A California parole board this month rejected a dramatic plea to release the convicted slayer of 1968 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, thereby continuing one of the nation's most notorious murder cover-ups.
Kennedy friend Paul Schrade, 91, argued that the convicted Sirhan B. Sirhan, firing from Kennedy's front, could not have killed the New York senator in a hotel massacre that left Schrade wounded.
"Kennedy was a man of justice," Schrade told the parole board Feb. 10 in a prepared statement at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, CA.
"But, so far," Schrade continued, "justice has not been served in this case. And I feel obliged as both a shooting victim and as an American to speak out about this — and to honor the memory of the greatest American I’ve ever known, Robert Francis Kennedy."
The board refused to grant clemency despite additional evidence from multiple witnesses and books through the years supporting defense claims that Kennedy (shown in a file photo at left) was killed from the rear.
Today's column begins ramped up coverage here by the Justice Integrity Project of the 1968 assassinations of Robert Kennedy (widely known as "RFK" in news headlines) and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The full text of Schrade's unsuccessful arguments to California's parole board, shown below, provides a powerful new dimension to the historical debate.
This month was the first time Schrade has made such a verbal plea on behalf of a Sirhan, who is widely regarded by researchers (but not publicly by authorities) as a likely victim of mind-control before he fired at Kennedy, who had left a ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel via a hotel kitchen when he was shot.
Sirhan, a former race track exercise jockey who disappeared from his family for many weeks shortly before the shooting, has maintained that he could not remember details of his actions, including repetitious entries in his diary "RFK must die" that defenders describe as a symptom of mind control by unknown perpetrators.
Authorities have kept Sirhan in solitary confinement in essence for more than 45 years while his advocates have unsuccessfully argued for a new investigation or clemency. His most recent parole hearing before this year's was in 2011.
Schrade addressed his remarks in part to Sirhan (shown at right in a prison photo).
"Sirhan, I forgive you," said Schrade, whom Sirhan shot in the forehead in the pantry. Schrade continued:
"The evidence clearly shows you were not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy."
"There is clear evidence of a second gunman in that kitchen pantry who shot Robert Kennedy," said Schrade. "One of the bullets — the fatal bullet — struck Bob in the back of the head. Two bullets struck Bob literally in his back. A fourth bullet struck the back of his coat’s upper right seam and passed harmlessly through his coat. I believe all four of those bullets were fired from a second gunman standing behind Bob. You were never behind Bob, nor was Bob’s back ever exposed to you."
Also, Schrade presented documents supporting not only his call for Sirhan's release but also his plea for a new official investigation of the 1968 assassination.
Among them was a letter from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. supporting a new, complete investigation of the only known recording of his father's shooting. The 2012 letter, sent by the late senator's second-eldest son to then-U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, endorsed Schrade's request for a complete FBI analysis of an audiotape recording made by freelance newspaper reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski.
Audio expert Philip Van Praag says the Pruszynski tape -- the only known recording of the Ambassador Hotel gunshots -- captured a total of 13 shots, five more than Sirhan's gun could fire. FBI documents obtained in 2014 through the Freedom of Information Act reveal the Bureau's audio analysts responded to the Kennedy-supported Schrade request for a full examination by conducting only a cursory, inconclusive review of that recording. The FBI failed even to reach out to Van Praag for key information about his findings.
The killing occurred at the Ambassador shortly after the elder Kennedy, 42, was announced as winning California's Democratic presidential primary. The death removed a leading contender who was poised to win the presidency in 1968.
Instead, Republican Richard Nixon (shown at right in an official photo) narrowly defeated Vice President Hubert Humphrey, whose late-starting candidacy was crippled by dissension across the nation and especially within the Democratic Party. Among causes were protests over the Vietnam War waged by the administration of incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson and many post-assassination riots in cities after the 1968 assassinations of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
This month for the 15th time, California officials denied parole for Sirhan, who was convicted of murder in the first degree during a trial in 1969 and sentenced to death in a gas chamber before separate legal decisions abolished the death penalty in California.
An Associated Press photo by Gregory Bull, who was the pool photographer for the nation's media, shows Schrade's reaction to this month's proceedings.
Schrade, a former United Auto Workers official and friend to Kennedy, is far from alone in his belief in Sirhan's innocence in killing Robert Kennedy, even if Sirhan shot Schrade. At least a dozen books dating back nearly five decades have attacked the investigation and verdict.
"The man convicted of the crime could not possibly have done it," wrote best-selling authors Richard Belzer and David Wayne, for example, in their 2013 book Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation Into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination., a successor to their 2012 book on the topic Dead Wrong. "Furthermore, he was obviously programmed, as experts have determined."
Schrade, shown with Kennedy in a file photo, was one of five shooting survivors from the night of the assassination when Sirhan was wrestled to the ground after the shooting.
Other reputedly suspicious individuals escaped without being identified and were ignored for the most part by investigators who insisted that Sirhan acted alone. One escapee was a mysterious, attractive and long-notorious "Lady in the Polka Dot Dress" reported by one Kennedy aide as stating "We shot Kennedy! We shot him!" as she fled.
For Sirhan's unsuccessful 2011 parole hearing, the Palestinian-born Christian defendant, a resident of Pasadena before the shooting, recalled under hypnosis she had infatuated him, as the Associated Press reported in Convicted RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan says girl in polka-dot dress manipulated him.
