“Rummaging in the government s attic ”
Description of document: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report of 23-
March-1981 interview of Joseph S. Chagra re:
murder of Judge John Wood
Released date: November 29, 2007
Posted date: 18-January-2008
Title of Document FD 302 (REV 3-8-77) Federal Bureau of Investigation
(File #) SA 89B-250
Source of document: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Record Information/Dissemination Section
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843
Notes: This is an excerpt of a larger FBI file.
Judge Wood was shot in the back with a high-powered
rifle in the driveway of his San Antonio home on May 29 1979. Judge Wood was the
first sitting Federal Judge murdered in this century and the first contract murder of a
Federal Judge in U.S. history. Charles Harrelson, father of movie star/comedian Woody
Harrelson, was convicted of having actually pulled the trigger for which he was
reportedly paid $250,000. He is currently serving two life sentences in a Colorado
maximum security prison.
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U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C. 20535
November 29, 2007
Subject: CHAGRA, JOSEPH S
The enclosed documents were reviewed under the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA), Title 5,
United States Code, Section 552/552a. Deletions have been made to protect information which is exempt from disclosure,
with the appropriate exemptions noted on the page next to the excision. In addition, a deleted page information sheet was
inserted in the file to indicate where pages were withheld entirely. The exemptions used to withhold information are marked
below and explained on the enclosed Form OPCA-16a:
Section 552 Section 552a
□ (b)(1) □(b)(7)(A) □(d)(5)
□ (b)(2) □(b)(7)(B) Q(j)(2)
□(b)(3) 8(b)(7)(C) n(k)(1)
n (b)(7)(D) n(k)(2)
□ (b)(7)(F) D(k)(4)
□(b)(4) 0(b)(8) Q(k)(5)
□ (b)(5) □ (b)(9) n(k)(6)
20 page(s) were reviewed and 20 page(s) are being released.
□ Document(s) were located which originated with, or contained information concerning other
Government agency(ies) [OGA], This information has been:
□ referred to the OGA for review and direct response to you.
□ referred to the OGA for consultation. The FBI will correspond with you regarding this
information when the consultation is finished.
b You have the right to appeal any denials in this release. Appeals should be directed in
writing to the Director, Office of Information and Privacy, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425
New York Ave., NW, Suite 1 1050, Washington, D.C. 20530-0001 within sixty days from the
date of this letter. The envelope and the letter should be clearly marked “Freedom of Information
Appeal” or “Information Appeal.” Please cite the FOIPA number assigned to your request so that it
may be easily identified.
□ The enclosed material is from the main investigative file(s) in which the subject(s) of your request was
the focus of the investigation. Our search located additional references, in files relating to other
individuals, or matters, which may or may not be about your subject(s). Our experience has shown,
when ident, references usually contain information similar to the information processed in the main file(s).
Because of our significant backlog, we have given priority to processing only the main investigative file(s).
If you want the references, you must submit a separate request for them in writing, and they will be
reviewed at a later date, as time and resources permit.
s See additional information which follows.
David M. Hardy
Records Management Division
This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI concerning Joseph S.
Chagra. Reference should also be made to your telephone conversation with a member of my staff in which you
reduced the scope of your request for documents concerning Joseph S. Chagra.
EXPLANATION OF EXEMPTIONS
SUBSECTIONS OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 552
(b)(1) (A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign
policy and (B) are in fact properly classified to such Executive order;
(b)(2) related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;
(b)(3) specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute(A) requires that the
matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for
withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld;
(b)(4) trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential;
(b)(5) inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation
with the agency;
(b)(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
(b)(7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement
records or information ( A ) could be reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, ( B ) would deprive a person
of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, ( C ) could be reasonably expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal
privacy, ( D ) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or
authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of record or information compiled
by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency conducting a lawful national security
intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, ( E ) would disclose techniques and procedures for law
enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such
disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or ( F ) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or
physical safety of any individual;
(b)(8) contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for
the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; or
(b)(9) geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
SUBSECTIONS OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 552a
(d)(5) information compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action proceeding;
(j) (2) material reporting investigative efforts pertaining to the enforcement of criminal law including efforts to prevent, control, or reduce
crime or apprehend criminals;
(k) (l) information which is currently and properly classified pursuant to an Executive order in the interest of the national defense or foreign
policy, for example, information involving intelligence sources or methods;
(k)(2) investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, other than criminal, which did not result in loss of a right, benefit or
privilege under Federal programs, or which would identify a source who furnished information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity
would be held in confidence;
(k)(3) material maintained in connection with providing protective services to the President of the United States or any other individual pursuant
to the authority of Title 18, United States Code, Section 3056;
(k)(4) required by statute to be maintained and used solely as statistical records;
(k)(5) investigatory material compiled solely for the purpose of determining suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for Federal civilian
employment or for access to classified information, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person who furnished
information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence;
00(6) testing or examination material used to determine individual qualifications for appointment or promotion in Federal Government service the
release of which would compromise the testing or examination process;
(k)(7) material used to determine potential for promotion in the armed services, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person
who furnished the material pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.
rO-302 \REV. 3*8-7 7)
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Date of transcription
Joseph Salim Chagra, white male, date of birth
October 16, 1946, voluntarily appeared at the San Antonio
office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with his
Attorney, ! I of Dallas, Texas. Chagra' s voluntary
appearance at this time had been arranged by Chagra 's attorney
through a contact with Assistant United States Attorneys
W. Ray Jahn and John C. Emerson. Chagra a nd his attorney,
met with Special Agents I I and
in a private conference room commencing at approximately 10:00
a.m. Chaa ra was pe rsonally familiar with Sppepial Agents
| | an d | | from pr ior intervie ws, and
■ » I *• r
had also p reviously met SAl
SA | | introduced"
at the outset of the meeting .
stated at the outset that he and
his client, Joseph Chagra, were appearing voluntarily at this
time in hopes that FBI interview of Chagra would help FBI
Agents investigating the murder of Judge John Wood decide in
their own mind whether or not Joe Chagra himself had any_
knowledge of that crime prior to its commission. SA|
then reemphasized to Joseph Chagra that he was here voluntarily
and that this meeting did not concern any plea bargaining, but
wa s a direct FBI interview of him in the presence of his attorney.
