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Newsom Declines Parole for RFK Killer

California’s Board of Parole Hearings recommended parole for Sirhan, 77, in August after Sirhan argued that he can now contain his anger better.
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January 14, 2022
Police portraits of Jordanian assassin Sirhan Sirhan the night he assassinated Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced in a January 13 Los Angeles Times op-ed that he will not be granting parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the killer of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

California’s Board of Parole Hearings recommended parole for Sirhan, 77, in August after Sirhan argued that he can now contain his anger better. Newsom concluded, however, “that Sirhan has not developed the accountability and insight required to support his safe release into the community.” He cited Sirhan’s “shifting narrative about his assassination of Kennedy, and his current refusal to accept responsibility for it.”

Newsom noted that Sirhan recorded himself saying that “Kennedy must be assassinated” and that he admitted to committing the assassination at the time. “Incredibly, in the 1990s, Sirhan began dodging responsibility,” Newsom wrote. “He claimed he could not remember the crime, then stated he was innocent. In 2016, Sirhan said he believed he did not kill Kennedy based on what he had read in his attorney’s legal briefs. As recently as last year, Sirhan portrayed himself as the victim, claiming he ‘was in the wrong spot at the wrong time.’”

He added that Sirhan “remains a potent symbol of political violence.” “In the past, terrorists took hostages—and ultimately killed some of them—in Sirhan’s name,” Newsom wrote. “Despite inciting violence in the past, recently Sirhan laughingly dismissed the current relevance of his status as an ideological lightning rod. He does not understand, let alone have the skills to manage, the complex risks of his self-created notoriety. He cannot be safely released from prison because he has not mitigated his risk of fomenting further political violence.”

Newsom concluded with a quote from Kennedy that stated: “Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again” and urged Sirhan “to start taking Kennedy’s words to heart.”

Angela Berry, Sirhan’s attorney, told the New York Post that Newsom’s decision will be appealed to a judge and that they “fully expect” it to be overturned. She also stated that “Sirhan has consistently been found by prison psychologists and psychiatrists to not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to the public” and hailed his “extensive impressive record of rehabilitation.” Sirhan will have another parole hearing by February 2023 at the latest.

Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian with Jordanian citizenship, admitted at the time of shooting that he did it because of Kennedy’s vocal support for Israel. During the recent parole hearing, Sirhan said that he’s in tears over the suffering of Palestinian refugees, but pledged to remain neutral on the matter going forward. Two of Kennedy’s sons argued in favor of releasing Sirhan, but other Kennedy family members and members of law enforcement argued otherwise.

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