Fernando Faura, a Los Angeles reporter at the time of the shooting, told the JFK Assassination Conference Nov. 20 in Dallas last fall that he investigated extensively the young woman and a companion just after the shooting but failed to interest authorities in his findings. His revelations are scheduled for publication this June in The Polka Dot File.
Among other books questioning Sirhan's guilt in shooting RFK are: the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination (1991) by the late Philip H. Melanson, a professor and director of the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Archives at the University of Southeastern Massachusetts; his Shadow Play, co-authored in 1997 with William Klaber; The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by William Turner and Jonn Christian (1978 ad 2006); and R.F.K. Must Die! by Robert Blair Kaiser (1970, updated in 2008).
Several of these and additional books (listed below in a comprehensive bibliography) argue that Robert Kennedy's murder was inextricably linked to his desire to expose after his hoped-for election as president the true story of his brother John's assassination in 1963 via a high-level conspiracy. That conspiracy, as examined in our so-far 30-part Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination, falsely blamed Lee Harvey Oswald, a U.S. intelligence asset and former U.S. Marine, as a lone assassin. Then rogue operatives in government, business and the media operated a cover-up so powerful as to intimidate even the Kennedy family and its friends unless and until Robert Kennedy, a New York senator, could attain wider powers as president.
Among those books heavily focused on an argument that that JFK and RFK murders were related and part of an ongoing cover-up by authorities are Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (2007) and The Devil's Chessboard, both by David Talbot, and several books by Peter Dale Scott, including the pioneering Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993) and The American Deep State (2014).
Notable also are books and articles that approve the official conclusion that Sirhan acted alone to kill RFK and injure others. Among such books are: The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy (1995) by investigative reporter Dan Moldea and Brothers In Arms (2008) by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the late senator's son, published a column in Politico Europe this month, Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria, in which Kennedy introduced his reason for writing as "In part because my father was murdered by an Arab...."
Sirhan Sirhan is shown in a photo upon his arrest in 1968
Crime Scene Evidence
Physical evidence from the hotel kitchen crime scene remains an important dimension in the background of this month's clemency appeal and other ongoing research efforts and controversies.
Critics of the official investigation have argued that Kennedy's wounds from the back and an estimated 14 shots fired when Sirhan's gun could fire just eight shots constitute overwhelming evidence that a second gunman administered the kill shots and escaped. Critics allege that authorities were complicit by seizing, secreting and ultimately losing such physical evidence such as woodwork panels, and ignoring or intimidating witnesses disputing the official story.
Los Angeles county coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, M.D., authored a 62-page autopsy report that found that the fatal shot killed Kennedy from behind. It said the fatal shot traveled upward, at nearly point blank range, and that two other shots wounded Kennedy. One other shot was said to have gone through his clothing. Bullets that wounded five others, including Schrade, were recovered during their surgeries. Thus, there were eight known wounds, three for Kennedy and five for others.
In February 1969, Noguchi's testimony was regarded as helpful to Sirhan's defense at trial but not enough to thwart Sirhan's conviction. Two weeks later, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors fired Noguchi on 64 counts of unprofessional behavior. Noguchi fought what are now widely regarded as trumped up charges, and was reinstated.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, M.D. and J.D., a medical school professor, consultant, former coroner for Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, and former official consultant appointed by Noguchi, has been writing and speaking about the RFK case for 45 years.
Wecht, shown in a lab, has asserted that the fatal shot that killed Kennedy "behind the ear was fired at a distance of approximately 1 to 1.5 inches away from his head and had a forward trajectory." Further, Wecht, a former president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, has said repeatedly (and confirmed for this column) that "Sirhan’s gun was never that close to RFK and was never positioned behind RFK."
Stating similar views has been Dr. Robert J. Joling, M.D. and J.D., another professor and former president of the academy of forensic scientists.
In 1992, Joling co-signed an unsuccessful petition to Los Angeles county seeking a new grand jury investigation. Attached to the petition, submitted by Schrade as a victim, were 800 exhibits. Among the 50 individuals and organizations co-signing the petition were Wecht, former RFK press secretary Frank Mankiewicz, film maker Oliver Stone, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a Harvard historian and White House aide to the late President Kennedy.
Official reaction was "carefully muted," as described in the 1997 book Shadow Play by Klaber and Melanson.
"This has been looked at a number of times before, and it hasn't resulted in anything different," said Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, "so I'm not going to comment on it."
A Startling Twist
The official verdict, nonetheless, retains active defenders. One of them is Washington, DC-based author Dan Moldea, whose The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy was published by W.W. Norton. The book received two highly positive reviews in the New York Times, among other places.
Moldea sold his book to Norton and for the most part researched it beginning in 1987 with the belief that a second gunman, security guard Thane Eugene Cesar, had fired at RFK. Other critics of the police investigation have long suspected that Cesar fired the fatal shot, not Sirhan.
But, as Moldea explains in the book and in his 2013 memoir Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer, his research led him to believe that Sirhan acted alone to kill RFK, and that Cesar was entirely innocent. Further, he argues that it is inherently incredible that anyone, including a woman in a polka dot dress, would incriminate herself by shouting at the scene, "We shot Kennedy!"
Moldea's 1995 book proceeded for the most part as a sympathetic examination of evidence suggesting a miscarriage of justice.
But it adjusted focus by Chapter 27 and reached a dramatic surprise climax when, during Moldea's third interview with Sirhan, the author accused the defendant of lying about the case and manipulating public relations in an unjustified attempt to win his freedom. Citing additional evidence, Moldea vigorously affirms currently that evidence supports Sirhan's guilt.
