Did John Kerry Represent an Art Thief?

A new book outs a former legal client of Kerry as a possible player in the nation's biggest art heist.

By + More

By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Right-wingers love to tar Democratic presidential candidates as soft on crime and terrorism, often using a criminal figure to hype their message. Most recently, President Obama had Weatherman Bill Ayers. Most famously, Michael Dukakis had furloughed felon Willie Horton. And less well known, in 2004 Sen. John Kerry had George Reissfelder. Now, a new book shows that Reissfelder—one of Kerry's clients from his defense lawyer days—may have been behind the largest burglary in American history, the 1990 theft of a dozen paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The missing paintings, from Rembrandt, Degas, and others, worth as much as $600 million, have never been found.

In The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, Ulrich Boser uncovers new evidence that Reissfelder may have been one of the thieves. "I found FBI files that indicate that Reissfelder possibly helped steal the art, and he looks almost exactly like one of the police composites," Boser, a U.S. News alum, says.

Enter Kerry. In the early 1980s, he and a pal were tagged to help Reissfelder get out of a 1966 wrongful murder rap. They did. "I was George's court-appointed lawyer, and it was a hell of a case," recalls Kerry. "A priest was even released from his vow of confidentiality to testify for George. George was no angel. But after 15 years lost in prison for a murder he didn't commit, we got justice, and I'll go to my grave proud that we did." says Kerry. That's where it ended for Kerry. "I don't know what he did afterwards, but I know he met a pretty tragic end [he died of a drug overdose in 1991]. Now we read this. It looks like the largest theft since the Devil Rays took what should have been the Red Sox's 2008 American League championship. I don't know if those paintings ended up on eBay, but I do know they're not on my walls."

Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR

Check out our gallery of Whispers political cartoons.

Follow Paul and Nikki on Twitter.

Check out more of the new Washington Whispers.