Juror breaks 40 year silence —Ted Kennedy protected by cover-up, he charges

The grand jury foreman in Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick case reveals in an exclusive ENQUIRER interview that he was intimidated in an effort to cover up the senator’s role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Leslie Leland has broken his 40-year silence to speak for the first time about the legendary car wreck that changed the course of American politics.

Leland told The ENQUIRER that he and his family received death threats, and that he and his fellow jurors were stalled by "intimidation and tampering" from law enforcement officials.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if the grand jury had been allowed to do its job, we would have returned a manslaughter verdict against the senator," 69-year-old Leland told The ENQUIRER.

"It was a cover-up from beginning to end to protect Sen. Kennedy – and now he has taken the truth with him to the grave."

In a blockbuster new book – Left to Die – Leland and co-author J.B. Shaffer blows wide open the untold scandal surrounding the drowning of Mary Jo.

Leland was the 28-year-old foreman of the grand jury on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., after Kennedy’s car hurtled off a wooden bridge into a tidal pond on Chappaquiddick island in 1969.

Kennedy, who died of brain cancer on Aug. 25, escaped from the submerged vehicle, but 28-year-old Mary Jo – a Washington aide who’d been partying with Kennedy and a group of pals – drowned.

When Leland convened his grand jury to investigate, his own nightmare began.

"The first terrifying phone call told me, ‘You’re not going to like what will happen to your wife and kids if you go through with this – there are people who don’t want this grand jury, and they’re willing to make sure it doesn’t happen,’" he told The ENQUIRER.

A few days later, he received another threatening call – followed by a letter which reiterated the threats. But he refused to yield.

"I decided I couldn’t let a girl’s death be swept under the rug because of the political influence of the man who supposedly drove the car into the pond accidentally," he explained.

But, incredibly, when he assembled the grand jurors on April 6, 1970, he found himself battling the district attorney – and the judge.

"The DA met me at the courthouse door and told me that the judge was seriously considering charging me with contempt if I went ahead."

He was also told – wrongly – that he was not allowed to subpoena Kennedy or other potentially damaging witnesses.

The grand jury inquiry quickly fizzled after testimony from a few minor witnesses.

Leland says he’s convinced Kennedy had been drinking and had romance on his mind when he drove Mary Jo from the party to the bridge. He contends the grand jury had a long list of tough questions for Kennedy – most importantly: Why didn’t he report the accident for more than 10 hours?

"The grand jury was the last hurdle for Sen. Kennedy – and once he had gotten past us, he was in the clear," said Leland. "He faced nothing worse than pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and having his license suspended."