The Killing of RFK Will we ever know the truth? By Andy Boehm Insight Features Stability,

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from: The NY Transfer BBS 718-448-2358 The Killing of RFK Will we ever know the truth? By Andy Boehm Insight Features Stability, continuity, orderly transfer of power -- these are what civics teachers and poli-sci profs cite as the virtues of American politics, a curious two-party affair nearly devoid of ideology and dominated by business interests. In school, they teach us that other democracies suffer by having ideological parties -- and not just two of them. Those nations are often racked by painful political upheavals, peopled by angry, polarized masses of citizens, The US, they say, avoids such trouble thanks to regularly scheduled elections contested by two groups who share the same basic agenda and disagree only on the mechanics of achieving it. The tumultuous years 1963-75 proved this Pollyanna-ish depiction of stability to be a lie. During those years, America witnessed three major political assassinations, an attempted assassination and the unscheduled, disorderly departure of a president and vice president under threat of impeachment. These events altered the expected outcomes of presidential elections, rapidly shifted power from one elite to another and severely damaged the focus, morale and momentum of black America's quest for equality. The year 1968 was one in which the "orderly" transfer of power was directed by military, criminal and police violence. For millions of American, it is the year they cannot forget and do not want to remember. The euphoria and optimism of its first five months changed quickly to bitter despair as the dark side of American politics came into full view. For many, 1968 permanently killed their idealism, their capacity for joy and their willingness to participate in their country's political life. It was also a year of unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions. Who really killed Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why did the liberal "peace candidate" of 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson, turn into a warmonger? How did Eugene McCarthy, the poetic and peculiar Minnesota senator, manage to end the reign of LBJ? Without ever entering a primary, who was that other Minnesotan, Hubert Humphrey, able to keep an anti-war option off the November ballot? How did a worthless has- been nicknamed "Tricky" become president? What really happened in France and Czechoslovakia? How could a year start so hopefully yet end so badly? What was generally not considered a mystery in 1968 was the assassination of Bobby Kennedy on June 5 at LA Ambassador Hotel. After all, about 20 people actually saw the "lone-nut assassin" Sirhan Sirhan shoot at RFK. Millions read Palestinian Sirhan's assertion that he had killed to avenge Kennedy's support of Israel. As Ralph Blumenfeld said in the New York Post, "Never had a case seemed more closed." Over the last 20 years, a few people questioned this assessment. They wanted to see the police investigative files on the RFK assassination. They noted that the Warren Commission, for all its many shortcomings, wasted no time in releasing almost all its files to the public. but for almost two decades, the LAPD refused to reveal what it had learned about what generally called the most spectacular crime in LA's history. Finally, after years of political and legal skirmishing, the LAPD gave its RFK files to the California State Archives. Last April, the archives opened them to the general public. Going public with the LAPD filed did not lay to rest doubts about the official conclusion that Sirhan acted alone. Many items in the files tend to corroborate earlier private investigations that indicated something terribly wrong with the manner in which the local law enforcement and criminal justice systems had reached their conclusions. In fact, the newly opened investigative police files, together with the results of earlier private investigations, give ample reason to believe that Sirhan Sirhan did not act alone and did not fire the shot that killed Bobby Kennedy on the night of his triumph in the California Democratic primary. Bobby Mania Going into the California Primary, Robert Kennedy seemed to be losing momentum in his quest for the nomination while his major opponent, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, claimed he was on a roll. The results of the May 28 Oregon primary had painfully shocked Kennedy. Eugene McCarthy won it -- the first defeat for a Kennedy brother in 28 elections. What made it worse was that MCCarthy was mocking him: "Bobby threatened to hold his breath unless the people of Oregon voted for him." Worse yet, McCarthy had the gall to tell West Coast voters that RFK and his martyred brother were among the graduates of "a sort of University of the Cold War" that was responsible for the bloodbath in Vietnam. The outrage and need for reassurance that gripped RFK and his entourage led them into a demagogic, pop-star style of campaigning in California. This was a dangerous game. It certainly drew huge crowds and focused public attention on Kennedy. But as three British journalists later noted in a book about the 1968 election, such a campaign "could well stir and confuse the excited and unhappy people who abound in the urban wildernesses of Southern California." RFK's California campaign inspired both death threats and adoring, maddened crowd that tore off items of the candidate's clothing. In one of his many motorcades, someone tossed a rock at Kennedy, and at the end of the campaign he collapsed from exhaustion at an appearance in San Diego. But by Tuesday evening, June 4, the high voter turnout in black and Latino neighborhoods indicated that RFK's strongest admirers would give him the margin of victory he so desperately wanted. He had apparently reached the end of his dangerous game victorious and unscathed. The Shooting Around midnight, feeling sure of victory, RFK went down from his room at the Ambassador Hotel to the Embassy Ballroom to address a large, boisterous crowd of supporters. After the speech, he proceeded toward the smaller Colonial Room, where reporters had gathered. An earlier plan had been to walk to the Colonial Room through the Embassy Ballroom shaking hands on the way. However, the crowd there was so thick and so eager to touch the candidate that it would have been impossible to get through to the waiting reporters. The alternate route to the Colonial Room led through a kitchen pantry behind the ballroom. Walking ahead of his bodyguard, Kennedy entered the pantry and began shaking hands with kitchen workers and others. He was guided in by Karl Uecker, the Ambassador Hotel's assistant maitre d'. A private security guard, Thane Eugene Cesar, was walking right behind the senator. There were 76 or 77 people -- the 77th would have been the "woman in the polka-dot dress," (see below) in the crowded pantry, including a short, thin young man of "Latin" appearance who stepped around Uecker and began firing a small .22-caliber pistol. After two shots, Uecker says, he grabbed the gunman's hand, forcing the barrel away from Kennedy. Immediately, others joined the struggle while the gun kept firing. Even when massive LA Ram Roosevelt Grier joined the attack, it took a surprisingly long time to subdue the diminutive gunmen and wrest the weapon from him. Meanwhile, Kennedy fell wounded to the floor in a pool of blood. Next to him was a clip-on necktie torn from the collar of security guard Cesar, who also went down in the melee. Five other people received bullet wounds. Carrying car keys but no identification, the gunman was whisked away through a threatening crowd to a police car, whose occupants (including State Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh) were determined not to have "another Dallas," meaning the pretrial killing of an assassin. Robert F. Kennedy died 25 hours after the shooting from a head wound that sent lead and bone fragments into the right hemisphere of his cerebellum. The other victims survived. The gunman refused to reveal his name. Not until nine hours after his arrest was he identified as Pasadena resident Sirhan Bishara Sirhan by his flabbergasted brothers, who saw him on TV and on the front page of the morning paper. The LAPD quickly formed a special investigative task force called the Special Unit Senator (SUS). The findings of SUS enabled LA Country District Attorney Evelle Younger to obtain a guilty verdict and a since-revoked death penalty in Sirhan's trial the following April. In court, the defense did not contest any of the crime-scene evidence or other testimony used to prove Sirhan's guilt. The Official Findings By the end of its investigation, SUS had conducted 3470 separate interviews, collected a disputed number of photos numbering at least 2500 and written up the case on more than 50,000 sheets of paper. According to the LAPD's then- chief of detectives, Robert A. Houghton, the man who put SUS together, the special task force conducted "the longest, largest and most expensive criminal investigation ever undertaken by the LAPD, possibly the most extensive investigation ever conducted by any local law-enforcement agency." In his book Special Unit Senator (Random House, 1970), Chief Detective Houghton summarized the SUS's findings as follows: "1) Sirhan Sirhan fired the fatal shots that killed Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and wounded five others. 2) Sirhan fired those shots with the intent to kill Sen. Kennedy, and his act was premeditated. 3) Sirhan was not under the influence of a drug or intoxicant at the time of the shooting. 4) Sirhan was legally sane at the time of the incident. 