Whatever the ultimate facts of the case regarding evidence, the context should include at least brief mention of the nation's chaotic political situation at the time. Part of that climate was the still-hidden power of intelligence agencies, which worked closely and secretly with business (including media) and other government agencies (including local law enforcement) in ways far better understood now, thanks to declassified documents, than at the time.
Yet the FBI had a relatively small role in the RFK investigation. Author Robert Kaiser, a former investigator for Sirhan's defense, recounted for example, his unsuccessful effort to persuade FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to get the bureau more involved in the investigation.
As noted above, RFK's death was the second major assassination in 1968 and followed massive urban riots and Vietnam War protests creating tensions throughout the nation. Hoover was still in charge of the agency he had led since its founding in the 1920s. Hoover, like his neighbor President Johnson (shown in a file photo), had survived power struggles with the Kennedy Brothers during the 1960s. But all survivors faced unusually heavy pressures by early 1968.
February's Hearing, 2016
That background set up this month's dramatic parole hearing, where Schrade spoke out for the first time.
Information Clearing House covered it in a column Man Shot Alongside RFK Says Sirhan Sirhan Should Be Granted Parole by Steve Fiorina, as did the investigative website WhoWhatWhy in a series by Shane O'Sullivan, a longtime investigator and documentary film maker. WhoWhatWhy's coverage under the editorial direction of founder Russ Baker included The Full Story of the Sirhan Sirhan Parole Hearing and Schrade's testimony.
Looking ahead, a number of human rights and legal reform groups are building on the compelling evidence that a cover up occurred in the murder of President Kennedy in 1963. Those involved include our Justice Integrity Project, the new group Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) chaired by Dr. Wecht, and such longstanding advocates as the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC).
The purpose of these researches? Justice -- and a renewed understanding of how past crimes and injustice continue to plague public affairs today. Those revelations and their current implications are becoming especially dramatic as the 50th anniversary of the murder approaches in 2018.
Editor's Note: This column was updated after original publication here to include a more extensive discussion of physical crime scene evidence, as well as a correction regarding a 2012 letter by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. supporting an investigation of the Pruszynski Recording.
Author's Addendum To This Column
Author Dan Moldea responded to this column on Facebook by disputing the headline’s characterization of the case as a notorious cover-up. His reaction:
"One of the nation's most notorious murder cover-ups "? . . . With respect, don't bet on it, Andrew. Like it or not, Sirhan did it, and he did it alone. I spent a lot of time interviewing that murderer at Corcoran state penitentiary in California. . . . Also, my book did not "approve the official story that Sirhan acted alone," as you wrote in your story. To the contrary, I was very critical of the law-enforcement community and how it got the right man for the wrong reasons.
In my response, I welcomed his feedback and concurred with his second point.
My thumbnail description of his 1995 book should have said it approved the official RFK murder “conclusion,” and not “story.” [Note to readers: This change has been made in the text above.] After all, part of his book (342 pages in paperback) and his early investigation examined serious problems with the police probe. He concluded “the Los Angeles Police Department came to the right conclusion for some of the wrong reasons.” He explained further, “LAPD officials knew they had made serious errors but didn’t understand why they had been made.”
But I stick to my description of a notorious “cover-up” of omissions and irregularities in the investigation, cloaked with secrecy. Dan notes, for example, that “the establishment press demonstrated a remarkable lack of curiosity about the state of the evidence in this case, tolerating and even supporting the complete suppression of the LAPD’s investigative files for more than twenty years.”
Those kinds of problems add up to a “cover-up,” whatever the motivations or ultimate verdict. Was it “notorious?” Certainly — or there wouldn’t be so many books disputing the investigation and continued imprisonment of Sirhan, who was originally scheduled for release in 1984.
More generally, this is an appropriate place to remind readers of a distinction between journalism and books that we try to maintain. A column such as this is intended to report on what seems reasonably new and important. But a short treatment cannot possibly educate on most of the nuances of such a complex topic extending over decades. That purpose is better suited for books, which is why the treatment above pointed to a representative range for recommended reading.
It's useful also to recall that experts can change their opinions over time, sometimes in unpredictable ways. That's a good guide also for readers.
Paul Schrade Testimony Feb. 10, 2016 In San Diego Seeking Clemency For Sirhan Sirhan
I am Paul Schrade of Los Angeles. I am 91-years-old. And back when I was 43, I was among six persons shot at the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at just after midnight on June 5th, 1968.
I was shot along with Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had just won California’s Democratic Primary Election for the Presidency of the United States. Five of us survived our wounds. And as history knows, Senator Kennedy was fatally wounded.
I am here to speak for myself, a shooting victim, and to bear witness for my friend, Bob Kennedy.
Kennedy was a man of justice. But, so far, justice has not been served in this case. And I feel obliged as both a shooting victim and as an American to speak out about this — and to honor the memory of the greatest American I’ve ever known, Robert Francis Kennedy.
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was originally scheduled for release in 1984 but, after intense political pressure, his parole date was rescinded and he has since been denied 14 times.
In order for you to make an accurate determination of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole, you need to know my feelings on this case and the full picture of what actually happened.
Sirhan, I forgive you.
Paul Schrade lies wounded in 1968 after being shot by Sirhan in the head (Photo via California State Archives).
The evidence clearly shows you were not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy.
There is clear evidence of a second gunman in that kitchen pantry who shot Robert Kennedy. One of the bullets — the fatal bullet — struck Bob in the back of the head. Two bullets struck Bob literally in his back. A fourth bullet struck the back of his coat’s upper right seam and passed harmlessly through his coat. I believe all four of those bullets were fired from a second gunman standing behind Bob. You were never behind Bob, nor was Bob’s back ever exposed to you.
