The Robert Kennedy Assassination – The Final Truth

Mar 19, 2021 - by Mel Ayton

 Sirhan Sirhan

by Mel Ayton

Mel Ayton is the author of numerous books and articles. In 2007 Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Pres published The Forgotten Terrorist – Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. A second edition of the book, with a Foreword by Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, was published in 2019.

“As long as there are people who think I didn’t do it, I’ll never admit anything.” Sirhan Sirhan in an interview with investigative journalist Dan Moldea

“I thought of (the Robert Kennedy assassination) as an act of violence motivated by hatred of Israel and of anybody who supported Israel. It was in some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time.” Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

 “In my mind, only one question remains unanswered…That is, how could you possibly get the police, the FBI, the Secret Service, prosecutors, courts and special commissions ALL to engage in this cover-up conspiracy?” Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates

It has been 53 years since Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. During the past six decades Sirhan has insisted he had no knowledge of having fired the shots that killed the senator and that he had been a ‘hypnotized patsy’ enlisted by unknown conspirators.

Numerous conspiracy authors and supporters of the assassin have enjoined him in promoting the notion that a second gunman fired the lethal shot that took Kennedy’s life and that the LAPD, the FBI and the CIA covered up the purported conspiracy.  For over 50 years, Sirhan’s representations before the California courts and the California Parole Board have also elicited the support of many mainstream media organizations in publicizing Sirhan’s alleged innocence. Their “news” stories have done nothing except place the truth about the Robert Kennedy assassination in eternal obfuscation.

During his Parole Board hearings, Sirhan has been represented by his lawyer, William Pepper, who acted as James Earl Ray’s attorney at the time of Ray’s death in 1998.  Ray was the convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who claimed that the US government had framed him. In his conviction that Ray had been telling the truth, Pepper named an innocent former soldier as the real assassin. It had a devastating effect on the soldier’s reputation and that of his family. Pepper also brought a “fantasist,” Lloyd Jowers, to (civil) trial in 1999 as a co-conspirator in the case even though the man’s family insisted Jowers had repeatedly lied about his purported involvement in the King assassination. Shelby County Assistant District Attorney John Campbell said he had, “spent four years on Mr. Pepper’s theories….After you’ve watched them change [so frequently] you just don’t want to hear any more of them. It’s so bizarre that it's hard to take it seriously any more. It’s a tragedy. This should be taken seriously, but it’s become almost comical.” (1)

Pepper’s defense of Sirhan included the promotion of purported RFK assassination witnesses who altered their original testimonies in favour of new claims that Kennedy had been killed by more than one gunman. However, without exception, the media stories about these witnesses have omitted vital evidence in the case which had been readily available at the time of their publication. This is called “lazy journalism.” Lazy journalism happens when journalists don’t do their homework, and don’t check the accuracy of the information they find.

Today, it comes as little surprise, given the absence of any editorial vetting on the internet, to find many websites and blogs saturated with bogus revelations about the RFK assassination and mindless repetition of supposed “facts” that were, in actuality, refuted or rationally explained years ago. However, what may surprise many people is the way in which a number of mainstream media outlets have mimicked the editorial vetting styles of internet publications.

Three examples of media “trust-in-me-style lazy journalism” which circulated within mainstream media were the BBC’s 2006-2008 story of alleged CIA agents allegedly present at the scene of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, CNN’s reporting of the assassination between 2011 and 2016, and the Washington Post’s story about Sirhan’s 2016 parole hearing. In all three cases the journalists and television producers abrogated their professional responsibility in favour of biased reporting, allowing no wider context to the stories let alone serious counter - claims to the conspiracy stories promoted by various writers and Sirhan’s lawyer.

In November 2006 the BBC aired a “Newsnight” story about Shane O’Sullivan, who sought to promote a book and documentary about the Robert Kennedy assassination. O’Sullivan alleged CIA agents had been skulking around the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of the assassination with the alleged intent to assassinate the presidential candidate. The producers omitted to include any challenge to O’ Sullivan’s spurious allegations. (2)

The “Newsnight” producers eventually recognized their mistake after an article I wrote was published on History News Network’s website. The article revealed how O'Sullivan's book and documentary was seriously flawed and that the author had erred in naming innocent individuals of having participated in the assassination (they turned out to be innocent Bulova Watch salesmen). I was later asked to appear on the BBC programme to discuss O’Sullivan’s errors. Nevertheless, O’Sullivan shamelessly continued to promote purported CIA involvement in the assassination by “exploring the possibility” that these men were using Bulova as cover for “another agency.” (3)

The BBC also ignored the work of leading Robert Kennedy assassination expert Dan Moldea, an investigative journalist whose 1995 book on the assassination was highly acclaimed by Newsweek, Time, the New York Times and many other responsible reviewers. (4) Had they done so they would have been able to understand the dynamics of the pantry shooting and thus contributed a note of scepticism to O’Sullivan’s bogus shooting scenario.