5) There was not evidence of a conspiracy in the crime." As we'll see later, the LAPD arrived at finding No.5 before the formation of SUS and, apparently, even before Sirhan's identity had been established. With the exception of No.3 and No.4, Sirhan's defense challenged none of the SUS findings listed above or the evidence supporting them. The defense attorney merely contended in vain that Sirhan acted in a state of "diminished capacity," a mitigating factor that is somewhat easier to prove than strict legal insanity. The finding of SUS satisfied the jury and just about every opinion leader and establishment journalist in America. Much of the general public was at first skeptical about a second "lone nut" killing a Kennedy but, as time passed, most people accepted that Sirhan Sirhan was the sole writer, director and producer of the tragic drama performed in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen in 1968. Long before the recent release of the LAPD files, however, a very few private citizen-investigators and writers concluded that some of SUS's five conclusions here highly suspect, while others were just plain impossible. Several of these generally ignored, often scorned but determined citizen- investigators gave generously of their time and files to help research this story. Many of their most convincing arguments with the official version centered on ignored or misinterpreted evidence found at the crime scene or in the course of subsequent scientific tests. While including many hair splitting details, these items of evidence merit examination. They not only indicate what really happened in the Ambassador kitchen pantry on June 5, 1968, but also suggest that some sort of coverup was condoned or possibly even conducted by some governmental authorities pledged to enforce that law and obtain justice. The Autopsy Former LA County Chief Medical Examiner Dr Thomas T. Noguchi lost his job due to allegations of "gallows humor", an unseemly thirst for publicity and various managerial shortcomings. However, as a forensic pathologist, the "coroner to the stars" always has received great respect from his scientific peers, some of whom helped him deal with the Kennedy case. When it became clear that RFK would die following the shooting, Noguchi made the politically astute request that experts from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) assist him on the autopsy so as to reduce the potential for later controversy. One of these AFIP pathologists, Dr Pierre Finck, had worked on the controversial autopsy of Sen. Kennedy's brother John. Noguchi, his regular assistants, a photographer, the AFIP pathologists, Deputy DA John Miner and a few LAPD observers attended what Noguchi called in his book, Coroner (Simon & Schuster, 1983), "the most meticulous autopsy I had ever performed." In a recent interview, Noguchi said that the findings he released represented a consensus of all the attending pathologists and that none of the observers has ever quarreled with them. The autopsy revealed that RFK received two wounds from bullets entering "underneath and slightly to the back of his right armpit." These alone would not have killed him, nor would the third bullet, which passed through the back of his jacket's should pad without hitting him. The fourth and fatal bullet entered Kennedy's skull just behind his right ear. Soot on his hair and power- burn "tatoo" patterns on his ear place the gun muzzle just three inches away from Kennedy's ear. Noguchi double-checked this distance by firing a similar gun from varying distances at pig's ears, which are physically similar to human skin. Simply put, a team of topnotch forensic pathologists concluded that Robert Kennedy was shot dead from behind by a gun just three inches from his head. Noguchi's hurried appearance at the Sirhan trial was nothing but "a formality", he said. Sirhan's chief counsel, Grant Cooper, refrained from discussing the autopsy in court, apparently fearing the effect of gory details on the jury. Had Cooper pursued the matter, the jurors would have become very perplexed, because every witness of the shooting placed Sirhan several feet in front of Kennedy when firing his gun. Assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker, who guided Kennedy through the kitchen and stood between the senator and Sirhan told former Congressmember and UN Ambassador Allard Lowenstein, "There was a distance of at least one-and-a-half feet between the mussel of Sirhan's gun and Kennedy's head....There is no way the shots described in the autopsy could have come from the Sirhan gun." Juan Romero, the busboy immortalized in a photo of him cradling RFK's head, was near enough to feel the heat of Sirhan's gun on his face. He said the gun as "approximately one yard from Sen. Kennedy's head." Vincent DiPierro, a waiter so close to the scene that RFK's blood spattered on his face, told the Grand Jury that Sirhan's body was "four to six feet" from Kennedy "when his gun started firing." Numerous other witnesses to the shooting placed Sirhan several feet in front of Kennedy, who shot the last time from a few inches behind. Small wonder that in Coroner Noguchi