Indeed, Sirhan, the evidence not only shows that you did not shoot Robert Kennedy but it shows that you could not have shot Robert Kennedy.
Gentlemen, the evidence clearly shows that Sirhan Sirhan could not and did not shoot Senator Bob Kennedy.
Several days ago, I made sure that several documents were submitted to this board for you to review. If you have not done so as yet, I would ask you to please review them very carefully during your deliberation. I will be glad to re-submit these documents to you, here today.
I believe, after you review these documents, that it should become clear to you that Sirhan Sirhan did not shoot — and could not have shot — Robert Kennedy. What I am saying to you is that Sirhan himself was a victim.
Obviously there was someone else there in that pantry also firing a gun. While Sirhan was standing in front of Bob Kennedy and his shots were creating a distraction, the other shooter secretly fired at the senator from behind and fatally wounded him. Bob died 25 hours later.
Gentlemen, I believe you should grant Sirhan Sirhan parole. And I ask you to do that today.
Along with what Sirhan’s lawyers have submitted to you, the following are the documents that I made sure were submitted to you and which should also be factored into your decision today.
First, I want to show you this. It’s a letter written in 2012 by my good friend, Robert F. Kennedy Junior. Bobby wrote this letter to Eric Holder, who was then the Attorney General of the United States. In his letter to Mr. Holder, Bobby requests that federal authorities examine the Pruszynski Recording, the only known audio recording made of his father’s assassination at the Ambassador Hotel. The recording was uncovered in 2004 at the California State Archives by CNN International senior writer Brad Johnson.
This next document is a federal court declaration from audio expert Philip Van Praag, who Johnson recruited to analyze the Pruszynski Recording.
In this document, Van Praag declares that his analysis of the recording concludes that two guns were fired in the Robert Kennedy shooting.
Van Praag found a total of 13 gunshots in the Pruszynski Recording. Sirhan’s one and only gun at the crime scene held no more than eight bullets and Sirhan had no opportunity to reload it.
Van Praag also found what he calls “double-shots” — meaning two gunshots fired so close together that they could not both have come from Sirhan’s Iver Johnson Cadet revolver. Van Praag actually found two sets of these “double-shots”.
Additionally, he found that five of the 13 gunshots featured a unique audio resonance characteristic that could not have been produced by Sirhan’s gun model, meaning those five shots were fired from a second gun of a different make.
Van Praag further found that those five gunshots were fired in a direction heading away from Pruszynski’s microphone. Since the microphone was about 40 feet west of the Kennedy shooting, those five shots were fired in an eastward direction, which was opposite the westward direction that Sirhan is known to have fired his eight-shot Iver Johnson Cadet.
These documents are statements from two witnesses to the Robert Kennedy shooting, both of them assistant maître d’s for the Ambassador Hotel. These two men, Karl Uecker and Edward Minasian, escorted Robert Kennedy into the kitchen pantry immediately after the Senator delivered his victory speech in a hotel ballroom for having won the California Primary. Both Uecker and Minasian say Sirhan was in front of Bob Kennedy as the Senator walked toward Sirhan, meaning that Bob and Sirhan were facing each other.
Both witnesses say Sirhan was still in front of Bob as Sirhan fired his gun. And both say that after Sirhan fired his first two shots, Uecker quickly pushed Sirhan against a steam table, placing Sirhan in a headlock while grabbing hold of Sirhan’s firing arm, forcing the tip of Sirhan’s gun to point away from where Bob Kennedy was and causing Sirhan to fire blindly his remaining six bullets.
In other words, Sirhan only had full control of his gun at the beginning, when he fired his first two shots, one of which hit me. Sirhan had no opportunity to fire four precisely-placed, point-blank bullets into the back of Bob Kennedy’s head or body while he was pinned against that steam table and while he and Bob were facing each other.
This document is the official Robert Kennedy autopsy report summary. It shows that all bullets directed at Senator Kennedy were fired from behind him at point-blank range. As the autopsy states, and as these drawings show, the bullets traveled from back-to-front at steep upward trajectories. One bullet struck Senator Kennedy at the back of the head, two bullets at the right rear armpit and a fourth bullet at the right rear shoulder of his jacket, which passed harmlessly through his jacket.
Again, Sirhan’s bullets could not have struck the back of Bob Kennedy’s head or the back of his body or the back of his jacket’s right shoulder, as the autopsy clear shows took place, because Sirhan was never in a position to administer any of those four Kennedy shots. The prosecution never placed Sirhan in that location and position.
These are documents from the Los Angeles Police Department that reveal LAPD misconduct in the police investigation of the Robert Kennedy murder. They detail evidence that was destroyed while Sirhan’s appeal was still pending as well as a photograph that was acknowledged by the LAPD to be “effective rebuttal” but was withheld from the defense team.
Indeed, the LAPD and L.A. County District Attorney knew two hours after the shooting of Senator Kennedy that he was shot by a second gunman and they had conclusive evidence that Sirhan could not — and did not — do it. The official record shows that the prosecution at Sirhan’s trial never had one witness — and had no physical nor ballistic evidence — to prove Sirhan shot Bob Kennedy. Evidence locked up for 20 years shows that the LAPD destroyed physical evidence and hid ballistic evidence exonerating Sirhan — and covered up conclusive evidence that a second gunman fatally wounded Robert Kennedy.
