John Stamos wants his new Sinatra-kidnapping podcast to ‘shine a light’ on mental illness by telling the controversial story through the kidnapper’s eyes

John Stamos wants his new Sinatra-kidnapping podcast to ‘shine a light’ on mental illness by telling the controversial story through the kidnapper’s eyes

  • John Stamos hopes to “shine a light” on mental illness in his new podcast “Snatching Sinatra.”
  • Barry Keenan talks about mental health issues, addiction, and kidnapping Frank Sinatra Jr. in 1963.
  • Keenan was sentenced to 75 years in prison but only served 4.5 years. A court called him “insane.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

John Stamos said he hopes to “shine a light” on mental illness in his new true-crime podcast “The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra” by having the kidnapper himself recount the abduction of the legendary Frank Sinatra’s teenage son. 

The 10-episode podcast, which debuted Tuesday, tells the story of Barry Keenan kidnapping then 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr. in 1963 to secure a hefty ransom of $240,000 from the elder Sinatra. Stamos, the host, chats with Keenan, who opens up about his ultra-religious family, mental health, addiction, and the crime at the center of the story.

While promoting the podcast, Stamos told Insider on Monday that the now 81-year-old Keenan has an “uncanny memory” and remembers most details about the kidnapping that took place almost 60 years ago. According to Stamos, the team behind “Snatching Sinatra” was able to verify 98% of what Keenan recounted.

Stamos said Keenan is “clearly a guy who had mental [health] issues,” and that’s a large part of why he wanted the podcast to focus on his perspective.

“I am proud to shine a light on that in this podcast,” he continued. “You see in the ’40s and ’50s, mental illness was not talked about. It was swept under the rug.”

To Stamos’ point, in the first “Snatching Sinatra” episode, Keenan recounts hearing “angels” as a young boy but when he told a family member, they said Keenan shouldn’t tell anyone else.

A post shared by John Stamos (@johnstamos)

Keenan said he heard God speak to him prior to the kidnapping

In “Snatching Sinatra,” Keenan claims God spoke to him over the radio in the early ’60s and told him to go through with the kidnapping to get his life back on track after a series of personal and professional setbacks. The only condition from God was that no one is seriously harmed or injured during the kidnapping, Keenan said.

While Keenan might have claimed that he was egged on by God, the court that convicted him for the 1963 abduction said Keenan was “mentally insane.”

Keenan and his accomplices, Joe Amsler and John Irwin, were initially sentenced to 75 years in prison in 1964 for kidnapping Sinatra. The sentences against the three men were later brought down to 25 years and they became eligible for a psychiatric evaluation. 

“They said in effect that I was legally and mentally insane at the time of the kidnapping,” Keenan told the Washington Post in 1998. “And we had no criminal malice, and didn’t fit the profile of normal criminals.”

Keenan ultimately only served 4.5 years in prison, while Irwin and Amsler each served 3.5 years. 

A post shared by John Stamos (@johnstamos)

Stamos made clear to Insider what is also reiterated on the podcast: “Snatching Sinatra” doesn’t aim to “condone” what Keenan did. 

“The whole way through we say it was a terrible, terrible mistake. He says [it was] a terrible mistake,” Stamos said.

He continued: “I also wanted to show redemption, and part of his redemption story was he got really involved in jail reform and prison reform. He’s a big [Alcoholics Anonymous] guy, a big program guy that helped a lot of people with substance abuse.”

Stamos added that real goal of “Snatching Sinatra” isn’t to weigh in on whether what Keenan did “was right or wrong” but to try and understand “what has to go through someone’s mind to do something” like the infamous kidnapping.

The first two episodes of “Snatching Sinatra” are currently available to stream on Wondery and other podcast platforms, with new episodes premiering every Tuesday. The full series is available ad-free on Wondery+ for $4/month.

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