“Judo” Gene LeBell Was Once Charged With Murder, Intrigue

February 24, 2014
"Judo" Gene LeBell

“Judo” Gene LeBell

“Judo” Gene LeBell is a long-time familiar character in the martial arts community. LeBell is legendary in Judo and Wrestling circles, and was a stunt man and actor in Hollywood. Most recently, he is remembered for the story that he had a dispute with Aikido expert Steven Seagal – partly concerning Seagals crippling treatment of fellow stuntmen while filming. As the rumor goes, LeBell choked Segal out to the point where Seagal actually crapped his pants.

What most people have never heard of is that in 1976 Lebell was charged in an investigation into the murder of Robert Hall, a private detective with mob and intelligence ties. It’s a sordid tale that weaves in and out of rock music, Hollywood drug connections and the covert financing of Richard Nixon’s election.

The best place to start is with the article linked here, from The New York Times dated September 13 1976. In the above article, Robert Hall was described as an expert in wiretapping and was a private detective that operated for wealthy businessmen in illegal activity. LeBell, along with pornographer Jack Ginsburgs were accused of the killing. Hall was shot through the open window of his house.
Robert Hall had worked for fugitive Robert Vesco, who at the time was hiding out in Costa Rica. Vesco was accused of giving an illegal $200,000 campaign donation to Richard Nixon. Ginsburgs, the pornographer was a minor witness in the trial of Thomas P. Richardson. Richardson, an associate of Vesco, had flown guns and prostitutes down to Vesco in Costa Rica. Robert Hall had also been flown down to check Vesco’s residence for bugging devices. According to the article, Ginsburgs and LeBell had a beef with Hall at the time of the murder. But the story gets even wilder. Researcher Alex Constantine describes Robert Halls criminal endeavors:

“The subterranean channels of the intelligence world swarmed with crooks and killers. When agents veered over the top and into the headlines, they were sometimes shown the door by the CIA, and many entered the private investigations business. This is the industry that belched forth the late Robert Hall, Robert Vesco’s security chief and a security contractor for Howard Hughes (who died on April 6, 1976, a few months before Hall himself was found dead). Jim Hougan, an investigative reporter and former editor of Harpers, describes the Burbank private investigator as a “sleaze,” a pathological lowlife, “decidedly larcenous. a father, a wire-tapper, an informer, a dope peddler and a double agent.” [10] He was also a gun toting paranoiac, nagged by the perennial belief that someone wanted him dead.

The late Bobby Hall loved his work, but a Jewish pornographer and drug dealer from Shanghai ended all that. Hall was obsessed with intrigue, and, notes Hougan, “unchecked intrigue can certainly get even the most seasoned investigator into situations that quickly become questionable.” Hall blackmailed Robert Vesco and was involved in a burglary at Summa Corporation, the inner sanctum of the Howard Hughes empire.

He believed that fugitive financier Vesco wanted him dead, but there were scores of LA fixers, trigger-men and covert operators, each nursing a grudge, who would have happily disposed of him. Prominent among Angelenos harboring homicidal feelings toward Hall count those hooked on his famous “Happy Shots,” potent methamphetamine mixed with vitamin B-12. LA. prosecutors suspected that the corrupt private investigator was blackmailing these clients and many others.”

Constantine continues:

“Police searched Hall’s house for clues to his murder. Instead, they stumbled upon Ian Fleming’s techno-dreams: several cases of electronic bugging and debugging equipment, a tranquilizer dart gun, drug-tipped darts, tear-gas canisters, syringes, ampules of narcotics, lock-picking devices, and cartons filled with more than two-hundred audio tapes, an archive of corruption implicating powerful politicians and popular celebrities in drug trafficking, prostitution, blackmail and all varieties of criminal and political shenanigans. Some of Hall’s best friends were interviewed by police — among them crooner Eddie Fisher.