SAl I also advised Joseph Chagra that the FBI had no t
- - n J _ ' T — _ 1, 1 m C TV I I -1 r-
yet agreed to administer a polygraph to him. SA| L
Joseph Chagra that he was a target in the FBI's investigation of
the May 29, 1979, murder of Judge John Wood in San Antonio, Texas
Chagra acknowledged that he understood all of these points.
At this time SA
] advised Joseph Chagra of his
Constitutional Rights as indicated on a typewritten "Advice of b6
Rights" form. Chagra stated that he understood his rights and b 7 C
signed the form, and his attorney.
signed as a
witness. Chagra subsequently voluntarily provided the following
information in the p resence of his attor ney, in response to questions
po sed to him by SA's l l and I |and, in certain instances,
Chagra stated that he has been "thinking about taking a
private polygraph on the Wood case" for the last three or four
months, but he had been putting it off. He had obtained the
San Antonio, Texas
WB 1 V7
. File #
RHZ : ju
This document contains neither recommendations nor conclusions of the FBI. It is the property of the FBI and is loaned to your agency;
it and its contents are not to be distributed outside your agency.
names of three or four polygraphers whom he was considering
contacting in order to take this private polygraph. When his
home and the residences of several of his relatives in El Paso,
Texas, were searched by Federal Agents on February 27, 1981, it
convinced him that he should ta ke the polygraph immediately.
Ifor advi ce, and
s i-£--&auQ ±fiL,_
He conta cted Las Vegas attorney! _
]"sent him" to meet polygrapner
Ana, California. Chagra had neve r previously hea rd of
but the appointment was set up by I 1 This
was administered in Santa Ana, Califor pia, the dav aft^ r
Chagra first talked to Dallas attorney
obtaining his representation.
Chagra noted that he had previously taken one polygraph,
shortly after the murder of his brother, Lee Chagra, in El Paso,
Texas, December 23, 1978. He noted that all the time he was
thinking about taking the private polygraph, he intended to take
an "unlimited" polygraph concerning the Wood case. That is,
he would respond to questions as to whether or not he had
anything to do with Judge Wood's murder or related events
either before or after the commission of the crime. However,
after th e polygraph appointment ha d been set and he spoke to
attorney I advised him to take a "limited"
polygraph only, responding to questions only as to his knowledge
prior to May 29, 1979.
At this point in the interview | | stated
that he did tell Joseph Chagra to take a limited polygraph only,
not an "across the board" polygraph. He advised Joseph Chagra
to take a polygraph only concerning his knowledge of the planning
or commission of Judge Wood's murder prior to May 29, 1979, since
he, as an attorney, felt that from his understanding of the
situation, this was the key issue which Chagra should resolve as
a potential target of the investigation.
Chagra stated that dur ing the "pre-tes t" phase of the
polygraph administered to him by
] in Santa Ana,
]the facts of the Wood
California, he explained to [
case as he (Chagra) understood them, and informed
that he wan ted to be tested on his prior knowledge of the crime.
* j — — ' —
then asked him control questions such as, "Are you
" and questions concerning his age, etc. The key
questions that he was asked and which he answered during the
main part of the test were as follows:
1. Did you
2. Did you
of Judge Wood?
3 . Did you
4 . Did you
murdered prior to May
yourself murder Judge Wood?
plan with any person to commit the murder
pay or hire anyone to murder Judge Wood?
have any knowledge that Wood was to be
Chagra stated that he answere d all of the above questions
"no." He stated that he was advised byT
conclusion of the test that he showed no deceptive responses
concerning those answers to those questions.
At this p oint in the interviewT
in the Woo d case, a nd
s not involved i n representing Joseph Chagra
s not Joe Chagra' s lawyer.
advised the FBI at this time that polygrapher
] would be willing to be interviewed by the FBI concerning
the polygraph he administered to Joseph Chagra and they will make
I 1 test charts and papers available to the FBI for
review and analysis.
Joseph Chagra then supplied the following information
concerning the general "animosity" between members of the Chagra
family, Judge Wood, and Assistant United States Attorney James
Kerr. Chagra 's first statement on this point was, "Prior to
Lee's murder, every case Lee and/or I had in Wood's court some
kind of problem developed which ended with Wood personally
attacking Lee." Chagra stated that whenever they went to court,
Judge Wood ended up putting Lee in a position where he had to
defend himself personally. Wood normally accomplished putting
Lee Chagra in this position by alleging that there was a
conflict of interest between Lee Chagra and the client he was
Chagra stated that this all " came to a head" in court
hearings during Lee Chagra ' s defense of| in |
Federal narcotics ca se in 1978. Chagra had filed a motion to
dismiss I [ indictment on grounds of double jeopardy,
and had filed supporting motions requesting information f rom
the government concerning when the information leading to |
indictment on the continuing criminal enterprise count had been
obtained by the government. Chagra thought that determining this
information would bolster his chances of winning the dismissal
motion. When Lee Chagra presented the motions requesting the
court to force the government to provide this information.
Assistant U. S. Attorney "Kerr jumped up claiming Lee was fishing
to find out what evidence the government had against him."
