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Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan Sirhan listens during a parole hearing Feb. 10, 2016, at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, Pool, File)

RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan will remain in prison

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was denied parole Thursday by California’s governor, who said the killer remains a threat to the public and hasn’t taken responsibility for a crime that altered American history.

Kennedy, a U.S. senator from New York, was shot moments after he claimed victory in California’s pivotal Democratic presidential primary. Five others were wounded during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has cited RFK as his political hero, rejected a recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners who said Sirhan, 77, should be freed. The panel’s recommendation in August had divided the Kennedy family, with two of RFK’s sons — Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — supporting his release, and their siblings and mother vehemently opposing it.

In his decision, Newsom said the assassination was “among the most notorious crimes in American history,” Aside from causing Kennedy’s then-pregnant wife and 10 children “immeasurable suffering,” Newsom said the killing “also caused great harm to the American people.”

It “upended the 1968 presidential election, leaving millions in the United States and beyond mourning the promise of his candidacy,” Newsom wrote. “Mr. Sirhan killed Senator Kennedy during a dark season of political assassinations, just nine weeks after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder and four and a half years after the murder of Senator Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy.”

He said Sirhan still lacks insight, refuses to accept responsibility and has failed to disclaim violence committed in his name. That adds “to his current risk of inciting further political violence,” Newsom wrote.

In 1973, terrorists took 10 hostages at an embassy in Sudan, demanding the release of Sirhan and other prisoners and killing three diplomats when their demands weren’t met, he noted.

Sirhan, who will be scheduled for a new parole hearing no later than February 2023, will ask a judge to overturn Newsom’s denial, defense attorney Angela Berry said.

 

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