Wow! I had the wind-up bike when I was a kid, but NOT the baseball bat.
MIAMI (AP) -- 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.
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, the federal 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.
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 $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, according to subjects quoted in the file.
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.
One man told agents he received a threatening phone call, and shortly after was beaten by a Knievel associate who left him hospitalized. The man was interviewed by the FBI, but could remember his assailant's black loafers better than his facial features.
Authorities first wanted to charge Knievel with violations of the Hobbs Act, which prohibits interfering with interstate commerce by attempting to rob or extort someone. But the case was dropped when a new federal prosecutor picked up the case and decided there was insufficient evidence. The federal government today won't comment.
Not all of Knievel's altercations were detailed by the FBI.
Bob Gill, a competitor of Knievel's during the 1970s, said he was part of a confrontation associated with Knievel, but the daredevil later apologized and denied his involvement and the two became friends. Gill was not interviewed by the FBI, but said his run-in mirrored others described in the file. He declined to elaborate.
"I was really, really mad at Evel over the whole thing, but he apologized at least 10 times, and said it was out of his control and I believed him," Gill said.
Gill, who was paralyzed after a failed stunt, said Knievel tried to help him set up a meeting with a doctor who Gill thought would help him walk again. He said Knievel also devised a plan to help pay for the expenses.
"Evel's never done any wrong besides that one little incident," Gill said. "And he's made up for it 1,000 times."