Hall had once been retained by the managers of seven rock bands to investigate physicians who’d slipped their clients fraudulent prescriptions, mega-potency drugs that altered their personalities, sabotaged public appearances, and hampered their lives and music. Hall reported back that two doctors and a dentist had prescribed the pharmaceuticals. This information was turned over to the authorities. No action was taken. [12]

Hall was gunned down shortly thereafter. The homicide investigation turned up tapes of bugged conversations recorded by Robert Hall. Captain Jack Egger of the Beverly Hills Police Department abruptly resigned, citing “health” reasons, his underworld connections caught on the 300 tapes confiscated from LA. stockbroker and gunrunner Thomas P. Richardson, a crony of Hall’s convicted to a six-year prison term for stealing millions from a long list of banks, brokerage houses and Ivy League college funds. [13]

Egger’s sudden departure from the Beverly Hills police force, the Los Angeles Times noted, “was precipitated by Burbank detectives playing selected tape recordings [from Hall’s collection] for Beverly Hills Police Chief Edward Kreina.” [14]

The press linked the detective to Washington politicians, famed Hollywood celebs embroiled in corrosive drug and sex scandals, cocaine traffic from LA to Malibu, international sporting events, and the LAPD. It was George Yocham, a former police lieutenant, retired, chairman of the Police Science Department at LA. Valley College, and Robert Hall himself who had given the five-shot, .38 Caliber Centennial Special used in his murder to alleged triggerman Jack Ginsberg, alias Jack Ginsburgs. [15] Yocham was employed as a private detective for Hall’s agency after leaving the Beverly Hills Police Department in 1971, after 25 years of service.

Ginsburgs was Hall’s business partner and a consultant to Richardson. Also a pornographer with connections to organized crime, the proprietor of XXX, Inc. on Prairie Street in Chatsworth, California. Hougan: “The son of a White Russian emigre, he’d spent his youth inside the decadent Shanghai Bund — that romantic foreign colony which [was] a meld of opium, kinky sex and intrigue.” The transcript of Richardson’s trial reveals that Captain Egger enlisted Ginsburgs as a police informant. He also made Hall a “double agent” in the Richardson stock fraud case. Gene LeBell, the famed ex- wrestler, karate expert and Hollywood stunt man, was charged in Hall’s murder as well. LeBell is well-known in any gymnasium, the son of Aileen Eaton, the famed Olympic Auditorium boxing promoter. It was Eaton who refereed the bout between heavyweight pugilist Muhammed Ali and martial arts star Antonio Inoki. [16]

Lebell was a third partner in Hall’s private detective firm, and owned a pharmacy in Hollywood — the same pharmacy that distributed tainted drugs to rock musicians — and Hall had blown the whistle.”

The late “Queen of conspiracy research”, Mae Brussell goes further in Halls connections with this lengthy analysis from her article “Operation Chaos”:

“Hall’s contacts were important because they touched the prime movers of our politics, movies, electoral processes, entertainment, and also our tastes in music and in sounds.
Within moments of Hall’s murder, his name was linked with possible murder for hire, kidnapping plans for millionaire financier Robert Vesco’s son, gun running to Vesco in Costa Rica, the unsolved stabbing of actor Sal Mineo, blackmail, the lost safe deposit box of Howard Hughes that could contain his original will, Beverly Hills financier Thomas P. Richardson (recently convicted of a $25 million stock fraud), Hollywood’s most famous celebrities in drug and sex scandals, exposures of televisions stars and high Washington officials, drug traffic from Los Angeles to the Malibu community, international sports events, the Los Angeles Police Department (one of their former agents is now retired, heads the Police Science Department at L.A. Valley College and supplied the fatal weapon used to kill Hall), Los Angeles Police Department Chief Ed Davis (because of his links to the FBI and CIA) a possible plot to kidnap Bernard Cornfeld (associate of Robert Vesco), past contacts with Mickey Cohen, the long drug addiction of singer Eddie Fisher, contract employment of Hall by Howard Hughes Summa Corp., the two burglaries of Hughes headquarters in Van Nuys and on Romaine Street. The burglary on Romaine Street set off the Glomar Explorer scandal of Hughes fronting the contract for the CIA.
Hall sent his pals to New York. Dr. Max Jacobson, titled Dr. Feelgood, the source of John F. Kennedy’s happy time vitamins. Roy B. Loftin, contractor for NASA, Texan, with a long association and friendship for Bobby Baker, Lyndon Johnson’s protege, knew Hall.
Investigations into the slain Burbank private detective caused Beverly Hills Police Captain Jack Eggers, on the force seventeen years, to resign.
Hall worked as a double agent for the Beverly Hills Police and the Los Angeles Police.
The relationship between law enforcement, drug traffic, and personalities as varied as politicians and musicians makes it sometimes impossible to get an impartial investigation of certain deaths. What appears as suicide can be murder.
At the time of Hall’s murder, his possessions included tranquilizer guns, drug loaded darts that fire gas canisters, electronic bugging equipment of all kinds, and a wide variety of chemical formulas.”

