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.

Knievel, who died last November in Clearwater, Fla., repeatedly denied his involvement to both investigators and victims, according to the documents.

"Knievel stated that he was not responsible for what just happened to (name redacted) and that he had no control over the 'thing'" according to one phone conversation recounted in an FBI interview.

Knievel, immortalized in the Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," donned red, white and blue for his death-defying stunts. He had a knack for outrageous yarns and claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker and a holdup man.

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.

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