eventually reached a stalemate. Gargan knew that a public phone was available right there at the ferry house, because he had used it the day before. He did not want to use it now however, because "I was expecting to go to the police station with the Senator to report the accident - once we got the story together."
- "I was saying it over and over, " Gargan said, "You have to report the accident immediately!"
- The Senator remained silent, apparently unmoved by Gargan's arguments, and clearly still opposed to reporting the accident. Gargan's nagging was wearing thin, however, and finally Kennedy had had enough. He said sharply, "All right, all right, Joey! I'm tired of listening to you. I'll take care of it. You go back. Don't upset the girls. Don't get them involved."
- Kennedy bolted from the car, dove into the water, and started swimming toward Edgartown. Gargan and Markham leapt from the car in astonishment. Gargan was furious. The Senator's departure was completely unexpected. "Our conversation was cut short," Gargan said. "The Senator simply left, and nothing had been decided."
- The two men watched Kennedy swim beyond the mid-point of the channel. The Senator's final statement had been "reasonably clear," Gargan said. "He was going to report the accident, and I was going to take care of the girls." They got in the car and started driving back to the cottage.
- On the way to the cottage, Gargan had second thoughts. He wasn't sure it was a good idea for Kennedy to deal with the situation alone. He said to Markham,"I think one of us should be with him. We'd better go back to the ferry landing, and I'll swim across."
- When they got back to the landing, there was no sign of Kennedy in the water. Apparently he had made it across. Gargan "seriously considered swimming to Edgartown to make sure the Senator was going to do what he had clearly said he was going to do." He chose not to, however, and trusted that Kennedy would keep his word and "take care of it."
- Gargan and Markham drove back to the cottage.

2:25 AM

- At the Shiretown Inn in Edgartown, a room clerk named Russell Peachey was patrolling the premises when he observed Senator Kennedy standing at the bottom of the stairway leading up to his room on the second floor.
- Peachey asked, "May I help you in any way?"
- Kennedy told him he had been disturbed by noises coming from a party next door. "I've looked for my watch and seem to have misplaced it. What time is it?" he asked.
- Peachey looked through a window to a clock in his office. It was exactly 2:25 AM. Because the Senator appeared somewhat distressed, Peachey asked him, "Is there anything else I can do to help you?"
- Kennedy replied, "Thank you, no," and returned to his room.
- Peachey recalled that "He didn't look to me like a man who had come downstairs to complain about noise. He was just standing there. He was fully dressed. I think he was wearing a jacket and slacks. Usually, a man who just wants to complain about noise doesn't get up and get fully dressed to do it. Especially at 2:25 in the morning."
- Kennedy made no mention of the accident, passing up yet another opportunity to inform authorities.

- Kennedy's encounter with Peachey at the Shiretown Inn raises further suspicions regarding the Senator's state of mind and motives. How could he have been in a state of shock severe enough to prevent him from reporting the accident, yet appear to be distressed by merely having his sleep disturbed? And why was he fully dressed in jacket and slacks at 2:25 in the morning?
- Presumably, Kennedy's motive was to establish his whereabouts and the correct time with an employee of the motel, giving him a solid alibi consistent with the accident scenario he had proposed earlier at the Chappaquiddick landing. He apparently was still planning to allege that Mary Jo had been alone, and that she had been driving the car when it went off Dike Bridge.

- The Regatta weekend had brought many tourists to Edgartown, and there were many people still in the streets at 2 AM.
- Police Chief Arena thought it was strange that nobody had seen the Senator when he returned to Edgartown. "Nobody ever came forward to say they saw him coming out of the water or off the banking up to the Shiretown Inn, as busy as that place was," he said.
- For Kennedy to have walked from the landing to the Shiretown Inn unseen on a Regatta night suggested a deliberate avoidance of witnesses.

2:35 AM

- It was "after 2:30 AM" when Gargan and Markham got back to the cottage. The house was dark, only an outside light had been left on. Gargan observed the party guests "lying around in various degrees of a comatose state, trying to sleep."
- Mary Ellen Lyons awoke and asked the men where they had been. She recalled, "They said they had been down at the ferry landing swimming around; that because there was no ferry available, the Senator dove in the water and swam across to Edgartown."
- When Lyons asked Gargan where Mary Jo was, "He told me she was at the Katama Shores, that she had taken the car on the last ferry."
- Gargan knew he would need to keep the young women at the cottage, because if they returned to their motel they would know Mary Jo was missing and might raise the alarm. That couldn't be done until the Senator reported the accident.

- Markham collapsed on the living room couch, and Gargan lay down on the floor near the front door and tried to get some sleep. The two men slept fitfully, expecting that at any moment the police would arrive to question them about the accident.

5:30 AM

- By dawn, both Gargan and Markham had given up on sleeping. Gargan was anxious to get back to Edgartown, but the ferry didn't start running until 7:30.
- Gargan thought it was strange that no one had come to the cottage to inquire about the accident. He wondered if the Senator had managed to report the accident without involving the previous night's party, but he couldn't imagine how that would be possible.


7:00 AM

- Mrs. Frances Stewart was the desk clerk on duty in the lobby of the Colonial Inn, located next door to the Shiretown Inn. She recalled that Senator Kennedy had come in and asked her to reserve The Boston Globe and The New York Times for him. "By the way," he said, "could I borrow a dime? I seem to have left my wallet upstairs." She produced a dime from the desk's cash drawer.
- Mrs. Stewart recalled that the Senator was freshly shaven and dressed in "yachting clothes." He appeared "normal in every way" when he walked outside to the porch and the inn's only public telephone.
- Kennedy called Helga Wagner, a former German airline stewardess with whom he had established a romantic liaison. He told her nothing about the accident, Mrs. Wagner said later. "He just said something very serious had happened and he needed to have Stephen Smith's number in Spain. He knew I had it because I was on my way to Europe to join Stephen Smith and his wife Jean."
( Stephen Smith was the Senator's brother-in-law, campaign finance manager, and Kennedy family business manager )
- Kennedy returned to the desk and gave back the dime he had borrowed.

