Sirhan, 77, learned he would be eligible for release last month after spending 53 years behind bars for assassinating the senator during his 1968 presidential campaign
The Kennedy family are ‘at war’ after Robert Kennedy’s widow Ethel sent a letter, with the support of six of her children, to the California parole board opposing the release of his killer, Sirhan Sirhan.
Sirhan, 77, learned he would be eligible for release last month after spending 53 years behind bars for assassinating the senator during his 1968 presidential campaign.
While the 93-year-old matriarch and six of her and RFK’s children vehemently opposed Sirhan’s parole, not all were in favor of the release for the man who killed their father.
The family members who opposed the release had promised not to make a statement to the parole board at Sirhan’s hearing on August 27, but according to the New York Post, they blindsided sons Robert Jr – also known as Bobby – and Douglas, who were in favor of his release.
The rift has caused the family to accuse each other of ‘double-crossing’ the others, a source close to the August 27th parole hearing told the New York Post.
‘Bobby got backstabbed,’ the insider told the Post.
Sirhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry. says the family quarrel erupted into a full-blown showdown between differing factions of the Kennedy clan – those that supported Sirhan’s release and those who did not.
‘The night before the hearing I got a letter from the parole board via the LAPD,’ Berry told the news outlet.
‘It read, ‘On behalf of the Kennedy family, we oppose the release of Sirhan.’ [Bobby] had been staying out of it specifically on the assumption that his family was going to stay out of it … I got ahold of him right away letting him know what happened.’
‘We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release,’ the statement from the six siblings read.
It was signed by Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy Hill, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy who write that the decision has ‘inflicted enormous additional pain.’
Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy who was assassinated during his 1968 presidential campaign, wrote a letter to the parole board pleading with them to not release Sirhan Sirhan
Ethel described her husband’s death as ‘an unspeakable loss to the inhumanity of one man’ (Pictured Robert (left) and Ethel Kennedy (right) on their wedding day in Greenwich, Connecticut on June 17, 1950)
He should NOT be paroled’: RFK’s widow Ethel Kennedy, 93, joins 6 of her nine surviving kids opposing Sirhan Sirhan’s parole in opposition to sons
But two of RFK’s children, Douglas Kennedy, 54, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 67, have supported Sirhan’s parole.
Upon learning of his mother’s letter, Bobby composed a last-minute statement of his own the night before the hearing in favor of Sirhan’s parole, which just barely made it in time to be reviewed at the hearing.
‘The parole hearing started at 8:30 am and Robert’s letter streamed in at 10:30 am,’ Berry said.
‘It read in part, ‘I have to assure you that the letter you got is not on behalf of the whole Kennedy family.’ That was the very last thing the hearing officer read into the record.’
FOR: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (left) and Douglas Kennedy (right) have supported Sirhan’s recommendation for parole
Meanwhile, Douglas spoke at the hearing in support of Sirhan’s release, saying he was ‘moved to tears’ by his remorse, according to an Associated Press report.
‘I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,’ he said.
‘I think I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.’
‘I do have some love for you,’ he told Sirhan, who nodded in response.
RFK was shot in Los Angeles after giving a victory speech following his win in the South Dakota and California 1968 Democratic presidential primaries (Pictured: Ethel, left, RFK, right)
Robert Kennedy immediately after being fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968
Robert Kennedy was walking through the kitchen of the hotel stopping to speak with supporters when he was shot, June 1968
The California Parole Board staff has 90 days to review the decision whether or not to release Sirhan, after which California Gov. Gavin Newsom makes the final decision to refuse or allow the Palestinian assassin’s parole.
While Ethel’s letter may have blindsided several family members, a longtime Kennedy associate said she understood why Ethel ‘weighed in’ on the controversial topic.
‘It’s a disgrace,’ she said.
‘Six kids oppose Sirhan’s release along with the 93-year-old mother who’s gone through nothing but pain and loss for years. What is wrong with those two children who want that lying son of a bitch freed from prison? Where is the family unity?’
Paul Schrade, who’d worked with RFK and was also shot that night, also believes that Sirhan was not the shooter and should be released.
‘Sirhan did not shoot Robert Kennedy,’ Schrade, 96, maintains. ‘I got the first shot, the second shot missed Kennedy,’ according to NPR.
He believes that unreliable ballistics evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department disrupted the case and advocates for Sirhan’s release in order to find RFK’s true assassin.
Sirhan stepped towards RFK with a rolled up campaign poster, hiding his .22 revolver shooting him in the head from only a foot away
He was immediately wrestled to the ground by RFK’s security team and taken into custody. He claims that he has been drinking alcohol and did not remember pulling the trigger
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, 70, is the only member of RFK’s nuclear family that has not publicly announced their opinion of Sirhan’s parole recommendation.
Two of Robert and Ethel’s 11 children are deceased. David Kennedy died at age 28 in 1984 and Michael Kennedy died at age 39 in 1997.
This latest parole hearing marked Sirhan’s 16th attempt at parole. The panel’s recommendation still awaits a review by the California Parole Board and a final decision by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The review process could take up to 120 days.
Robert Kennedy was the younger brother to former President John F. Kennedy, serving as his brother’s US attorney general. He was then elected as a New York Senator.
RFK was 42 years old when he was pronounced dead on June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The rising politician was shot after giving a victory speech following his win in the South Dakota and California 1968 Democratic presidential primaries.
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