Because of this and other actions of Wood and Kerr in
_ I case and other cas es, Lee Chagr a also filed a
recusal motion against Wood in | i case, asking Wood
to remove himself from hearing the case. First Wood said that
he would remove himself, and then he changed his mind at the
According to Joe Chagra, "Lee always felt like Wood
respected him as an attorney," but the more times that Lee Chagra
went up against the duo of Wood and Kerr, the worse became their
treatment of him. Joe Chagra stated that Wood was tougher on
cases when Kerr was the prosecutor, than in cases where Assistant
U. S. Attorneys other than Kerr were prosecuting the case.
At this point in the interview,
noted that Lee Chagra once told him that Wood "had gone to cat 1
for Lee Chagra on an occasion wh en Lee Ch agra was indicted on a
narcotics case. Lee Chagra told that he had heard that
Wood had written a letter to government prosecutors handling
Chagra 's indictment stating that the indictment and its surrounding
publicity were hurting Lee Chagra' s reputation and legal practice
in El Paso, and therefore, Wood urged the government to give
Lee Chagra a speedy trial to resolve the situation.
Joe Chagra noted that as time went by, everyone in his
family thought that Wood and Kerr were getting too personal in
their attacks on Lee, and Wood was siding with Kerr too many times.
Also, "Lee did always feel that DEA was trying to get him for
something or other."
SA I asked Joseph Chagra the reason for his
comment to the news media subsequent to his own Federal Grand
Jury appearance in San Antonio, Texas, on August 20, 1980, said
comment to the effect that "Judge Wood had committed suicide."
Chagra responded that, "That was taken out of context and blown
up." Joe Chagra noted that during his questioning at the Federal
Grand Jury, United States Attorney Jamie Boyd asked him how he
thought the investigation of the murder of Judge Wood should be
conducted. Chagra stated that he advised Boyd and the Grand Jury
at that time that he thought that anyone on Judge Wood's docket
should be investigated. When he came out, "the media hit me."
The point he was trying to make in his comments to the media at
that time was that "Wood was continually hurting people everyday,
handing out harsh sentences and siding with Kerr and that eventually
something like that is going to get back to you." Joe Chagra
noted that it was the general consensus among attorneys in the
Texas Bar that "Wood was not the fairest guy in the world-his
sentences were too harsh."
Joseph Chagra stated that his personal feelings concerning
Judge Wood were as follows. "I didn't like the man, I hated to try
cases in his court, especially when Kerr was the prosecutor."
However, he stated that he could not give any specific instances
where Wood was rude to him or embarrassed him- "his rulings were
just one-sided." Joe Chagra noted that "in chambers Wood was the
nicest guy in the world, offering you coffee and talking about
fishing, etc. What got me and Lee and upset was that we
were always being in court trying to defend our family, family
members, and family reputation-it got real old
Joe Chagra also stated that he fi rmly believed that
the indictment of his ] on Federal narcotics
charges was "manipulated 11 so the indictment would be brought in
Midland, Texas, so Wood would be the trial Judge.
Joseph Chagra was the n q uestioned concerning his legal
representation of 1 | and | the matters
on which he has represented or does represent them, and when that
representation comm enced. Concerning his legal representation of
I | Joseph Chagra said, "I feel I've represented
I | since I became a lawyer. Lee and I were always his lawyers. '
Joseph Chagra s pecified that he has repres ented ! i
| divorce I ~~] duri ng some court
fights involving child support, and when | | was once arrested
for being in possession of a firearm in a bar in El Paso, T exas.
This pa rticular case was reduced to a misdemeanor, to which |
I pled guilty and was fined approximately $1,000.
Joe Chagra stated that he and I I an attorney
in Las Vegas, Nevada, have also represe nted in the
Federal narcotics cases on which \ I was tried in August, 1979,
in Austin, Texas, and on a Boston Federal narcotics indictment
which was resolved in October or November, 1 980. Concerning
Joe Chagra 's representation of I I in the Wood
case, C hagra sta ted. "If I'm not a defendant in the Wood case,
I'll be | I lawyer." Chagra stated that if the FBI wanted
to interview at this time concerning the Wood case,
whether or not to allow such interview would be a joint decision
between himself and attorney I | He stated he and fc
I I have al ways consulted concerning legal decisions on
Concernin g Joseph Chagra 's legal representation of
I Chagra provided the fo llowing informati on.
He stated that he knows that his attorney | does
not agree with his definition of when his represent ation of
| began . Chagra feels that he is currently | ~
attorney of r ecord on th e Houston firearms and related charges
filed aga inst I in Houston, Texas, in February, 1980,
on which | is currently incarcerated at the Harris
County Jail, Houston, Texas, and awaiting trial. Chagra noted
at this point in the intervi ew that shortly after he was
interviewed by SA 1 I in El Paso in October, 1980, he
received a letter from | | writing from the
Harris County Jail
him. Chagra stated to
asked Chagra to come and see
'at this time, "When you
and I talked I was not his attorney . "
Shortly after receiving this letter from
he recei ved a telephone call from
also as ked Chagra to come to Houston to speak to
He thereafter traveled to Houston, Texas, and met
and as a result of these meetings with
them, "I felt I was going to be his designated attorney on the
Van Horn case only." Ch agra stated after these meetings he felt
[both on his Houston cases and
in Van Horn, Texas, but
that he was representing,
state charges pending a gainst T
felt he was going to be[^
the Van Horn case only.
^designated attorney" on
Chagra also commented during this part
of the int erview that "I wasn't thinking about representing
on the Houston case" until he got the letter from
and the telephone call from[~ ' '
Next Chagra stated, "Now I had been talking to
for five or six months pr ior to the Van Horn arrest (September 1,
1980)." During thi s time
the Houston case." ["
. was "talking to me about
] showed Chagra the search warrant
which had been used against him in that case, and had discussed it
with Chagra in a legal defense sense.
Joseph Chagra stated tha t when he fir st met
in May of 1980, he "knew
name" when hewas
first in troduced to him. At this point in t he intervie w
commented that when Chagra first met
] at this time
Joseph Chagra explained this
first personal meeting with I
comment i pv saying that prior to this
in El Paso, Texas, in May,
1980, "I had learned of | from a privileged source,” as
well as reading newspaper articles s peculating abou t
involvement in the Wood case. Als o,
that records concerning I l and
lhad t old him
subpoenaed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas . This personal meeting
he had with
was brought about as follows,
O ne day in May of 1980, he received a telephone call from
his friend , \
residence. Chagra proceeded to
at which time there was another person present at I ] house.
This man came ov er to Chagra, shook his hand and said , "You don't
know me, but I 'm I I I loved your brother Lee and
had ta lked to him on the phone several times. I met your ^
in Las Vegas during Bini ons Poker T ournament and I wanted
to meet the younger brother." | went on to state that
]was a potential target in the Wood investigation." b6
~1 asked him t o come over to his
re sidence in El Paso,
he only expected to be in El Paso for "a day or two" and "just
wanted to meet you." Chagra recalls that| [mentioned
to him at this ti me he was facing charges in Houst on, but Cha gra
stated ! I was not a fugitive at th is time. I I
commented that he knew that
was or had recently
been a fugitive, and they discussed state and federal fugitive
laws. This is all the information that Joseph Chagra supplied
concerning the cont ext and substance of his first meeting with
until pressed for further details later in
Chagra stated that the next meeting h e had with
was in June of 1980. A friend of his I
called the Chagra residence and asked Joe Chagra to come
over to her residence because she needed to talk to him. He
had never been to her hou se before, but h e went. He walked in
was sitting with L
came over and ''embraced and hugged" Joe Chagra and
th ey greeted each other. Joe Chagra stated that it was "obvious
to | at this time that he and | I had me t before,
but Chagra w gs taken at a com plete loss when | | introduced
f I as
f Chagra w as surprised bu t did
left the room.
not say anything until
then informed Cha gra when th ey were alone that he was using an
assumed name with
Joe Chagra stated that
stated to him during
this me eting that she w anted hi m to "draw up a contract" between
"| in which C
Chagra noted that \_
1 would pr ovide her
at this time, just died in a car accident with one or two other
family members, and | j felt that her son's car accident was
not an accident, "and that she was in danger." She felt that she
her home. Chagra stated that 1
to sincerely believe that |v
fas in potential
He did draw up this contract fori
Chagra stat ed at this po int in the interview that
j • I I • « . , _ _
with. Chag ra at t his time, during this meeting at
involvement in the Wood murder
home , but
, |was not present during this discussion.
not ask Chagra for legal advice concerning the Wood case at this
tinje, because "his immediate concern was the Hous ton charges -
he didn't know whether he should appear or not." | 3 I again
showed Chagra the search warrant on which the Houston charges were
based, and Chagra told h im that "it looks good to me." Chagra
stated he did not advise I to flee the Houston charges or
anything like that at this time.
] to "blackmail"
Neither was there any attempt by
Joe Chagra or any other memb ers of the Chagra family as
a result of information that I ' ~lha d about the Wood murder.
Chagra added at this time that I 1 also brought up
his involvement in 'Wood's mur der during the f irst meeting that
Joseph Chagra had with him at L
This information was mentioned by|_
and Chagra were walking outside in the neighborhood of [
, when no o ne else was present. Chagra was shocked when he
~ ~l house a t that time, as he could not
]would come to El Pa so "except
think of any reason why L
for blackmail purposes." He could no t figure out why [_
was in El Paso or wanted to meet him. I I did not then,
nor has he ever, attempted to blackm ail Joe Cha gra or Joe Chagra' s
relatives as a result of information
Jud ae Wood's m urder. When asked for further explanation as to
why | | would bring up the Wood murder at their first
_ s *i _ _ I 1 t j a J _ ■ i J • > i * _•
meeting, speci fically why
about it.” At th e insistence of
would discuss this with him,
appare ntly assumed that I (Joe) knew
assumption was correct at that point in time.
i.e., h e, Chagra, did know, from a privileged source, thatf
I l and ! I were respo nsible for the Wood murder, tie
acknowledged this to I I at that time. At no time during
the interview would Joe Chagra di scu ss the details of statements
made to him by | I and .
murder, claiming this was privileged information .
about Wood ’ s
Chagra advised that he met[
] between five to
ten times in El Paso, Texas, during the period June to August,
1980. All of these meetings were at I I residence.
after the p reviously
and the third meeting he had with
descri bed first two meetings was a birthday party which |
I I had. Joe Chagra 's wife and children were there for that
Chagra adv ised that he had n ev er met I
He stated he had met | I at I I at the samp
time that he first meF ] 1 in person in May. 1980
Prior to that, he had only heard of |_
Lee Chagra, in those days sh e was known as
the time he first met her at I
kno w that she was \
i house , he did not even
]as he had heard that she
At this point
Chagra stated that during these 5-10 meetings with
in El Paso, Texas, during the period June to August,
did make "furth er references" to the Wood case.
| stated to Chagra, "You both knew
but-, vo n didn't sa v much about it." Chagra replied, "Yes."
then said, "Did he say, we got away with it,
la-de-da, or was he asking legal advice?" Chagra sta ted, "A lit tle
of both." He went on to state that his meetings with ^ —
in El Paso during the summer of 1980 were "unreal situations . '
"Here this guy is talking about his involvement in the murder
of a federal judge but at the same time here's this s yne guv cutt ing
the grass and laying in the sun." Chagra stated that ~
acted like he assumed I knew about it, but I don't know why he
ass umed I kne w about it." Chag ra stated he d id not know know
if I I had ever talked to I | about the W ood
murder after the fact. He stated that he ana l I never
discussed the Wood case in the presence of others, as they
both made a point of making sure no others were around when the
subject was discussed.