This document is a memo written by Criminalist Larry Baggett, who investigated the Robert Kennedy shooting for the LAPD. The Baggett memo states that the bullets that hit Senator Kennedy and William Weisel, another shooting victim in the pantry, were not fired from the same gun. The memo also states that the bullet that traveled upward through Bob Kennedy’s body and into his neck was not fired from Sirhan’s revolver. Such a finding would be proof that Sirhan did not shoot Robert Kennedy.
Mr. Deputy District Attorney, based on all of this information and more, I ask that you inform Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey that I am formally requesting her to order a new investigation of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. I will also be making the same request of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
Please note, Mr. Deputy District Attorney, that I am using the word “new” here. I am not requesting that the old investigation simply be re-opened. For that would only lead to the same old wrong conclusions. I am requesting a new investigation so that after nearly 50 years, justice finally can be served for me as a shooting victim; for the four other shooting victims who also survived their wounds; for Bob Kennedy who did not survive his wounds because his were the most grievously suffered in that kitchen pantry; for the people of the United States who Bob loved so much and had hoped to lead, just as his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had led only a few years before; and of course for justice, to which Bob Kennedy devoted his life.
Related News Coverage (Excerpted in Chronological Order)
Associated Press via MassLive.com, Convicted RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan says girl in polka-dot dress manipulated him, Linda Deutsch, April 28, 2011. Convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan was manipulated by a seductive girl in a mind control plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bullets did not kill the presidential candidate, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers.
The documents filed this week in federal court and obtained by The Associated Press detail extensive interviews with Sirhan during the past three years, some done while he was under hypnosis. The papers point to a mysterious girl in a polka-dot dress as the controller who led Sirhan to fire a gun in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. But the documents suggest a second person shot and killed Kennedy while using Sirhan as a diversion. For the first time, Sirhan said under hypnosis that on a cue from the girl he went into "range mode" believing he was at a firing range and seeing circles with targets in front of his eyes.
"I thought that I was at the range more than I was actually shooting at any person, let alone Bobby Kennedy," Sirhan was quoted as saying during interviews with Daniel Brown, a Harvard University professor and expert in trauma memory and hypnosis. He interviewed Sirhan for 60 hours with and without hypnosis, according to the legal brief. Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney, said prosecutors were unaware of the legal filing and could not comment.
The story of the girl has been a lingering theme in accounts of the events just after midnight on June 5, 1968, when Kennedy was gunned down in the hotel pantry after claiming victory in the California Democratic presidential primary. Witnesses talked of seeing such a female running from the hotel shouting, "We shot Kennedy." But she was never identified, and amid the chaos of the scene, descriptions were conflicting. Through the years, Sirhan has claimed no memory of shooting Kennedy and said in the recent interviews that his presence at the hotel was an accident, not a planned destination.
Under hypnosis, he remembered meeting the girl that night and becoming smitten with her. He said she led him to the pantry. "I am trying to figure out how to hit on her.... That's all that I can think about," he says in one interview cited in the documents. "I was fascinated with her looks .... She never said much. It was very erotic. I was consumed by her. She was a seductress with an unspoken unavailability." Brown was hired by Sirhan's lawyer William F. Pepper.
CNN BackStory via YouTube, CNN Uncovers Possible RFK Second Gun Evidence, Michael Holmes interviews CNN International senior writer Brad Johnson on how he uncovered for CNN the Pruszynski Recording, the only known audio recording of the Robert F. Kennedy shooting that may contain evidence of an RFK second shooter in addition to long-presumed lone gunman Sirhan Sirhan. This segment aired on the 41st anniversary of Senator Kennedy's assassination, June 5, 2009 (Total YouTube Running Time 9:10 min).
The following appeared in this BackStory segment (listed in order of their first appearance):
Host, CNN’s BackStory
Robert F. Kennedy
U.S. Presidential Candidate / U.S Senate Member
Estelyn Duffy LaHive
RFK Assassination Witness
RFK Assassination Witness
Co-Host, ABC’s Good Morning America
Co-Host, MSNBC’s Morning Joe
Anchor, WVIT TV News
Voice of Amy Parmenter
Reporter, WVIT TV News
Film & TV Actor / Friend of Robert F Kennedy
Philip Van Praag
Senior Writer, CNN International
Prosecutor / Friend of Brad Johnson
RFK Assassination Witness
RFK Shooting Victim / Friend of Robert F. Kennedy
CNN, Attorneys for RFK convicted killer Sirhan push 'second gunman' argument, Michael Martinez and Brad Johnson, March 13, 2012. If there was a second gunman in Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, who was it?
Lawyers for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan claim their client did not fire any of the gunshots that struck the presidential candidate in 1968. And in their latest federal court filing, they also rule out another man some have considered a suspect -- a private security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar, who was escorting Kennedy at the time he was shot.
Attorneys William Pepper and Laurie Dusek insist someone other than their client, Sirhan, fatally shot Kennedy. They now say the real killer was not Cesar, a part-time uniformed officer long suspected by some conspiracy theorists of playing a sinister role in the senator's murder.
Pepper and Dusek made the claim in papers submitted to a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles late last month.
WhoWhatWhy, RFK Friend to Raise Doubts About Sirhan Guilt at Parole Hearing, Shane O'Sullivan, Feb. 9, 2016. Although Shot by Sirhan, Paul Schrade Calls for His Release.
KGTV (ABC-TV San Diego affiliate) / Channel 10 News, Did second gunman kill Robert F. Kennedy? Emily Valdez, Feb. 9, 2016. A bystander Sirhan Sirhan also shot the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated claims the presidential candidate was actually killed by a second gunman, who remains free to this day. It was quite the celebration at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968. More than 1,000 people were celebrating. Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy won the California primary. His brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated five years earlier by a gunman in Dallas, Texas. He was poised to be the next president.
“It was just a beautiful moment,” said Paul Schrade, 91. In 1968, Schrade was a union official and friend of Robert Kennedy, or Bobby, as he called him. Schrade walked with Kennedy into the kitchen that night, after Kennedy gave his victory speech to an elated, cheering crowd. Kennedy died 26 hours later. Sirhan was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Schrade knows Sirhan fired the bullet that hit him. But he is convinced there was a second gunman who shot Kennedy.
“[Sirhan] couldn’t shoot Robert Kennedy and didn’t, he was never in the position to do this,” Schrade said. Schrade said he has spent the last 40 years investigating the case. “There’s strong evidence of a second gunman,” Schrade said. He said experts re-examined evidence. “They could not match the Kennedy bullet. He got hit in the back of the neck, it was the only whole bullet, it did not match Sirhan’s gun,” Schrade said.
NBC News, Robert Kennedy Killer Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole — Again, Corky Siemaszko, Feb. 10, 2016. The 15th time before a California parole board was not the charm Tuesday for Robert F. Kennedy's assassin. Once again, the commissioners said no to releasing Sirhan B. Sirhan, who has spent nearly half a century behind bars for fatally shooting the Democratic senator for New York. "This crime impacted the nation, and I daresay it impacted the world," commissioner Brian Roberts said. "It was a political assassination of a viable Democratic presidential candidate." Kennedy, who was the younger brother of slain President John F. Kennedy, was shot June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just after he'd won the state's Democratic presidential primary. The 42-year-old candidate died the next day.
Now 71, Sirhan has maintained for years that he doesn't remember shooting Kennedy. "If you want a confession, I can't make it now," Sirhan said at the hearing Wednesday. "Legally speaking, I'm not guilty of anything. ... It's not that I'm making light of it. I'm responsible for being there."
Sirhan, a Christian-born Palestinian from Jordan outraged by RFK's support for Israel, was caught with a gun in his hand and later convicted of the killing. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison after California banned the death penalty. At his last parole hearing in 2011, parole commissioners said Sirhan had not shown enough remorse or understanding of the severity of his crime.
WhoWhatWhy, Sirhan Denied Parole; RFK Friend Distraught, Russ Baker, Feb. 11, 2016.
Information Clearing House, Man Shot Alongside RFK Says Sirhan Sirhan Should Be Granted Parole, Steve Fiorina, Feb. 11, 2016. Paul Schrade, now 91 years old, was shot in the head on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while standing alongside Kennedy. Schrade contends that Sirhan was not the only shooter that night. In an exclusive interview that aired on 10News Tuesday night, Schrade stated that Kennedy was actually killed by a second gunman.
Washington Post, Sirhan Sirhan denied parole despite a Kennedy confidant’s call for the assassin’s release, Peter Holley, Feb. 11, 2016. After decades of investigation, Paul Schrade has no doubt about the identity of the man who shot him in the head shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel: It was Sirhan Sirhan, the same gunman convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy. And yet, when Schrade came face to face with Sirhan for the first time in nearly 50 years, at a parole hearing in San Diego on Wednesday, he argued that the notorious gunman wasn’t Kennedy’s killer.
But the panel wasn’t swayed and Sirhan [shown in a 2016 photo] was denied parole for the 15th time, according to the Associated Press, which noted: Commissioners concluded after more than three hours of intense testimony at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Center that Sirhan did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime.
Still, the AP reported, Schrade forgave his shooter during the hearing and apologized to Sirhan not doing more to win his release. “I should have been here long ago and that’s why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me,” Schrade said. The fatal bullets, Schrade argued, were fired from a different shooter’s gun.
WhoWhatWhy, The Full Story of the Sirhan Sirhan Parole Hearing, Shane O'Sullivan, Feb. 16, 2016. Shane O’Sullivan, shown below, is the author of the book "Who Killed Bobby? The near-complete media blackout means the world had to rely on one reporter’s account of the Sirhan Sirhan parole hearing. Here is the complete story of what actually transpired and matters. The ban on video and audio recordings at Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing on February 9 meant the world depended on the one reporter allowed inside the hearing to tell us what happened. He had to condense “more than three hours of intense testimony” into 854 words. Elliot Spagat’s lively account of the proceeding for the Associated Press omitted one very important document that shooting victim and Kennedy family friend Paul Schrade presented to the parole board. This was a letter from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to US Attorney General Eric Holder, dated September 25, 2012, supporting Schrade’s request for a new investigation of his father’s murder:
"Paul was a close friend and advisor to my father. He was standing beside my father when Daddy was killed and Paul was himself wounded by a bullet. With boundless energy and clear mind, Paul continues to pursue my father’s ideas, an endeavor to which he has devoted his life. He organized with the support of my mother and my family the building of the new Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools on the former Ambassador Hotel site. Paul and his team…strongly believe this new evidence is conclusive and requires a new investigation. I agree and support his request for a new investigation."
The request for a new investigation was partly based on a new analysis of the Pruszynski recording, the only known audio recording of the shooting. After studying the tape, forensic audio expert Phil Van Praag concluded 13 shots and 2 guns were fired in the Ambassador Hotel pantry on the night of the shooting. At Holder’s direction, the FBI Laboratory conducted a very limited and deeply flawed examination of the Pruszynski recording and reportedly “could not confirm the number of shots or determine the identification of specific weapons.”
The FBI refused to accept the papers Van Praag had written detailing his methodologies and discoveries. In fact, the Bureau refused to communicate with him in any way. The FBI’s examination report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the FBI used outdated methodologies and failed to provide their own analyst with critical background materials about the shooting scene. These included witness statements, the autopsy report and movements of key people, including Stanislaw Pruszynski himself, at the time of the shooting.
The analyst describes searching for videos of Van Praag’s work on Youtube and working from low-resolution screen grabs of my film on Van Praag’s discoveries in an effort to find out precisely where to look, how to look, and what to look for. These are details he could have discovered by simply picking up the phone and calling Van Praag or inviting him to the FBI’s Quantico laboratory for a briefing.
When he agreed to release the 2012 letter to the parole board at Sirhan’s hearing, Robert Kennedy Jr. signaled publicly, for the first time, his support for a new investigation of his father’s murder. “You’re doing the right thing,” he told Schrade, days before the hearing. Three years ago, Kennedy Jr. told Charlie Rose that the evidence was “very, very convincing” that his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was not killed by a lone gunman, and that his father had been privately dismissive of the Warren Commission findings.
As federal authorities have no criminal jurisdiction over Robert Kennedy’s 1968 murder, at the end of Sirhan’s hearing, Paul Schrade formally requested the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, open a new investigation into the case:
I am requesting a new investigation so that after nearly 50 years, justice finally can be served for me as a shooting victim; for the four other shooting victims who also survived their wounds; for Bob Kennedy; for the people of the United States who Bob loved so much and had hoped to lead; just as his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had led only a few years before; and of course for justice, to which Bob Kennedy devoted his life.
Sirhan was again denied for five years because he “did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime” – a statement which the transcripts of Sirhan’s previous parole hearings show is just not true.
WhoWhatWhy, Sirhan: A “Manchurian Candidate” in the RFK Assassination? Jeff Schechtman, Feb. 19, 2016. Parole hearing number 14 for Sirhan Sirhan may have finally launched a search for the truth behind Robert F. Kennedy’s murder. Forty-eight years ago (in 1968), the country was in the midst of another presidential campaign that came at a seminal moment in American history. Five years earlier, John F. Kennedy had been murdered, and Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April of 1968. The Vietnam War was escalating. Race riots were becoming a fact of urban life. Racial and generational politics as well as social issues were threatening to tear the country apart. Then on the night of June 5th, 1968, after John Kennedy’s brother Robert had won the all-important California Primary, America got yet another jolt: the younger Kennedy, too, had been struck down.
Flash forward to 2016. Last week, his alleged killer, Sirhan Sirhan, was up for his 14th parole hearing. Sitting in the audience was Paul Schrade, one of RFK’s closest confidantes — who was also shot during the attack; Schrade, now 91, is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is his conclusion that, assuming Sirhan was one of the shooters that night, he was not the only one. Moreover, if Sirhan fired any shots, Schrade is quite certain that the young Palestinian-American, once again being denied parole, could not have killed RFK — because it was a physical impossibility.
Politico Europe, Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Feb. 23, 2016. They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil. In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.
Schrade is one of the victims of Sirhan’s bullets. Schrade has spent more than 40 years mastering the evidence in the RFK murder. Under California law, a victim can speak at the parole hearing for as much time as he or she wants. How dare these people say that Schrade cannot look into a man’s eyes and speak to him? Because the people who run the criminal justice system are powerful, well-connected, and above the law. The RFK murder was figured out a long time ago. There was a second gunman, but the California criminal justice system has no interest in looking for the killer.
OpEdNews, RFK Murder Cover-Up Continues After Dramatic Parole Hearing, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 26, 2016. A California parole board this month rejected a dramatic plea to release the convicted slayer of 1968 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, thereby continuing one of the nation's most notorious murder cover-ups.
WhoWhatWhy, The Tortured Logic Behind Sirhan Sirhan’s Parole Denial, Shane O'Sullivan, March 14, 2016. Shane O’Sullivan is an author, filmmaker and researcher at Kingston University, London. His work includes the documentary RFK Must Die (2007) and the book Who Killed Bobby? (2008). Newly Released Transcript Exposes Tragic Flaws in Parole Process. In the newly released transcript of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing on February 10, we discover why — at nearly 72 years of age — the convicted murderer of Bobby Kennedy “continues to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety and is therefore not suitable for parole.”
Since its landmark opinion in the Lawrence case in 2008, the California Supreme Court has required the parole board to provide “some evidence” that a prisoner is “currently dangerous” when denying parole. This, and pressure to reduce prison overcrowding, has seen parole grant rates for “lifers” jump from 8 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2014. A Stanford Law School study in 2011 found that, of 860 murderers paroled in California since 1995, only five reoffended and none were convicted of another murder.
But, as we’ll see, the tortured logic used by one of the commissioners to compute Sirhan’s current threat level gives him little hope of freedom anytime soon. As described in my previous piece, the hearing was hotly contested. On one side, David Dahle, representing the L.A. County District Attorney’s office, called Sirhan a “terrorist.” On the other, Sirhan’s attorney William Pepper and shooting victim Paul Schrade called him “a political prisoner” and condemned his inhumane treatment.
Read the full transcript of Sirhan’s parole hearing.
Robert F. Kennedy flanked by union organizers Dolores Huerta, left, and Paul Schrade, right. Huerta co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers. Schrade, also a union organizer, was one of five others wounded when RFK was assassinated in 1968. Photo: Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Litchfield County Times and Cool Justice Report, RFK Jr. points to forensic evidence of second gunman in his father’s assassination, Andy Thibault, Sept. 8, 2016. RFK Jr. points to forensic evidence of second gunman in his father’s assassination. Buried on page 271 of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s new book on the Skakel murder case in Greenwich is a quick, but telling reference to his father’s assassination. Kennedy family members rarely have spoken publicly about the assassinations of either President John Kennedy or U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, much less criticized the official findings. The passage is noteworthy for the simple fact it is memorialized in a book. It is not just a comment in an interview.
This angle deserves serious attention, and so it wasn’t shoehorned into the column published Aug. 5 on the Greenwich murder case, RFK Jr. attacks prosecutors, cops, courts for willful misconduct as he asserts cousin Skakel’s innocence.” Following are two paragraphs from Kennedy’s book, Framed, Why Michael Skakel Spent Over A Decade In Prison For A Murder He Didn’t Commit, leading up to the clincher paragraph on the RFK assassination:
“I sympathize deeply with Dorthy Moxley [Martha’s mother]. I have seen up-close the agony of a mother’s grief over the loss of her child. my mother lost her husband to murder and two of her sons to violent, untimely deaths in the bosom of their youth. I was with her when my father died. I stood beside her 29 years later as my little brother Michael died in her arms.
“My mother told us that we needed to let go of our impulse for revenge and allow the cycle of violence to end with our family. This, she said, was the lesson of the New Testament, which swapped the savage eye-for-an-eye tribalism of the Old Testament for the ethical mandate that we turn the other cheek. But forgiveness wasn’t just ethics. It was salutary. Revenge and resentments, my mother said, are corrosive. Indulging them is like swallowing poison and hoping someone else will die. By opposing the death penalty for Sirhan, we diluted these poisonous passions.
“And what if, God forbid, the object of our revenge turns out to be innocent? For several decades, my father’s close friend Paul Schrade, who took one of Sirhan’s bullets, has argued that Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the shot that killed my father. Recent forensic evidence supports him. How would we have felt now, if our family had demanded his execution?”
Robert Kennedy Assassination Books (By author, in alphabetical order)
Ayton, Mel. The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Potomac, 2007. *
Belzer, Richard and David Wayne. Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-ups. Skyhorse, 2012.
Belzer, Richard and David Wayne. Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation Into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination. Skyhorse, 2013.
DiEugenio, James and Lisa Pease (eds.). The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X. Feral House, 2012 (2003).
Faura, Fernando. The Polka Dot File. TrineDay, 2016.
Klaber, William and Philip H. Melanson. Shadow Play: Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, and the Failure of American Justice. St. Martin’s, 1997.
Kaiser, Robert Blair. R.F.K. Must Die! Dutton, 2008, (Dutton, 1970).
Melanson, Philip H. The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up. 1968-1991. Shapolsky, 1991.
Moldea, Dan E. The Killing of Robert Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity. W.W. Norton, 1997. *
Morrow, Robert D. The Senator Must Die. Roundtable, 1988. (Most copies destroyed by publisher after successful plaintiff’s defamation lawsuit.)
Noguchi, Thomas T., M.D. (shown in photo), with Joseph DeMona. Coroner: America's Most Controversial Medical Examiner explores the unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Robert F. Kennedy, Sharon Tate, Janis Joplin, William Holden, Natalie Wood, John Belushi and many other of his important cases. Simon and Schuster, 1983.
Nolan, Patrick. CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys. Skyhorse, 2013.
O'Sullivan, Shane. Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert Kennedy. Union Square, 2008.
Russo, Gus. Live By the Sword. Bancroft, 1998. *
Russo, Gus, and Stephen Molton. Brothers In Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder. Bloomsbury, 2008. *
Scott, Peter Dale. Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. University of California, 1993.
Scott, Peter Dale (shown in file photo). The American Deep State. Rowman and Littlefield, 2014.
Sprague, Richard E. The Taking of America, 1-2-3. Ratical (via web), 1985 (Harp and Black, 1976).
Talbot, David. Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2007.
Talbot, David. The Devil's Chessboard. Harper, 2015.
Turner, William. Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, CIA and Other Tails. Penmarin, 2001.
Turner, William, and Jonn Christian. The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Basic, 2006 (1978).
Ventura, Jesse, Russell, Dick. American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies that the Government Tells Us. Skyhorse, 2013.
Ventura, Jesse. 63 Documents That the Government Doesn't Want You To See. Skyhorse, 2012.
Ventura, Jesse. Lies, Lies and More Lies That the Government Tells Us. Skyhorse, 2010.
Waldon, Lamar and Thomas Hartmann. Legacy of Secrecy. The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. Counterpoint, 2008.
Waldon, Lamar and Thomas Hartmann. Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. Carroll & Graf, 2005.
Waldron, Lamar, with Thom Hartmann. Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. Counterpoint, 2008.
Wecht, Cyril H., M.D., J.D., with Mark Curriden and Benjamin Wecht. Cause of Death: A Leading Forensic Expert Sets the Record Straight on JFK, RFK, Jean Harris, Mary Jo Kopechne, Sunny von Bulow, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, and Other Controversial Cases. Dutton, 1993.
* Books that generally endorse the official conclusion that Sirhan Sirhan acted alone to kill Robert F. Kennedy.