In 2011, CNN interviewed assassination witnesses Nina Rhodes-Hughes, in which she claimed she heard more than eight shots fired in the Ambassador Hotel pantry, and an audio engineer who said that after examining an audio recording of the assassination he concluded that 13 or 14 shots were fired. (5)

The CNN journalists accepted, without challenge, Rhodes-Hughes belief that she heard from 10-14 shots. They did not query her original 1968 FBI interview transcript which stated she heard “eight distinct shots” which she now claimed, without proof, had been falsified. Of the 77 pantry witnesses who gave an opinion about the number of shots fired the report cited the very small number who said there were more than eight shots. The journalists had clearly ignored the statements of numerous witnesses who said there had been eight shots or less fired in the pantry. It begs the question – why would the CNN journalists choose to cite only a few witnesses who thought they heard more than eight shots against the vast majority who put the number at eight or less?  (6)

The CNN journalists also failed to put the shooting in the correct context with regard to the statements made by earwitnesses and eyewitnesses. After the first shot had been fired the crowd acted as one would expect. Some witnesses reacted out of fear for their own safety and attempted to avoid the gunman who was firing wildly into the crowd after he had succeeded in placing his gun against Kennedy's head and firing. Others fell about after hearing gunshots and observing flashes coming from the muzzle of Sirhan's gun.

Consequently, the pantry was in such a turmoil it is no wonder the witness statements were contradictory and fraught with speculation as to what exactly happened. As nationally acclaimed wounds ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan stated, “If anybody . . . tells me he can reconstruct the location and posture of each person in that room at the time of each shot, I would conclude that he was delusional. If I were there, I would guarantee that my location and posture would change continuously between shots and there would be no way I could remember exact locations or postures at any given moment. Photographs help, but one cannot pinpoint the time of the photograph to the millisecond and that's what one would need to do to reconstruct a trajectory from gun to entry point.” (7)

CNN also revealed its own bias by favouring the research conducted by audio engineer Philip Van Praag and his team alleging 13 or 14 shots could be identified on the Pruszynski audio tape of the shooting and ignoring acoustic expert Philip Harrison’s detailed study. The CNN story merely reported that the California Attorney General had said the audio engineers’ report was an “interpretation or opinion that is not universally accepted by acoustic experts.”  (8)

A trained acoustic engineer, Harrison had worked on more than a thousand cases for one of the leading forensic firms of its kind in the world. Van Praag is actually an audio engineer by profession, which is quite a different thing, and his experience is simply not comparable to Harrison’s; nor is the rest of Van Praag’s team. ( )It could also be argued that the vast majority of ear-witness testimony comports with Harrison’s analysis and contradicts Van Praag’s assertions. It also begs the question – why didn’t Sirhan’s lawyers hire an acousticscompany to examine the Prusynski Tape? No other acoustics company in the world has examined the tape in the decade or so since Harrison published his report.

Harrison was able to identify seven impulse sounds (which are characterized by a sharp onset and rapid decay) that corresponded to Sirhan’s gun being fired to the exclusion of another weapon (the seven impulses all exhibited very similar characteristics). An eighth shot could not be clearly identified on the spectrogram made from the tape recording; this sound appeared to be masked by other noise, including screams.

A trio of Americans who have spent decades examining the scientific aspects of the JFK assassination –  Steve Barber, Michael O’Dell and Chad Zimmerman – independently examined the RFK audio tape which was a digital version of the master tape (Author’s Note – nothing is lost during digital copying). Steve Barber had already begun to analyze the Pruszynski recording even before Philip Harrison became involved. He concurred with Harrison’s finding. Their analyses were published on History News Network’s website in March 2007.  Michael O’Dell, one of the leading experts on the JFK acoustics evidence, worked independently of Barber and Zimmerman and his specific findings were very similar to Harrison’s in that he concluded there were, “seven similar sounds and an eighth obscured by noise.” (9)

In 2016, The Washington Post reported Sirhan’s 15th parole hearing, citing the Prusynski Tape and research carried out by Van Praag’s team of audio engineers while failing to acknowledge counter arguments based on Harrison’s acoustics study or the Steve Barber-led study.  (10)

In recent years, Harrison et. al.’s research has been confirmed by another acoustics expert,Ed Primeau, an audio forensic expert with 35-years experience. He analysed the Pruszynski recording and was able to isolate the sound of gunfire. “I can confirm based on observation at the (assassination) site by witnesses as well as my scientific observation in the lab that there was one shooter and there were eight shots fired,” he said.

Primeau used a sophisticated computer program called iZotope RX, which isolated the sounds of gunshots from the cacophony of the crowd that night. “When the crowd murmur is removed, it’s pretty clear to hear those pops,” Primeau said. “As poor as this recording is, it still gives us valuable perspective and scientific foundation to the fact that there were eight shots fired.” Primeau said the use of this sophisticated computer software, which has only become available in the last few years and is used by the FBI, solves the mystery as to how many people were involved in the RFK assassination. (11)

The flawed BBC, CNN and Washington Post stories not only raised questions about editorial standards of two of the world's largest news organizations. It also highlighted the way conspiracy advocates have acted irresponsibly in their reporting of the story. Not only were innocent individuals wrongly named as assassins in mainstream media but other stories insinuated Kennedy’s bodyguard, Bill Barry (12) and Kennedy aide John Seigenthaler (13) had participated in the conspiracy.

Sirhan has been denied parole 15 times since his incarceration. Today he is held in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. He is due for a new parole hearing in 2021. At all his parole hearings, the most recent in 2016, Sirhan has testified that he continued to have no memory of the assassination. His lawyers also repeated claims that Sirhan was “hypno-programmed” and his memory of being programmed was “wiped” by unknown conspirators which is why the assassin had no recall of the murder. In support of Sirhan’s claims, Dr. Daniel Brown of Harvard Medical School testified he spent more than 60 hours with Sirhan in an attempt to recover his memory of both the shooting and having been put under hypnosis. The Parole Boards rejected these claims and Sirhan’s parole has been denied on the grounds that he continued to not understand the full ramifications of his crime.

Sirhan’s explanation to the Parole Board of having no memory of the shooting was in direct contradiction to historical and damning documentary evidence provided by one of his defence investigators who worked for Sirhan’s lawyers at the time of the 1969 trial.

Michael McCowan, who acted as a defense investigator for the Sirhan trial defense team, produced a manuscript of notes he made with Sirhan present. This new evidence in the case effectively destroyed the amnesia defence Sirhan continually used at his parole hearings. The manuscript also included an intricate map of the Ambassador Hotel ballroom. The map, drawn from a bird's eye view, includes both captions of people he encountered and personal details he remembered (“Danish Electrician,” “2 Mexicans,” “Section of Bar I bought drinks at”). The manuscript was accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity from McCowan as well as a copy of a letter signed by both Sirhan Sirhan and McCowan, giving McCowan “the right to write a book about his investigation into my case.”

The historically important document shows, clearly and vividly, in Sirhan’s own hand, that he did in fact remember the events of June 4-5, 1968, directly refuting his defense that he suffered from amnesia or was hypnotized and then programmed to not remember.  Though he perhaps drank too much that night (which he would later say contributed to his crime), his behavior described in this manuscript is controlled and intentional. (14)

Sirhan’s insistence he could not remember shooting Kennedy was also contradicted by statements made by McCowan to Dan Moldea. During Moldea’s early 1990s investigation into the assassination, McCowan told the investigative journalist he had reconstructed the crime with Sirhan during the 1969 trial. In the midst of their conversation, McCowan said, Sirhan started to explain the moment when his eyes met Kennedy’s just before he shot him. Shocked by what Sirhan had just admitted, McCowan asked, “Then why, Sirhan, didn't you shoot him between the eyes”?  With no hesitation and no apparent remorse, Sirhan replied, “Because that son of a bitch turned his head at the last second.” (15)

In a 2011 email to the author, Dan Moldea stated, “(the newly published McCowan documents) completely annihilates Sirhan’s long-standing position that he has never remembered the details of his actions that night…Just to be clear, you and I were right on target.” (16)

The most important development in the case occurred in 2015 when, after a long history of delays, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled on a request by Sirhan and his lawyers that he be released, retried or granted a hearing on alleged new evidence. The purported new evidence included Van Praag’s analysis of the Pruszynski Tape, Nina Rhodes-Hughes’s declaration that more than eight shots had been fired during the shooting, a number of issues dealing with the ballistics evidence, the positioning of Sirhan and Kennedy when the shooting started and other issues pertaining to Sirhan’s purported “hypnotic programming” and the existence of a “second shooter.” (17)

In 2013, Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich produced a 67-page “Report and Recommendation” for the United States District Court, Central District of California, opining that the case, “…may be the final chapter in an American tragedy.” In January 2015, District Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell approved and adopted Wistrich’s factual findings and legal conclusions but also independently rejected Sirhan’s conspiracy claims and dismissed his habeas petition with prejudice. (The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined the hear Sirhan’s appeal in 2016.)

After considering objections by Sirhan’s lawyers, a final judgment was eventually handed down in 2015. Having reviewed the evidence in the case, the court agreed with Judge Wistrich’s report that Sirhan and his attorneys failed to meet the showing required for actual innocence. (18)

Judge Wistrich acknowledged there were, to be sure, apparent anomalies in the evidence which Sirhan’s lawyers chronicled, including problems with the ballistic and forensic evidence. In addition, some eyewitness statements, if taken completely at face value, at least raised the possibility that Sirhan had not acted alone in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. But such incongruities are entirely normal in most murder investigations. It is particularly true of major investigations, where the possibility of human error is compounded because of the vast amounts of paperwork and physical evidence that must be processed. Then, too, police forces 50 years ago were simply not as careful about securing a murder scene as they are trained to be now.

Judge Wistrich’s report addressed one of the enduring myths of the Robert Kennedy assassination which has been repeated ad nauseam by conspiracy writers, journalists and Sirhan’s attorneys for nearly five decades. It is the notion that Sirhan was never less than three feet away from the Senator and was always facing Kennedy – thus unable to fire the point-blank fatal shot to his head.

Sirhan’s attorney William Pepper said, “There is no account that pushes him any closer than three or four feet away from Bob Kennedy in front of him.” (19) David Talbot wrote in his book Brothers, “But not one witness saw Sirhan shoot Kennedy in the back of his skull at point-blank range. According to witnesses, Sirhan attacked Kennedy from the front….” (20) Conspiracy advocate Shane O'Sullivan in his 2008 book wrote, “…not one witness placed Sirhan's gun close enough to Kennedy and in the correct firing position to inflict the wounds observed in the autopsy.” (21)

In 2016, RFK shooting victim Paul Schrade said, “The evidence clearly shows (Sirhan was) not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy…Sirhan fired in front of Kennedy but the candidate was struck in the back by three bullets, including a fatal shot to the back of the head,” Schrade said. (22)

Pepper, Talbot, O’Sullivan and Schrade are clearly in error as I demonstrated in a History News Network article in 2008 titled “RFK Assassination: New Revelations from the FBI’s ‘Kensalt’ Files.” The article was based on further discoveries I made since the publication of The Forgotten Terrorist regarding witness statements given to the FBI after the assassination. (23)

Many of the 12 eyewitnesses who were close to Kennedy when he was shot stated that Sirhan was anywhere from 3 to 12 feet away from the senator. However, Dan Moldea established the majority of the 12 witnesses gave estimates of muzzle distance based only on the first shot and most of them did not see Sirhan lunging at Kennedy. (24)

Vincent DiPierro, a waiter at the Ambassador Hotel, however, clearly saw this happen as he has often stated. According to DiPierro, who was standing some five feet behind the senator in the pantry and had an unobstructed view of the shooting, Sirhan managed to stretch his arm around Karl Uecker who was escorting Kennedy through the pantry. Uecker was facing away from Kennedy when Sirhan reached around him to place the gun at his head.

As DiPierro told The Washington Post’s Ronald Kessler in 1974, it was true that Sirhan was standing about three feet in front, and slightly to the right, of Kennedy. But a moment before Sirhan whipped out his handgun, Kennedy turned to his left to greet some busboys. As Sirhan began firing, he lunged forward, bringing the muzzle of his Ivor-Johnson revolver to within inches of Kennedy’s head. “It would be impossible for there to be a second gun,” Di Pierro told Kessler, “I saw the first shot. Kennedy fell at my feet. His blood splattered on me. I had a clear view of Kennedy and Sirhan.” (25)

Many years later, in a 2018 radio interview DiPierro’s memory had not diminished with the passage of time. In 2006 he had stated, “…Sirhan… was three feet away but the muzzle of the gun (in his outstretched arm) couldn’t be more than 3 to 5 inches away from his head.” (26) In 2018 DiPierro said, “ I saw the gun come from the right side of my eye and (Sirhan’s arm) was outstretched…… we always talk about the upward trajectory…well, Sirhan was shorter than Robert and he was also stretched out so that his arm was an extended version going in an upward trajectory…no one ever really brought it up…..there was nobody between Robert, Sirhan and me…I heard popping of balloons… the first shot was directly to his head…I got sprayed with the bullet to his head…there was a pause because Robert’s hands went up to his head….the third bullet hit the top of his jacket and hit Paul Schrade in the head…the fourth shot went through my shirt…I didn’t get hit… A lot of people said there were more than 8 shots. Well, there was a lot of popping, a lot of banging. I only saw seven shots come out of the gun. There were 8.” (27)

DiPierro’s recall of the shooting is supported by other witness statements, particularly those of Boris Yaro and Juan Romero who had been very close to Kennedy. Boris Yaro stated the senator was shot at ”point blank range.” Romero, who had been shaking hands with Kennedy when the shots rang out initially said the gun was a “yard away” but in a 2003 LA Times interview he said, “(Sirhan) put out his hand to the senator’s head. . . . Then I see the guy (Sirhan) put a bullet in the senator’s head.…” (28)

There is a further statement corroborating DiPerro’s account that Sirhan, and no one else, shot Kennedy at point-blank range. I found the previously overlooked witness statements in the FBI files after my book, The Forgotten Terrorist, was published. It was made by Freddy Plimpton, the wife of writer George Plimpton. She “….saw an arm go up towards Senator Kennedy’s head, but did not see a gun, heard shots and it was obvious to her that Senator Kennedy had been shot….She saw Sirhan very clearly. She saw his arm up toward Senator Kennedy’s head ….” (29)

In his 2013/2015 report Magistrate Judge Wistrich stated that the evidence did indeed show that Sirhan had been able to position his gun near to RFK’s head, leaving powder burn marks on the senator’s body. In his adjudication he stated that Sirhan and his attorneys failed, “to address the chaos that ensued once (Sirhan) began shooting and the subsequent movements of the senator and (Sirhan) in reaction to the shooting. Establishing that (Sirhan) was initially in front of Senator Kennedy does not preclude him from firing the fatal shot”. (30)

Wistrich went on to explain his reasoning: “First, eyewitness testimony supports a finding that Senator Kennedy moved during or after the first shot. In fact, Mr. Uecker's testimony described Senator Kennedy as turning his head just as the shots were fired. Second, none of the eyewitnesses saw Senator Kennedy sustain the fatal shot. Any estimates of muzzle distance or the angle of (Sirhan’s) gun were based on the position of the gun either before the shooting began or at the time of the first shot. While each statement initially places (Sirhan) in front of Senator Kennedy, they vary in describing the direction and distance between the two individuals….Third, eyewitness statements paint a chaotic picture, which would undoubtedly make it difficult for eyewitnesses to gauge the exact locations of (Sirhan) and the senator…… Due to the overwhelming testimony identifying (Sirhan) as a shooter, and (Sirhan’s) own admission regarding the use of his gun, a reasonable jury could conclude that (Sirhan) fired the fatal shot.” (31)

Later in his report, Wistrich expanded on his conclusions that there was no evidence to prove that Sirhan had been unable to fire the lethal shot to the senator’s head. “Perhaps most importantly,” Wistrich wrote, “the eyewitness testimony consistently described Senator Kennedy as turning his head just as the shots were fired. That explains how the bullet could have struck the back of his head even if petitioner was technically ‘in front’ of Senator Kennedy.” (32)

In his Report and Recommendations, Judge Wistrich made reference to an examination of the “Pruszynski audio recording” which had been used by Sirhan and his attorneys as evidence of a second gunman. Wistrich rejected the claim that Van Praag’s analysis of the audio recording proved that more shots were fired than Sirhan’s gun could hold.  “Mr. Van Praag's opinions do not disprove the conclusions of the 1975 Wenke commission regarding the ballistics evidence” Wistrich wrote, “…..(Sirhan) himself undermined the second shooter theory at his 1985 parole hearing when he stated, “If anybody else was involved, wouldn't I help myself after all these years, by telling authorities who else was in on it’? Mr. Van Praag's expert opinion is not sufficient to show actual innocence or to undermine the reliability of evidence so as to make a showing of actual innocence…Van Praag's opinion is far from ‘conclusive’ evidence of a second gunman because other experts analyzing the Pruszynski recording have reached contrary conclusions.” (33)

Sirhan and his lawyers had argued that a bullet had been substituted for another; that the bullet identified as consistent with being shot from Sirhan’s gun was not the same as the one removed from Senator Kennedy's neck.  However, Judge Wistrich disagreed, “The issues raised by (Sirhan) have been rejected previously. In 1975, a court-appointed panel of experts extensively reviewed the ballistics evidence and heard testimony from witnesses… The panel was unable to confirm that three bullets were fired from (Sirhan’s) gun due to ‘barrel fouling’ and a potential loss of fine detail in the intervening years; the commission did find, however, that the bullets were consistent with having been fired from the same gun. The panel concluded that ‘(there was) no substantive or demonstrable evidence to indicate that more than one gun was used to fire any of the bullets examined.’ Accordingly, the Court does not find merit in (Sirhan’s) objections pertaining to his substitution theory…In sum, (Sirhan) has pointed out some gaps in the ballistics evidence. At best, however, (Sirhan) has raised a question whether the bullet shown to (LAPD Ballistics expert DeWayne) Wolfer that he testified matched bullets fired from (Sirhan’s) gun was the same bullet that had been removed from Senator Kennedy's neck. (Sirhan), however, must do more. Nothing (Sirhan) has presented affirmatively shows that the bullet was in fact substituted for another, that the bullet identified as consistent with being shot from petitioner's gun was not the same as the one removed from Senator Kennedy's neck, or that there actually was an additional bullet. Instead, the discrepancies that (Sirhan) points out are equally likely to be the result of innocent mistakes or actually was an additional bullet. Instead, the discrepancies that (Sirhan) points out are equally likely to be the result of innocent mistakes or negligence, rather than a complex conspiracy involving numerous governmental officials and agencies.” (34)

In 2012, California Attorney General Kamal Harris rejected the hypno-programming claim made by Sirhan’s attorneys. “The theory that a person could be hypnotized into planning and committing a murder against his will is a controversial (if not fantastic) one,” she wrote, “and has not been adopted by most of Brown's peers, including the American Psychological Association.” (35)

Adjudicating on the hyno-programming claims of Sirhan’s lawyers and the counter claims of the California Attorney General, Judge Wistrich noted how Sirhan’s attorneys had hired Dr. Daniel Brown and Professor Alan Schein as experts in hypnosis to examine Sirhan.

“Roughly 40 years after the incident,” Wistrich wrote, “Dr. Brown opines that a third party used a combination of drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, and suggestive influence to exert coercive persuasion over (Sirhan), causing him to commit the acts at issue here.” However, Wistrich argued, “…psychiatrists and psychologists often disagree on patient assessments, particularly with diagnoses of mental illness…(Sirhan’s) mere presentation of new psychological evaluations... does not constitute a colourable showing of actual innocence…the opinions of Brown and Schein are inconsistent with, and substantially contradicted by, the various psychiatrists who examined (Sirhan) 40 years earlier, contemporaneously with the crime. Unlike the psychological experts who testified at (Sirhan’s) trial, Brown and Schein were unable to personally observe and examine petitioner in 1968 to render opinions about his then-current mental state. Thus, Brown's retrospective opinion based upon tests assessing (Sirhan’s) mental condition 40 years after the fact is of negligible weight.” (36)

With regard to the so-called “new witness evidence” provided by Sirhan, Wistrich was dismissive, concluding that, “…there are no contemporaneous statements by Rhodes-Hughes that corroborate her current recollection of events now 45 years in the past.” (37)

As per his appearances before the Parole Board, Sirhan thought only of himself. At his 15th parole hearing in 2016, he said at the end of the hearing, “This is such a traumatic…horrendous experience, that for me, to keep dwelling on it is harmful to me…(emphasis added)” (38 )


If caught in a lie, conspiracists shamelessly manufacture a new one. Facts don’t matter, because their conspiracy-mongering is seldom, if ever, about the facts. However, the tactics and gambits employed by conspiracists are now becoming readily identifiable as the public becomes increasingly aware of the dangers of falsehoods spread by the internet and social media. Additionally, the public have become aware of how “fake news” is becoming problematic for the mainstream media.

Despite the presence of questionable journalistic practices and conspiracy mongering it can now be established beyond any reasonable doubt that Sirhan Sirhan wilfully, and with premeditation, assassinated Senator Kennedy and acted alone when he fired his gun in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.

There is overwhelming evidence to show that Sirhan had repeatedly lied when he stated he could not remember shooting Senator Kennedy. Sirhan not only admitted he could remember the shooting, as revealed in the notes provided by Michael McCowan, but he also admitted as much in a threatening letter he sent to his lawyer, Grant Cooper. In the letter Sirhan wrote, “If (author Robert Blair Kaiser) gets his brains splattered he will have asked for it like Bobby Kennedy did. Kennedy didn’t scare me; don’t think that you or Kaiser will: neither of you is beyond my reach.” (39)

There is no credible evidence to show that Sirhan had been hypnotized beyond his own “Rosicrucian” hypnotic self-development exercises. Sirhan had long been fascinated with hypnosis and made reference to it frequently in the years before the assassination. Additionally, no credible evidence supports the notion that a purported “girl in a polka dot dress” acted as Sirhan’s accomplice and “trigger” on the night of the assassination. (40)

There is also no credible evidence to show that Sirhan had been accompanied by a second shooter on the night of the assassination. As Judge Wistrich observed, “Since the fatal shot was at point-blank range, it seems highly unlikely that the unknown second shooter could have approached Senator Kennedy that closely, shot him, and then escaped a crowded room essentially unnoticed.”  (41)

The evidence establishing Sirhan’s motives, as delineated in The Forgotten Terrorist, is also becoming clearer to an American public weaned on nightly news stories of Middle East violence and Arab fanaticism. As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz observed, “I thought of (the RFK assassination) as an act of violence motivated by hatred of Israel and of anybody who supported Israel. It was in some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time.” (42)

And, as Guardian reporter Stephen Kinzer wrote, “Decades must often pass before shattering historic events can be truly understood… Mel Ayton (is) one of the few analysts who has fully grasped the crime’s Middle East connection …The source of (Sirhan’s) rage, bitterness, and anger at ‘Jews’ was not explained in most news stories. Far from being a ‘maniacally absurd’ crime, as Newsweek concluded, the Robert Kennedy assassination was in fact an eminently political act. It was the first ‘blowback’ attack the United States suffered as a result of its Middle East policies.”  (43)

Case closed.


1. The Guardian, Who Killed Martin Luther King? By Tony Stark, 28 November 1999,

Gerald Posner’s wrote about Pepper in his book Killing the Dream (1998, page 266) Posner wrote, “…Pepper had moved to England in 1980 claiming in ‘Orders To Kill’ that he was forced to move because the mafia in New England had made him a ‘marked man’ after he led a successful effort at reorganizing a school system ‘rife with corruption’. Actually, a company of which Pepper was the president had received more than $200,000 from the state of Rhode Island to run a foster-care program for troubled youths. On July 6, 1978, Pepper was charged with four felony counts of transporting two teenage boys ‘to engage in lewd and indecent activities.’ The local police also learned that in 1969 a US Senate subcommittee heard statements from two young boys who said Pepper had sexual contact with them when they were eight. No charges were filed against him then. Shortly after his arrest a state audit charged that more than half of the money given to Pepper’s firm could not be accounted for. His legal problems worsened when a real estate company sued him civilly, claiming he had reneged on a deal to sell his $350,000 Westchester, New York, home. Eventually the felony morals charges were dropped to misdemeanour charges. He left for England, and finally in 1990 the morals charges were dismissed for lack of prosecution. Pepper denied the charges and claimed that his legal problems were part of a conspiracy to punish him for his anti-Vietnam stance in the late 1960’s and his friendship with King.”

Pepper never challenged these allegations in his 2003 MLK conspiracy book, ‘An Act of State’.

What became unfortunate about this case was the way in which Pepper stopped at nothing to malign innocent participants who had been caught up in his quest to prove a non-existent and far-fetched conspiracy organized by the U.S. government. He disgracefully pointed the finger of guilt at not only Rev. Kyles but also accused the widow of a Memphis Police Department “conspirator” of having lied about her husband's role in the conspiracy. Raul, an innocent Portuguese immigrant, had his life turned upside down by Pepper's desire to implicate him in a plot. Pepper displayed no shame in accusing each of his targets of criminal acts, perjury in the first instance and murder in the second. He also accused King assassination authors Gerald Frank and George McMillan of having sinister ties to the FBI and/or CIA, implying they conspired with the government to hide the truth or simply were duped when they investigated the King murder. He even gave credence to one of his star witnesses, Glenda Grabow, a JFK conspiracy fantasist who maligned the character of LBJ aide Jack Valenti by describing him as a , ‘pornographer’. Instead of showing her the door, he enlisted her as a Jowers trial witness. As Pepper's former investigator, Ken Herman, told BBC documentary makers, “Pepper is the most gullible person I have ever met in my life”.

As visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, David Greenburg, wrote, “Despite multiple debunking these (conspiracy) fantasies endure…a crackpot named William F. Pepper has convinced King's entire family that the U.S. Government, including President Lyndon Johnson, was responsible for his death…conspiracists adopt the trappings of scholarship, touting irrelevant titles and credentials. They burrow into the arcana of their topics and inundate potential acolytes with a barrage of pedantic detail. Rather than build a case from evidence, conspiracists deny the available evidence, maintaining that appearances deceive. Rather than admit to inconvenient facts, they dismiss them as lies, making their own theories irrefutable.”, Of Conspiracies and Kings, 10 May 1998.

