Feds Want Dallas Federal Judge to Decide Who Owns Letter Jackie Wrote to Ethel Kennedy

Back in 2006 Unfair Park's across-the-street neighbor Heritage Auction Galleries sold some letters written and signed by Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert. 'Round the same time, the auction house came into possession of a note of condolences Jackie Kennedy had written to Ethel shortly after Robert was gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968.

As far as Heritage knew, it belonged to Richard Goodkin, who'd gotten it after it passed through the hands of several other owners -- beginning, apparently, with a plumber who'd worked in Ethel's house. But according to Max Kennedy, Robert and Ethel's son, the plumber stole it -- which is what he told the Dallas Division of the FBI in 2006, prompting the feds to notify Heritage it needed to yank the letter out of the auction, which it did. In 2009, the feds actually seized the letter as part of an investigation into the sale of stolen goods -- an investigation that has since wrapped, with no prosecution expected.

That comes from the feds' own pleadings filed in Dallas federal court on Friday and posted on Courthouse News today. U.S. Attorney Jim Jacks says the FBI still has the letter in its Dallas offices due to "its personal nature and historical significance," but wants a federal judge here to decide who owns it: Ethel Kennedy or Goodkin, who's trying to sell it to the highest bidder. Jacks also wants to make sure that whoever ends up with the missive can't sue the feds later on.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky