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Monday, January 24, 2022

Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole as Newsom Rejects Board Advice

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom denied parole to Sirhan B. Sirhan Thursday, backing away from the state parole board’s recommendation in August to release the man convicted of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

“Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is one of the most notorious crimes in American history,” the governor wrote in his decision, saying he weighed the recommendation but decided that Mr. Sirhan, 77, who spent more than 50 years in prison, still poses an unreasonable threat to public safety.

“After decades in prison, he failed to address the shortcomings that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy,” the governor wrote. “Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same dangerous decisions he has made in the past.”

The announcement, made after nearly five months of deliberation, was widely anticipated, and Mr. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and six of his nine surviving children said in a statement that they were grateful and took a “deep breath.” Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has repeatedly pointed out that most of the Kennedy heirs opposed Mr. Sirhan’s release, as did state parole commissioners in 15 previous parole hearings.

The Governor also repeatedly expressed his admiration for Mr. Kennedy and remarked at a press conference in September that “the first photo – the only photo – you will see I have a photo of my father and Bobby Kennedy in my office a few days before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.”

Angela Berry, Sirhan’s lawyer, said in a statement that she plans to challenge the governor’s decision. “There is not the slightest evidence that Mr. Sirhan is still a danger to society,” she said.

New laws passed since Mr. Sirhan’s previous parole hearing in 2016 required the state to take into account his advanced age and his relative youth at the time of the crime. Mr. Sirhan was 24 years old when he shot and killed Mr. Kennedy, a 1968 New York senator running for president, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Mr. Kennedy was walking through a hotel pantry shortly after winning the California Democratic primary.

A Palestinian born in Jerusalem who emigrated to the United States from Jordan, Mr. Sirhan confessed almost immediately; in a televised interview from prison in 1989, he said he killed Mr. Kennedy because he felt betrayed by a senator’s campaign offer to send 50 military aircraft to Israel. However, he has since said he does not remember committing the crime.

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A factor in the parole commissioners’ recommendation was the prosecutor’s absence from the hearing, and for the first time, Mr. Sirhan’s request for parole was not challenged by Los Angeles County. George Gascon, his progressive district attorney, made it so that prosecutors were not present at parole hearings, saying the parole board had all the facts it needed to make an informed decision.

At the hearing, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Sirhan said he “must have” brought a gun to the scene but could remember little about the shooting. His lawyer argued that it was not necessary to keep the aging man in prison, where he battled heart disease, prostate cancer and an attempt on his life by another inmate in 2019.

Robert Barton, one of the two parole commissioners on the commission, noted that Mr. Sirhan improved himself by attending classes at the prison, and the senator’s two sons called for leniency as they parted ways with the rest of the family.

One son, Douglas Kennedy, a Fox News correspondent, said he had “sympathy” for Mr. Sirhan, while another son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., pointed to his “impressive record of rehabilitation.” Prominent vaccine disinformation proponent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he believed Mr. Sirhan was innocent.

But much of the Kennedy family was adamant that Mr. Sirhan be kept behind bars. Six of the senator’s nine surviving children signed a statement calling on the governor not to release the man who “took our father from our family” and “from America.” Mr. Kennedy’s widow, now 93, also opposed parole.

“Our family and our country have suffered an untold loss due to the inhumanity of one person,” the family said in a statement. “We believe in gentleness that saved his life, but by taming his act of violence, he should not be able to terrorize again.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs made reporting.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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