Mae Brussell speculates that Hall’s involvment in the rock music industry may have contributed to or resulted in the overdoses of many of the rock stars of the “60’s – some who were very politically active.

LeBell appealed his case in 1979; Here’s some of the court transcript:

People v. Lebell (1979) 89 Cal.App.3d 772 , 152 Cal.Rptr. 840
[Crim. No. 31640. Second Dist., Div. Two. Feb. 26, 1979.]
THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. GENE LEBELL, Defendant and Appellant.

(Opinion by Roth, P. J., with Fleming and Beach, JJ., concurring.) [89 Cal.App.3d 773]


Appellant and Jack Ginsburgs were charged by information with the crime of murder, in violation of Penal Code section 187. By amendment adding a second count appellant was also charged as an accessory after the fact of the same crime, in violation of Penal Code section 32. Appellant’s trial by jury was severed and he was acquitted on the murder charge but found guilty as an accessory. Probation was granted for a period of three years on condition appellant spend the first year in county jail. The appeal is from the judgment of conviction.

On July 22, 1976, Robert (Bobby) Hall together with Lawrence Mathes resided at 521 S. Mariposa in the City of Burbank. At some time between 10:30 p.m. and shortly after 11 o’clock Hall entered the kitchen of the house, Mathes heard a shot from that area and upon his own entry into the kitchen found Hall lying on the floor with a fatal gunshot wound in the head. Hall was a private investigator who had alienated various persons in connection with his work, among whom were his former friends Ginsburgs and appellant. Ginsburgs was convicted of the murder though evidence at the trial in the matter here considered was insufficient to directly implicate appellant in the commission of the crime. The evidence which supported the verdict of his guilt as accessory after the fact consisted of the testimony of John Egger, who was at the time of the killing, and until August 21, 1976, a captain in the Beverly Hills Police Department and a friend or acquaintance of appellant, the victim and Ginsburgs, and the contents of two tape-recorded interviews conducted surreptitiously by Egger with appellant on September 10, 1976; the first tape on the premises of a grocery market and the second the same day at appellant’s home.

Egger’s direct testimony bearing upon the conviction herein concerned a telephone call received by him from Ginsburgs on the night of the murder at about 11 p.m. wherein Ginsburgs admitted his guilt, as follows: [89 Cal.App.3d 775]

“A. I picked up the telephone and said, ‘Hello.’ And Mr. Ginsburgs’ voice said, ‘Taisho, I got the sonofabitch. I shot him right in the back of the head or the back of the neck. I just walked up the driveway and there he was in the kitchen, and I shot him.’ And I said, ‘You’re kidding.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not.’ I said, ‘Why are you telling me?’ He said, ‘I thought you’d like to know.’