7:15 AM

- As Kennedy returned to the Shiretown Inn, he encountered Ross Richards and Stan Moore in the alley that separated the two motels. The three men went up to the porch outside Richards' room, where they were joined by Richards' wife Marilyn. She recalled that Ted Kennedy was "all dressed up." The group spent the next 20 minutes engaged in idle conversation. The Senator made no mention of the accident. "We were all just chatting on the porch when Joey Gargan arrived," Mrs. Richards said.

7:20 AM

- Gargan had left the cottage in time to catch the first ferry. Markham and Charles Tretter went with him, as well as Rosemary Keough and Susan Tannenbaum, who wanted to go back to their rooms at the Katama Shores Motor Inn. Gargan considered the girls to be "excess baggage," he said. "I didn't want to talk to them, have them along or anything. I wanted to get away from them." But he couldn't refuse.

7:35 AM

- Gargan parked the car at the landing, and the group took the ferry to Edgartown. As they hurried toward the Shiretown Inn, Gargan made a determination "based on instinct" that the accident had not been reported.
- Gargan and Markham parted company with the others when they reached the stairway leading to the second-floor porch outside Richards' room. Gargan said "We'll see you."
- Rosemary Keough recalled looking up and seeing Senator Kennedy standing on the porch outside Ross Richards' room.

7:45 AM

- Marilyn Richards was surprised by Gargan's appearance. "Joey looked awful. His clothes were all wrinkled, and his hair was sticking out."
- After a sleepless night of mounting anxiety, Gargan became furious when he'd looked up from the bottom of the stairs to see Ted Kennedy posturing on the porch, chatting unconcernedly with the others, pretending there was nothing wrong. From what he saw, it was clear to Gargan that the Senator hadn't reported the accident.
- It was obvious to Markham too, "That nothing had been done; there was no commotion."
- In an uncharacteristically loud and coarse manner, Gargan demanded to speak to Kennedy in his room at once. "I'd like to see you right now! Get in there!" he bellowed.
- As the Senator left, Ross Richards asked that he join him for breakfast. Kennedy said he couldn't right now, but he "might" join him later.

- In 1988, Joe Gargan revealed to author Leo Damore what was discussed that morning in the Senator's room:
- Kennedy told Gargan and Markham that after he had swum the channel, he had slipped into the Shiretown Inn unseen, changed clothes and established his presence by asking an employee patrolling the premises the time. He had gone to bed and awakened around 7 o'clock. He had betrayed no sign of having been involved in an automobile accident to a number of witnesses. It wasn't too late for the scenario he had proposed to be put into effect. It wouldn't be difficult to convince people he hadn't known about the accident until the next morning.
- The Senator expected the incident to have been "taken care of " when Gargan and Markham showed up the next morning, that Gargan would have reported the accident and told the police that Mary Jo Kopechne had been driving the accident car. The Senator had counted on Gargan to realize, after an hour or so had passed and nobody showed up at the cottage, that he had no choice but to report the accident. It was, after all, the kind of clean-up detail Gargan customarily performed as advance man, a dependency that went back to the "Joey'll fix it" days of their boyhood. So long as there was a chance Gargan would reconsider his objections to the plan, the Senator had not reported the accident himself.
- Gargan was mortified by the Senator's motive for swimming the channel: to force him to follow a course he had made clear he wanted followed, irrespective of Gargan's objections. That the accident had not been reported was bad enough. For the Senator to have misrepresented his intentions by subterfuge, saying he was going to report the accident and then not doing so, and start putting an alibi into play only compounded the tragedy.

8:45 AM

- Gargan said "This thing is worse now than it was before. We've got to do something. We're reporting the accident right now!"
- Kennedy said "I'm going to say that Mary Jo was driving."
- "There's no way you can say that!" Gargan said. "You can be placed at the scene. Jesus! We've got to report this thing. Let's go."
- Kennedy was reluctant to do so, Markham observed. "He was still stuck on the idea of having Mary Jo driving the car."

9:00 AM

- Before making a final decision to report the accident, Kennedy first wanted to talk with David Burke, his Administrative Assistant. The Senator asked where there was a phone he could use that would allow him to speak without his conversation being overheard.
- Gargan knew from years of Regatta weekends that there would be two or three people lined up to use all the public phones in Edgartown. He suggested the telephone at the ferry house on the Chappaquiddick landing. Gargan stressed that time was of the essence, "I was very anxious for the Senator to get to a phone and do the things I thought he should do; then, report the accident."

- As the three men headed for the ferry, they passed Marilyn and Ross Richards who were returning from breakfast at a local coffee shop. "They were obviously in a big rush; and looked very preoccupied," Marilyn Richards observed. "They passed us without a greeting."

9:05 AM

- Steve Ewing, the ferry's 16-year-old deckhand, recalled that the Senator greeted him with a cheerful "Hi!" as he collected 15-cent fares from the three men. Gargan recalled that Kennedy seemed "untroubled" during the short ride to Chappaquiddick. Upon arrival, Kennedy went into the ferry house to call David Burke. From what Markham overheard of the conversation, the Senator clearly "was still reluctant to report the accident."




Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Ted - The Other Scandals

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