Prior t o late August, 1980, he met
stated he jlid not
~[ house and the original meeting at [
■got discuss the Wood related convers
Hwith anyo ne else exc ept f
“think that! — I told
J told anyone else either,
Joseph Ch agra noted at this po in
int in ths interview that
he still represents | | inj current
attempted capital murder state c&se lir'El Paso, Texas. He
volunteered without being questioned that "th ere was no dru g
deal at Howard Johnson's in El Paso. I 1 and I ~| never
even knew each other until a few hours before the shootout. It
was a coincidence that th ey were th ere at the same time." Chagra
noted that Lee Chaara w as
P - " 1 first attorney on some narcotics
When Lee cnagra was murdered, Joe Chagra
legal counsel. Joe Chagra noted that when
took o yer as P
he saw | I at F CI ,' Englewood, Colorado, for the last time
prior to" l | Jun e, 1980 . escape from that institution,
his purpose in seeing was to discuss with him th e recent
denial of certain legal motions Joe Chagra had filed on
behalf concerning a reduction in the length in | I prison
sentence. At the outset of the me etin g, he and] Jaiscussed
j only had thir teen or
that legal event and the fact that
fourteen months yet to serve. However^ at. this meeting
Chagra that he was going to escape from FCI, Englewood,
had a place to go, had it all worked out."
He said "he
Chagra tried to talk
him out of carrying out the escape, to no avail.
Joseph Chagra stated that sometime later he received
a te lephone call from
that ^]had escaped.
who informed him
During tne period June to August, 1980,
called Joe Chagra three or four times, each time giving
Chagra the number of a pay telephone at which Chagra could call
him. Each time, Chaara Ty ent to a pay telephone hims elf, and
dialed the number
had given him and talked to
called him again
One Sunday in August, 1980 ,
and gave him a pay telephone number within the 915 area code
at which to call him. Chagra was shocked to think th at
was in El Paso, but he went to a pay phone and called l
the designated number. At this time | | advised that he
needed to talk to Chagra and stated he was at the Howard Johnsons
Motel in El Paso and gave Joe Chag ra his r oom number. Joe Chagra
went to the motel room, and he and | ]sat and talked,
did not know what to do.
He was wondering whether he should turn
Chagra advised that he left Howard Johnsons and went
home and shortly after returning home, h e received a telephone
call from | |asked him to go to a
pay phone an d call f
so, and when
know where I m at.Ji
when Chagra asked
| back at a pay phone . Chagra did
| answered, he started in by saying, "They
He aske d that Chagra come and s ee him, and
where he was, I I replied
"The Howard Johnson's Motel."
that Chagra had gone to see
in El Paso. Chagra then proceeded to the Howard Johnsons Motel to see
Agai n, this was the same day, Sunday,
Hat the same Howard Johnsons Motel
Motel room, and Chagra commented to
another fugitive friend just down the hall in another room."
that "I've got
At this poi nt in the i nterview Chagra was asked whether
or not he, I I and | | were ever together in the
same room at the motel. He stated he would not answer, at least b6
until he discussed his answer with his attorney. b7c
Chagra stated that it was late r this e vening or early
the next morning, a Monday morning, that I was involved in
the shootout at the Howard Johnsons Motel which resulted in his
capture . In response to specific questions, Chagra advised that
| had told him during his meeting at the Howard Johnsons Motel
that he was "low on cash" so Chaa ra loaned h im $200 or $300.
Chagra denied giving any money to | | at any time during
any of the meetings he had with I I in El Paso.
Chagra advised that on August 30, 1980, | _}
called him at home and she was very upset, saying that
just called from the La Quinta Motel in Houston. He says he's
surrounded and that t hey are about to kill him and he wants to
talk to you ." I I gave Joe Chagra a number at which to call
| He went to a pay phone and called | | reaching
him at a pay phone which Chagra assumes was near the La Quinta
Motel. I | stated he was "surrounded, they're al l around
me, they've even got helicopters, there goes one now." |
went on to say that Chagra should "record this call." Chagra
explained that he was calling from a pay phone and had no
recording equipment. He told | I to call him at home
in a few minutes an d he would record the call. Chagra went
home and I Icalled him back at his residence.
Chagra put the recording equipment on the phone and
went on with the conversation. He said that he was
"surrounded, they've drilled a hole in the bath room, they're
gonna kill me." Chagra tried to ask | | how drilling a
hole in th e bathroom was going to ca pture or ki ll him, but
I I was not making any sense. | said he wanted
Chagr a to record this conversation and Chagra told him that he
was. I | when went on to say that "the government" was trying
to blame the murd er of Judge Wood on him, that he didn't do it,
that his attorney f rom Dallas has affidavits
providing him with an alibi, that the government wa s trying to
set him up and that he was sorry that I I and his family
and | had gotten involved. | | went on to
say that "I'm going to go down fighting." He stated he wa,^ going
to "try to make it back to El Paso."
Chagra stated that during this call 1 did not
ask him for any legal advice. He did comment that he had "tried
to make a deal. I'll take life on the cocaine charge but I want
to go to a federal joint and I've already tal ked to them about
it." Chagra asked him who he had talked to. I I replied,
"I don't kno w, PEA, FBI , CIA, whoeve r, but I haven't heard back. "
Chagra asked T | if | | wanted his help.
said, "No. I'm just waiting to hear back from Washington." Chagra b6
ended the conversation by saying, "Well then take care." o7c
Concerning | | subsequent arrest in Van Horn,
Texas, on or about September 1, 1980 , Chagra advised that when
this happened he was "out of town." | I reached- him
by telephone and stated that she had just gotten a telephone
call from Van Horn and that they haveC'who l | now knew was")
j surrounded and he's threatening to kill himself. She
asked Joe's advice as to whether she should go, as she wanted
to go.- He told her to go ahead and go to Va n Horn. "Somet ime
after that" a day or two later, Chagra asked I 1 to
go out to Van Horn and see
of town and could not go.
as Chagra himself was out
Chagra advised that after Q
arrest in Van
Horn and his inca rceration a t the Harris County Jail, Houston,
Texas, he visited l Iprobabl v five or six times. During
each of these meetings involvement in Judge Wood's
murder was discussed along with matters involving his state cases
arising out of Houston an d Van Horn . Chagra stated that
concerning the Wood case,
never asked me to do anything.