“He said, ‘I’d like to see you tonight and talk to you in person.’ And I told him that I was busy doing something for the police department and I would contact him later. And I heard Mr. Lebelle’s voice in the background, a voice I recognize as Mr. Lebelle’s–


So LeBell was convicted of being an accessory to the crime, primarily by driving Ginsburgs to the crime scene. According to The Los Angeles Times, Ginsburgs was turned down for parole in October 1986:

Killer’s Impending Parole Scuttled by Extortion Plot
October 08, 1986|BILL FARR | Times Staff Writer
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Former Chatsworth pornographer Jack Ginsburgs, convicted of killing a Burbank private detective 10 years ago, had his scheduled 1990 parole date canceled Tuesday for extorting $1,000 from a fellow inmate’s mother.
The state Board of Prison Terms ruled that evidence showed Ginsburgs, 47, received the money from the mother of fellow murderer Gordon Barkley after telling another Barkley relative that “he is in deep trouble with us up here” at the California Men’s Colony, where both men are serving terms.
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Al Botello told the parole board that, while Ginsburgs’ original term may have represented sufficient punishment for his initial crime, the March 19 extortion effort “showed he is still totally unsuitable to be released.”
Ginsburgs’ lawyer, Daniel Helbert of San Luis Obispo, unsuccessfully argued that by 1990 Ginsburgs would have been punished enough.
Neither Ginsburgs nor the Barkleys testified at the six-hour hearing. A certified letter in which Barkley’s mother sent Ginsburgs the $1,000 was introduced into the record, Botello said.
Ginsburgs, former operator of a San Fernando Valley pornography business, was convicted of first-degree murder in the July, 1976, killing of private investigator Robert Duke Hall, a former friend and business associate of Ginsburgs.
Gene LeBell, a martial arts expert and the son of former Olympic Auditorium boxing promoter Aileen Eaton, was acquitted of a murder charge but convicted as an accessory for driving Ginsburgs to and from the murder scene. LeBell’s conviction was later overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

LeBell, who may have been living fast and loose in the ’60” and ’70’s was obviously not guilty of the murder. But he was staring down the abyss of corruption surrounding Richard Nixon, Howard Hughes, Robert Vesco, the intelligence agencies, Hollywood drug trafficking and who knows what else.
I’m sure he’s got a few good stories to tell…

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6 Responses to “Judo” Gene LeBell Was Once Charged With Murder, Intrigue

  1. DR on July 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    To Dave Tice;

    I got your message and kept it off the board for your privacy. You can message me again if you have further details and I will keep it private if you wish.
    I did a little background check on you and you seem legit,

  2. paul schneider on February 14, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Ginsburgs was his name, not an alias. At least it was so when we both worked at the Bank of America in the late 50s and were roommates, for awhile, in the early 60s. I continued to live with him when he married Arlene (I believe that was her name) as she asked me to stay for a bit. I tired of this and moved on with my life. I was living in Seattle in ’77 when I read about what had transpired in ’76. I just wanted to affirm that his name was, indeed, Ginsburgs. That is not an alias.

    • DR on February 14, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks for the additional info Paul, if you have any more on the topic feel free to comment again and I will reply to you privately off the website,

  3. Guss Holguin on December 22, 2015 at 2:00 am

    What a story. It reads like a James Elroy novel. Thing is,I believe it.

  4. Fritz on August 16, 2022 at 6:39 pm

    I agree with DR. This would make an awesome (seedy) movie.

  5. Bob on August 2, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    I’d like to reply to this since George yocham was my mother’s brother and the electronics genius involved with the bugs was my father… Find your Bobbie Hall, Jack Ginsburg, Gene LaBelle and all that group of people even met vesco. Jean and Jack used to go out to bouquet canyon riding motorcycles. Doing the bell gave me his 250 Motorsport. All I had to do was climb the top of that hill he said and I did. Bobby Hall himself Gave me a mystery shot in the butt one afternoon at the home under the Hollywood sign …(yes my father and uncle were there)…because I had severe allergies at age 14 or 15 and whatever, that happy shot was cured me in 4 minutes

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