2. See: chapter 8 and History News Network, Did the CIA Kill Bobby Kennedy? The BBC's Blunder by Mel Ayton  )

A New York Times review of O’Sullivan’s book stated:  “Like a dog unleashed in a field full of rabbits, [O’Sullivan] chases one shard of ‘evidence’ after another—a second gunman, a girl in a polka-dot dress—without bothering to arrange them in any coherent pattern”. (New York Times, June 6, 2008)

In his book Who Killed Bobby Kennedy? O’Sullivan goes beyond speculation and actually lies. O'Sullivan stated that he saw me in the Rare Books section of the British Library, London, looking at a microfilm reader at the same time he was carrying out his research. I have never been to the British Library in my life. I received my copy of the 1500 page LAPD/SUS file on microfilm from the California State Archives and viewed it at Sunderland University. Whilst this is a minor point, it does highlight how O'Sullivan simply makes things up to suit his purposes  - whatever that may be in this instance.(Who Killed Bobby Kennedy? (2008) page 528)

3. Who Killed Bobby? By Shane O’Sullivan, 2008, 471

4.,  Preparing for the blatant exploitation of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Senator Robert Kennedy's murder, ,, Memorandum,                   and History News Network, Mel Ayton: Review of Shane O’Sullivan’s Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?, 

5. CNN, and CNN,

6. HNN, 5 July 2012, CNN’s Conspiracy Bias in the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination

According to the FBI files most of the estimated 77 witnesses in the pantry could not remember how many shots had been fired and described the gunshots in terms of ‘a number of shots,’ ‘a series of firecrackers,’ ‘several shots’ or ‘a number of shots in rapid succession.’ However, of those witnesses who ventured an opinion about how many shots had been fired, all but a few put the number of shots at 8 or less, including: Kristi Witker, Ira Goldstein (one of the shooting victims), Irwin Stroll (another shooting victim),  Harold Edward Hughes, Pete Hamill, Ralph Elmore, Joseph A. LaHive, Richard Aubry, David Saul Barrett, Richard L. Cohen, David M. Esquith, Jacqueline Sullivan, James Cummings, Paul Green Houston, Richard Edward Drew, Bob Funk, Roosevelt Grier, Barbara Rubin, Freddy Plimpton, Lon Bruce Rubin, Dun Gifford, Charles Bailey, Jimmy Breslin, Stanley Kawalac, Robert Ray Breshears, Thomas Perez, Uno Timanson, Gabor Kadar and Rafer Johnson. (Reporter Warren Rogers, who was just outside the pantry said, “At the double doors to the kitchen, I heard the shots. They sounded like firecrackers. There were eight of them, in rapid succession.”) 

7. Larry Sturdivan, email to the author, 22 June 2007.Larry Sturdivan is an acclaimed and recognized expert on wound ballistics. He worked at the U.S. Army’s Ballistics Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, from 1964 to 1972, and then at the Edgewood Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, from 1972 through 1995.  In 1964, he observed ballistics tests conducted at the Biophysics Laboratory of Edgewood Arsenal in support of the Warren Commission’s investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He held levels of responsibility from bench-level research to management, including Associate Technical Director for Technology at Edgewood. He wrote the majority of the casualty criteria for bullets, fragments etc. used by the U.S. and NATO, and has had contracts to update them. In 1978, as a senior researcher, he was made the U.S. Army’s contact in helping the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) as it re-investigated the JFK assassination.

8. CNN, RFK assassination witness tells CNN: There was a second shooterBy Michael Martinez and Brad Johnson, April 30, 2012,

9. Ayton, Forgotten Terrorist, 277-278. For the American Team’s analysis, see: History News Network, 26 March 2007, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: The Acoustics Evidence by Steve Barber, Steve Barber was instrumental in debunking the sound recording of the JFK assassination. His work on the JFK audio recording was praised by the National Academy of Scientists.

In an email to me Steve Barber wrote: “Van Praag's pulling 13 shots out of this recording is absurd, to say the least. I have studied this recording for 2 years. I received my copy of it in April 2006. I publicly presented my findings on the National Geographic Channel program CIA Secret Experiments, which aired March 10, 2008, and I pointed to a computer graph that shows 8 spikes, one for each gunshot. The gunshots are distinct, once you use Dolby C setting on a tape deck. I counted 8 distinct gunshots, fired rapidly, one after the other. I have the same, exact source of the recording that Van Praag uses, and, in fact, Van Praag and I corresponded in 2006, and he sent me a CD copy of what he calls his "master" which he said he was given permission to record “digitally” while at the California State Archives. The two sounds which Van Praag describes as coming too close together to be fired by one gunman are not two gunshots fired close together. The second of the two sounds I firmly believe to be the bullet striking a solid object. It does not have the characteristics of a 'pop' sound at all, and that is why it doesn't present a spike on the graph like the other gunshot sounds do. I am currently working directly with acoustics expert Phillip Harrison. Our findings differ drastically with what Van Praag claims to have found." (email to the author 21st April 2008)

The findings of the two audio teams are, to some extent, supported by another expert, Robert Berkovitz. In 2006 Berkovitz had been asked by Brad Johnson to look at the Pruszynski Tape and, according to Berkovitz, “…. Johnson sought to hire us to analyse this material as part of a cable TV project, but nothing came of it.” In an email to this author Berkovitz stated, “My final words to Johnson, shortly before he informed me of his withdrawal from the project, were that unless some way could be found to prove that the thumps or bangs in question were gunfire, any conclusions about their significance would rest on sand.  One question I would have wanted to answer was whether the relative amplitudes of the shot-like impulses in the numerous recordings could be used to locate their sources.” Berkovitz sent a spectrogram he had made in 2006 “……of a 4-second segment of the Pruszynski recording.  Audible impulsive events have been numbered, and we found eight of these.  The red-tinted rectangular portion at the left side of the spectrogram corresponds to a vocalization, 'Ow!' that follows the first event.  The more prominent event at the right side of the spectrogram, following impulse No. 8, is a scream.”                 