He explained his role in the Wood matter to me at the Harris
County Jail and previous meetings I had with h im in E l Paso,
but I handled him just like any other client. | was my
main conc ern in these meetings, but I didn't do anything to
prejudice! | Chagra went on to state that "I d idn ' t
try to dissuade him from doing a deal or from turning in
Chagra stated categorically that he never gave
or anyone else any reason to think that he (Chagra) knew about
Judge Wood's murder beforehand. "Just the opposite," Chagra stated,
"It was clear to him from all of our conversations that I didn't
Chagra stated that l attitude during the
Karris County Jail meetings was that "He felt he was gone,
but wanted to go Federal, and if he had to he would go in and
COnf p . ks ., in order to get Federal time, but he w ouldn't hur t
Chagra stated that his main advice to
_ , , during
these meetings was that he should wait and see 'what happens,
and see what evidence there was against him.
Chagra st ates that he feels the above conversations he
Jare privileged on the basis of attorney-client.
He felt th e same way concerning the discussions he had with
I concerning a mao sh owing the location of the weapon,
advised Chagra to tell the FBI
Chagra advised as follows.
attitude towards the
what! he Knows aDOut tne map.
Chagra advised that .
murder weapon, as expressed to Chagra during the Harris County
Jail meetings, was that if the Wood case investigators did
not have the gun, they did not have a case. The question of
where the gun was came u p in the conversations. Chagra acknowledged
that he as ked | | where the gun was located but did not tell
| he would get the weapon. Q
J drew a map on a
legal size piece of paper, which Chagra took from the Harris
County Jail with him. He took the hand drawn map to his office,
where .he drew his ow n copy of it and then shredded the one
His own copy of this map was seized by the
FBI during the search of his residence on February 27, 1981.
Chagra stated he does not know if
to him in telling him that this map described the location of
the weapon used to murder Judge Wood. Ch agra stated that at
times "I've even had doubts as to whether I I did it
or not." Chagra admitted thinking about going to get the weapon
and hiding it but I wa s "too scar ed to get within 100 miles of
it." He may have told | ~| that he "might" go and see if
it is there "for my own personal curiosity, really." Chagra
stated during the interview that "I'm glad I never went."
Chagra stated that|_
] never described to him
whether or not the gun was underwater or buried. He just drew
the map with few, if any, accompanying verbal descriptip ns . Actually,
when the topic first came up between the two, \~~~
was whether or not the gun was visible to passersby.
think it was, but asked Joe to go and have a look. £
later asked Chagra if he had gone to get the gun or gone to
see the gun and Chagra told him that he was afr aid to go.
Chagra told I I "let it be." I I replied. "Forget
about it-no one will ever find it." Chagra stated he never
considered having anyone help him go and find the gun as "I didn't
trust anyone enough. "
Chagra stated tha t he told I about the
fact that he and| ^discussed "ge tting the gun" but he n ever
discussed it with anyone else, including T
As far as background events leading up to May, 1979,
Joseph Chagra advised that in late April early May of 1979,
I was living at Caesars Palace while his Las Vegas
residence was being built. Chagra did not recall for sure
whether or not he himself attended Binions World Championship
of Poker at the Binions Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas in late
April, early May, 1979, but he does not believe he did. He was
back and forth numerous times between Las Vegas and El Paso, Texas,
during that time, however . He is certa in he was neve r at Binions
— ] were there
Horseshoe Tournament when |
together. However , Joe Chagra "knows who was there when they
met because I I told me after the murder."
Joe Ch agra was in El Paso, Texas, on May 29, 1979. Attorney
J called him at home during the day and said, "Did
you hear?" Chagra replied, "No. What?"
murdered Judge Wood." Chagra thinks he replied,
kidding . "
You must be
Cha crra state d he may have made some derogatory comments
about Wood to during that phone call and to the press
and others later on, but he does not remember for sure. He may have
said to someone something to the effect, "I can't say I'm sorry
to hear it," but he does know that his main thought at the time
was that he and his family would be blamed. He recalls that
he told the press on this point, "it's the worst thing that
could happen to our case," meaning Jimmy Chag ra' s pending
Federa l narcotics case. Chagra recalled that|
I did make a statement to the press after some pretrial
hearings before Judge Wood in Midland, Texas, along the lines of
his chances of being acquitted without Wood as a trial judge
were at best 50-50, but with Wood as a trial Judge he had no
chance at all.
_ie probably did have meetings with
Las Vegas residence wher ein he
and Chagra discussed their reelings about Judge Wood in|
upcoming trial, in the presence of others, prior to Judge Wood ' s
murder. However, he does not recall any spec ific occasion or
those who w ere presen t, although he does know
and some of
during one or more suc h meetings at
friends and th ey mav have been present
He knows a
is a |
"[ also would ireque
whose name Joe Chagra does
| La s Vegas
associate nam ed I I
ly bring to Las Vegas
Joe Chagra of
Chagra does not remember compiling a specific file
of the results of any study he did on the sentencing policies
of Judge Wood. He stated he does have a 24-25 volume file "on
The only files he recalls having at £
Judge Wood , _ _
Las Vegas residence and discussing with him, possibly in the
presence of other s, was a file containing transcripts from
case which he felt contained informa tion which
would hej .p them get Judge Wood to recuse himself from
Chagra denied that he ever told [
] or anyone
else in the presence of any other persons "you c an't, allow your self
to be tried by Judge Wood." All he ever said to
about Wood being the trial judge was that | | would not get
a fair trial from Judge Wood.
Chaqra recalls meetinq
residence. | I was
. providing security fori
on one occasion that!
and that [_
J knows £
Joe Ch agra advised that he "wouldn't be surprised"
I used the personal telephone or teleph one extens ion
at Binion's Horseshoe Casino, as
is closer to
1 than a
Chagra stated that
One of f
^girlfriends , possibly the
one named [ | called Joe Chagra after
had skipped bond and become a fugitive. She asked to borrow
money from Joe , and commente d to him that the FBI had interviewed
her about w hat f 1 said to her on May 29, 1979, after
he ~| lea rned of Wood's murder. Joe Chagra told her that
the girl any money.
