Newsom, who was cited in a previous interview with FOX 11 referring to RFK as his political hero, rejected a recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners. The governor said Sirhan, now 77, poses an unreasonable threat to public safety and that his crimes "caused great harm to the American people."
"The gravity of Mr. Sirhan’s crimes alone counsels against his release," Newsom wrote in the nine-page document about his decision.
"Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history," Newsom wrote. "After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past."
Newsom added that factors in his decision include Sirhan's "current refusal to accept responsibility for his crimes," his lack of insight and the accountability required to support his safe release, his failure to disclaim violence committed in his name, and his failure to mitigate his risk factors.
"Kennedy’s family bears his loss every day," Newsom wrote. "Millions of Americans lost a unifier in a time of national turmoil and grief, just nine weeks after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and four-and-a-half years after the murder of Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy."
Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of RFK and president of RFK Human Rights, released the following statement which reads in part, "We are grateful to California Governor Gavin Newsom, and deeply relieved by his decision today to deny parole to the killer of Robert F. Kennedy. A little over fifty-three years ago, our family gathered for its first Christmas without our beloved husband and father. Six months earlier, one man killed him in plain view of his wife, friends, staff, journalists and photographers. Eleven children were left without a father, their mother without her husband and our nation deprived of a unique leader."
Sirhan was convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. He was initially sentenced to the death penalty in 1969. However, in 1972, Sirhan's sentence was commuted to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty.
FOX 11 covered the senator that terrible night on June 4, 1968. He was giving a victory speech at LA's Ambassador Hotel after winning the California Primary. Seconds after finishing his speech, Kennedy was lying face down on the floor of the hotel's pantry. Sirhan was later convicted of firing the three shots at him with that revolver his brother purchased from a neighbor for $25.
Fifteen previous times, parole panels rejected freeing Sirhan before deciding that he is no longer a danger to public safety.
New laws since his last previous parole hearing in 2016 meant the panel had to consider that Sirhan committed the offense at a young age, when he was 24; is now an elderly prisoner; and that the Christian Palestinian who immigrated from Jordan had suffered childhood trauma from the conflict in the Middle East.
Sirhan will be scheduled for a new parole hearing no later than February 2023.
Sirhan will ask a judge to overturn Newsom’s denial, said his defense attorney, Angela Berry.
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