Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 7 News List

FBI file details the dark side of the late Evil Knievel

AP , MIAMI

Evel Knievel never denied his scrapes with the law — the late motorcycle daredevil often reveled in them. But even he objected to a 1970s FBI investigation of whether he was involved in a string of beatings.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press showed that the US government came close to charging Knievel, who in turn threatened to sue the FBI for alleging he was connected to a crime syndicate.

Neither followed through.

Knievel, who died in November in Clearwater, Florida, repeatedly denied his involvement to both investigators and victims, the documents showed.

“Knievel stated that he was not responsible for what just happened to [name redacted] and that he had no control over the ‘thing,”’ according to one phone conversation recounted in an FBI interview.

Knievel, immortalized in the Smithsonian Institution as “America’s Legendary Daredevil,” donned red, white and blue for his death-defying stunts. He had a knack for outrageous yarns and claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker and a holdup man.

His most well-known run-in with the law was a 1977 attack on movie studio executive Shelly Saltman, whom the daredevil beat with a baseball bat in the parking lot of 20th Century Fox.

Saltman promoted Knievel’s infamous attempt to jump Idaho’s Snake River Canyon and then wrote a book about the experience, angering Knievel by portraying him as “an alcoholic, a pill addict, an anti-Semite and an immoral person.”

Knievel was sentenced to six months in jail and Saltman won a US$12.75 million judgment, but never collected. Saltman did not return a phone message recently to discuss the FBI file.

Knievel’s file shows investigators believed he was involved with other violent acts — a threat in Phoenix, an attack in a Kansas City hotel room and a vicious beating in San Francisco. All were allegedly carried out by Knievel associates, subjects quoted in the file said.

The investigation bounced between field offices in Miami, Chicago and California. Knievel’s business associates were interviewed, his phone records examined.

Of the 202 pages of Knievel’s 290-page file released to the AP, some were heavily redacted, with identities, interviews and contact information excluded. The names of victims were not released, though some details of their experiences were.

The daredevil’s widow, Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, said she was unaware of any FBI investigation involving her husband and declined further comment. They were married in 1999.

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