]was shocked by the murder, and he did not loan
Chaqra advised that he had never been present with □
talked to [
pay phone. He never saw the two together in person.
pilots he knows of th at have been u sed by himself,
_ on a
] of Las Vegas, and an unknown
white male pilot from Florida, who is thin, with brown hair,
approximately 5' 10" tal l. However, t his pilot was used by the
Chagra family only when I I lived in Florida, which
situation terminated in late 1978.
Joe Chaqra recalls that the [
[ had the name [
T'companion. ' He recalled
1 1 and |
| was 1
that when the company Jet Avia
was still in business in Las Vegas, [~™
a blonde white male pilot who flew for Jet Avia to f ly | I
and his family around. He did not kno w this pilot's name, but
this pilot testified for | at Chagra' s Federal narcotics
Chagra is una ware of
Tin Las Ve gas.
trial in Austin, Texas, in August, 1979.
any travel agencies used by I
but believes most of the plane reservations made for[
I Iwhen they we re living in Las Vegas were made
by | I
Chagra stated he never helped anyone trace Judge Wood's
movements during May, 1979, or at any other time. He never relayed
any such information concerning Judge Wood's travels and whereabouts
to anyone else, nor was he ever asked to do so. He does know
Deputy U. S. Marshall |but never asked for or obtained
information from him about Judge Wood.
Chagra stated that although he and |
Lee (before Lee was murdered) did discuss their hatred for Judge
Wood, they never "seriously" discussed killing Wood. He
was specifically asked at this point in the interview if he ever,
as a result of the "non serious" discussions about Wood, ever had
occasion to say "do it" where the meaning of his statement meant
"kill Wood." Chagra paused for a long time and then stated,
"No, I don't recall that." He repeated that response several
times, finally saying, "I don't think I would have said that in
front of anybody." This point was discussed at great length
and Chagra was asked to recall even any innocuous conversations,
prior to May 29, 1979, which might be interpreted as counseling,
suggesting or agreeing to the killing of Judge Wood. He advised
that he had not been involved in such conversations.
Joe Chagra was specifically asked if or
anyone else had ever told him prior to May 29, iy /y , that
Judge Wood was going to be killed. Chagra replied categorically,
"No." He stated that he had absolutely no suspi cion before
May 29, 1979, that Judge Wood was to be killed,
asked Joe Chagra if he even "consciously avoided" knowing of
or asking about any Wood plot, because he did not want to know.
Chagra stated that he did not "consciously avoid" discussing
or obtaining information about any supposed Wood plot prior to
May 29, 1979, because he did not know of any such plot which
needed to be "consciously avoided."
Chagra also stated that he never indicated after May 29,
1979, during any discussion with anyone, that he knew beforehand
or "should have known" beforehand, that Wood was going to be
murdered. He was asked if he was certain he had never made such
a statement to anyone after the crime, that could be interpreted
or clearly implied that he did not know about or was involved in the
murder beforehand. Chagra at first replied in the negative, but after
thinking for a moment, he requested to speak to his attorney privately.
He spoke with his attorney privately from 1;20 p.m. until 1 ;25 p.m.
When they returned to the interview room, | | stated
that Joe c onsidered the following information privileged and he
was furnishing it primarily for possibl e later
and to clarify the preceeding question.
advised that Jo e Chagra t old him that one time, when he was visiting
place of incarceration, Leavenworth,
Kansas, a con versation along the following lines transpired.
1 said, "Did I make a mistake?" This wa s in reference
to the Wood case. Joe Chagra replied, "Fuck yes." ~|
then said "jokingly," "Well it was your idea, you're the one
that di d it." Joe Chagra immediately replied, horrified that
would joke about such a t hing. "Don't e ven joke
You know it's not true." _
"I'm going to make a deal with the government and tell them you
are Mr. Big, you were running the family at that time and you set
it up." Joe Chagra again told^
like that, as that was not true"
not to joke about something
Chagra st ated that he h ad one conversation like this at
Leavenworth, where | | was joking with him, and one
conversation only of that nat ure transpired . He never at any
time had such discussion with | at any other place, and
was fai rly certain he had had no other similar discussions with
| ~~| Chagra stated he will polygraph concerning the information
he has supplied a bout this conv ersation. He stated that during
this conversation ! I was obviously joking, and he was
obviously shocked that I I would joke about such a thing,
as he (Joe) did not come up with the idea to murder Judge Wood,
nor did he or ganize or set up the murder, and he did not counsel
or agree with ] | that the Judge should be killed.
The topic of conversation briefly returned to I
and I k t El Paso during the summer of 1980. Chaar a was
sp ecifically a nd repeatedly asked whether or not he and |
and | ~| were ever together at the Howard Johnsons Motel
in El Paso, Texas, in August, 1980. Chagra asked to have a
private conference with his attorney, and he and his attorney
left the room. They conferred for approximately five minutes
and returned to the room, w hereupon |
advised that Joseph Chagra, I I and | "1 were
together on one occasion in 1 | room at the Howard Johnsons
Motel in El Paso, Texas, a few hours before the shootout in which]__
was captur ed. During this meeting, according to Chagra h imself,
1 discussed the Wood murder but stated to I 1 that he
room. Chagra state
He had gone down to
he was j:
>ositive it was
room and brought
6:00 p.m . on the aforementioned Sunday in August, 1980.
Chagra was t hen specifi cally asked whether or not he
had given any money to I during t his meeting or any
other meeting that he had with ! l in El Paso, Texas,
between June and August, 1980. He asked to have a private
conference with his attorney, which he did, and they returned
to t he interview room in approximately three minutes. At that
time I | advised that there was some money that did
go to I I from Joe Chagra but it had nothing to do with
the Wood murder.