10. The Washington Post, Sirhan Sirhan denied parole despite a Kennedy confidant’s call for the assassin’s releaseby Peter Holley, February 11, 2016

11. LaCorte News, The RFK Assassination – Modern-day audio technology concludes Sirhan acted alone by Carole McKinley 4 June 2019, )

12. Washington Decoded, Mark Lane: The Original Shyster by Mel Ayton, 11 May 2012, 

 Lane describes how Bobby Kennedy was led out of the Ambassador Hotel pantry by his bodyguard “FBI agent . . . William Barry.” Barry, according to Lane, “changed the route at the last minute.” Not only had Lane erred in stating Barry had changed the route at the last second but he got Barry’s title wrong – Barry was an “ex-FBI agent”.

13. FPP, A false Wikipedia 'biography' by John Seigenthaler,

14. Los Angeles Times, Handwritten notes by Robert F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan shed new light on killer, 7 April 2011

15. Dan Moldea, The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, 1995, 312-313, 326

16. Dan Moldea, Email to the author, 7 April 2011

17. Public Intelligence, 20 November 2011, Sirhan Sirhan Plea

18. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

19. National Geographic Channel,  CIA Secret Experiments,  Written, produced and directed by Tria Thalman, 2007

20. Brothers, by David Talbot (2007), 373

23. See: History News Network,  23 May 2008, RFK Assassination: New Revelations from the FBI’s ‘Kensalt’ Files,

24. Washington Post Washington, December 19, 1974, “Expert Discounts RFK 2nd Gun Theory” By Ron Kessler

25. See: The Forgotten Terrorist – Chapter 4 The Shooting

26. Vincent DiPierro interviewed by Shane O’Sullivan, RFK Must Die DVD, Produced and Directed by Shane O’Sullivan (Dokument Films, 2007) and KTLA 5, 3 January 2018, Vincent DiPierro, RFK Assassination Witness, by Frank Buckley

27. KTLA 5, 3 January 2018, Vincent DiPierro, RFK Assassination Witness, by Frank Buckley

28. Steve Lopez, Ex-Busboy Will Never Forget Bobby Kennedy, Los Angeles Times, June 1st 2003.

29. History News Network,  FBI Kensalt Files, Interview with Mrs Freddy Plimpton, 1 July 1968,

30. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

In January 2015 Dan Moldea and I received a letter of thanks from Deputy Attorney General Jaime Fuster for our work in assisting the Office of the California Attorney General in preparing a response to Sirhan’s habeas petition and supplemental briefing:  

6 January 2015

Since both of you helped my efforts to convince the federal district court that Sirhan's conspiracy theories lacked merit, I wanted to let you know the district court has finally rejected Sirhan's arguments and dismissed his habeas petition.  I have attached the two pertinent orders if you are interested in reading them.  However, the legal case is not over yet, as Sirhan could ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear his case.  This federal appellate court has some discretion to review the case, with a new round of legal briefing and oral arguments.  If the Ninth Circuit refuses to take the case, Sirhan would then have a (very unlikely) shot in the United States Supreme Court.  Again, thanks for your past help in the case.  Hope is it over soon.  Jaime Fuster

31. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48 )

32. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

33. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

34. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48 ) also see The Forgotten Terrorist Chapter 6 Controversies: The Physical Evidence

35. CNN, Prosecutors rebut jailed RFK assassin's claims in freedom questBy Michael Martinez and Brad Johnson, February 5, 2012

36. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

In a 2007 trial, Daniel Brown had made “numerous misrepresentations” regarding the hypothesis of “repressed memory” or “dissociative amnesia”. Among other things Brown had misused “studies addressing the 'accuracy' of recovered memories to provide an error rate for the hypothesis of dissociative amnesia or repressed memory.”  (On Point News, Harvard Prof Attacked in Repressed Memory Case )

37.  Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48

38. National Post, Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole at Emotional Hearing, 


40. See Chapter 9 The Manchurian Candidate Assassin and The Kennedy Assassination by John McAdams,  The JFK and RFK Assassinations and the Bogus ‘Manchurian Candidate Theories by Mel Ayton,

Shane O’Sullivan has also presented poorly researched background information about the possibility Sirhan had been hypnotized to murder RFK. He references the case of Bjorn Nielsen who purportedly hypnotized Palle Hardrup to commit murder in 1951. He uses this case as a proven example of how someone can hypnotize another to commit murder. What O’Sullivan does not do, however, is inform his readers that Hardrup confessed to making everything up in 1972 in an interview with Soren Petersen of the Danish newspaper BT. (Brainwash – The Secret History Of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild, (2006),  177 )

Other conspiracy writers claimed a show business hypnotist, Derren Brown, had successfully ‘programmed’ a ‘Manchurian Candidate - style’ assassin in one of his television shows. However, the entertainer himself has poured scorn on these claims. In 2018 Brown said, “The more bewildered we are, the more susceptible we become…..I’m quite open about how the whole thin I do happens in inverted commas, so not to believe everything you see or hear. It’s a form of entertainment. Some of it’s real and some of it isn’t. Hopefully, part of the fun is trying to unpick that.” (The Mail On Sunday, Magic? It can Make You Go Mad by Cole Moreton, 11 March 2018, p7)

41. Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge, Judge Andrew J. Wistrich: 15/48  

42. Boston Globe, RFK's death now viewed as first case of Mideast violence exported to U.S. by Sasha Issenberg, June 8, 2008,

43.The Guardian, Shot Heard Round The World by Stephen Kinzer, , 13 June 2008 )

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