Chagra advised that he knows |
years ago when Lee Chag ra was |
I and I f togeth er .
instan ce where I I and
I in his presence.
| as he
| attorney. He
He does not
Chagra know s that __^J is a good friend
I but he has never seen the two toaether.
Questioned again concerning the m ap drawn bv f
and then copied by him, Chagra stated that | | did not give
him any verbal instructions as he drew the map. He just drew the
map. He may have said something to the effect that it is "near a
Stuc key’s off 1 -20." but Chagra is not even sure. He got the map
from I | during the first or second meetin g that he had with
I at the Harris County Jail in Houston. I I
insisted that Chagra fully explain all circumstances surrounding
the map, noting that the map, without instructions, was useless.
Chagra reiterated that he did not ask for instructions because
he knew he would no t go get th e weapon. He acknowledged that
it is possible that I ~| assumed or even suggested he get
the gun, but he (Jo e) never intended to do so. Chagra denied,
ever telling I I that he would get the gun, and only told
had furnished a map, but that was all
specifically asked if he had ever discussed with
that the gun was 45 minutes away from Dallas, or similar statements.
Chagra stated he had no idea as to the exact location of the gun
and, theref ore, could not have held such a conversation. Chagra also
told him the gun was buried, that he might need
a metal detector to find it, or that the gun was under water.
Chagra st ate
in late April, or early May, 1979.
that he does not know whether or not
gambled together in Las Vegas
After a brief break in the interview, SAl | advised
Chagra that the FBI had solid evidence that he had knowledge
of the planned murder of Judge Wood prior to May 29, 1979, and
that he had apparently been less than candid on this and several
other issues in the interview. Chagra stated that he would like
to see evidence of any kind which conflicted with his denial of
prior knowledge, and agreed to listen to a recording of two persons
discussing the Wood murder.
A portion of a tape recorded conversation between |
land Joseph Chagra was then played for Chagra and his Attorney,
] The first portion of the tape played for them
contained a conversation wherein Jimmy Chagra said, in reference
to the Wood murder, "Boy, we shouldn't have don e that, huh Jo e?"
Joe replied, "Shouldn't have done it," and then [
"You were the one that said do it, do it, do it.
was all hot to do i t. " T he tape was then stopped. (It should
You're the one
be noted tha t as
set up the tape recorder and arranged
and Chag ra to listen to the recording over individual
[commented, "I guess you could say there
has been some electronic surveillance in this investigation,"
He then warned Joe Chagra that "if you're not a party to the
conversation, you don't have to explain it.")
At t he conclusion of the aforementioned portion of the
~~ 1 asked Joe Chagra who the "other" perso n on the tape
1 Joe Chagra then
was, and he replied that it was , i ---.
said that this was the "joking" conversation he had with|
at Leavenworth, which he had previously described. Chagra was then
asked to re peat again wha t his response was to the alleged "joking"
comments of I whic h he ha d just heard. He stated that
he immediately responded that should not even joke about
something like this, as it was not true and was not funny.
Interviewing Agents then advised Chagra that they were be
going to play the remaining portion of this co nversation so he b7c
could listen to it on tape. I | at this time stood
up and said that he did not need to hear anymore tape, he would
believe the Agents if they said they had more on tape, and
requested that the Agents just read the remaining portion of
the conversatio n from th e transcript. Interviewing Agents insisted
that Cha gra and! | listen to the conversation on the tape,
to which T | agreed.
The remaining porti on of thi s particular conversation
was then played so Chagra and
headphones. In this porti on of the conversation, Joe Chagra
] could hear it through their
'Weil , I thoug
you're the one that said do it," comment
you'd get the Mafia to do it."
Immediately upon hearing this portion of the tape, Joe
Chagra' s face turned white, he removed his headphones, leaned
back in his chair and stared at the ceiling with his hands
clasped across his chest, without saying anything. This posture
continued for the rest of the interview. He made no further
statement regarding the recorded conversation.
SA | | then went on to state that the FBI had tape
recorded an extensive number of conversations to which he was a
party, and that these conversations involved discussions of
numerous past, present, and planned crimes, such as the murder
of witness Henry Wallace, the importation of narcotics into the
United States and the smuggling of narcotics into vario us prisons,
escapes from prisons, the murder of
attempted murder of Assistant United States Attorney James Kerr, etc.
Chagra stated upon hearing this, "Yeah, but who always brought it
up?" He was told that in the government's view, the content and
extent of the conversations, in a criminal sense, particularly
regarding the Wood murder, but in other areas also, was such that
the FBI could not agree with his claim of no prior knowledge or
involvement and that, of course, this would be an issue for a
jury to decide. He was told that, as in any criminal matter,
should he change his position and be willing to volunteer his
cooperation, knowledge and testimony regarding this heinous crime,
and if his cooperation was total, candid in all areas, and forth-
coming in the immediate future, the extensive possible charges
facing him might be mitigated somewhat. It was clearly explained,
ho wever, that t his was not a plea bargain offer as such, but only
SA | ~1 opinion and position on the issue of his possible
cooperation regarding the Wood murder. He was told that any actual
plea bargaining should be initiated between his attorney and the
prosecutors assigned to the Wood case. Chagra made no comment
except, "I understand."
SA I | concluded the interview by stating that
Chagra had obviously lied to the FBI during this interview, and
had apparently also lied to his attorney and that a n explanat ion
should b e forthcoming from Chagra concer ning this. I |
~1 commented at this point, "Yes." I I then
requested to speak to his client alone, and the interview was
| and Joe Chagra subsequently spoke to Assistant
United States Attorneys and Special Prosecutors in the Wood murder
case, W. Ray Jahn and John C. Emerson, as well as Assistant
United States Attorney LeRoy Jahn. They departed the San Antonio
Office of the FBI at 2:51 p.m.