states, "I have never said that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy. Did Sirhan have a magic gun capable of firing bullets in what citizen investigator Robert Cutler mockingly called a "boomerang-trajectory flight path"? Even so, that would explain the powder burns that can only be inflicted with inches of a firing gun muzzle. Actually, Noguchi himself flirts with an explanation that squares his finding with those concluding Sirhan was the lone gunman. Noguchi notes that the first bullet could have hit RFK in the body, causing him to spin 180 degrees around by the time the fatal shot reached his head. Also, the victorious candidate was seen twisting around while shaking hands in the kitchen. But when it comes to how the gun could have been inches from RFK's head, Coroner lamely cites a preposterous mass-hypnotic form of "crowd psychology" whereby Sirhan "lunged toward Kennedy and fired, a move unseen by anyone, and then, as Kennedy spun, lunged back [Noguchi's emphasis] to fire from farther away, as second move also invisible to all..." In his interview with this writer, Noguchi indicated he realized the extreme unlikelihood of this by citing Uecker's testimony. Baxter Ward also stressed the importance of Uecker's testimony. Ward, who reopened parts of the case as both a KHJ-TV newsreporter and an LA county supervisor, told of meeting Uecker several years after the shooting, at which time Uecker still contended Sirhan was situated well in front of Kennedy. In his periodical, Grassy Knoll Gazette, Robert Cutler speculates that Noguchi's "gobbledegook" about "crowd psychology" came at the urging of "the publisher's legal counsel." Such lawyers worry about lawsuits over controversial books. But who could have sued Simon & Schuster had Coroner stated that the killer stood right behind RFK? It turns out that there was indeed a man with a gun standing inches behind Kennedy, a man who (by his own admission) drew his gun, and who was seen wiping his eyes, perhaps to remove powder or soot. He also told a reporter minutes after the shooting that Kennedy was shot at four times, this being even before Kennedy's body and clothes were examined at the hospital. This man was the security guard, Thane Eugene Cesar, to whom we'll return later. The Bullet Count There were so many holes in the case. -William Sullivan, former number-three man in the FBI, on the RFK killing, in his book, The Bureau (W.W. Norton & Co., 1979) There also were so many holes in the kitchen that Sirhan could not have been the only gunman. His pistol held eight bullets. With the massive Rosey Grier and others beating him severely, Sirhan clearly could not have reloaded. Thus, if nine or more bullets can be shown to have been fired, at least a second gunman-still unindicted and unapprehended -- must have been at work. Six people were wounded and the pantry ceiling had three bullet holes, yet SUS put forth an explanation in which all this damage came from Sirhan's eight shots. One bullet allegedly went through RFK's body and then through a ceiling tile. Another bullet was said to have passed through the shoulder pad of Kennedy's jacket and then into the forehead of labor leader Paul Schrade. (However, the "shoulder-pad" shot went almost straight upward and could not have hit Schrade, who was standing several feet behind Kennedy.) Another shot "struck the plaster ceiling and then struck victim [Elizabeth] Evans in the head." To do that, the bullet would have had to go through one ceiling tile, bounce off the ceiling, exit through another tile and hit Evans, all of which unlikely but not impossible. However, Evans stated that she was wounded while bent over looking for her shoe, which had come loose in the milling throng. On this matter, Gregory Stone, a former Lowenstein aide active in efforts to make the police files public noted, "According to the police theory, the bullet striking Evans traveled downward from the ceiling, but in fact it proceeded at an upward angle in her forehead." (Italics his.) Some of the other multiple hits the LAPD attributed to single bullets were so far-fetched as to require the slugs magically to change direction in mid-flight. Even repealing the laws of physics can't bring the bullet count in the kitchen down to the maximum eight Sirhan could have fired. That's because additional bullets and bullet holes were seen and attested to by crime-scene witnesses and law-enforcement personnel, although not the LAPD. The following all exceed the official eight Sirhan bullets. In a signed statement given to attorney Vincent Bugliosi, Ambassador Hotel head maitre d' Angelo DiPierro (father of waiter Vincent DiPierro) said that hours after the shooting he "observed a small-caliber bullet lodged about a quarter of an inch into the wood of the center divider of the two swinging doors [at the west end of the pantry]. Several police officers also observed the bullet." He added, "I am quite familiar with guns and bullets, having been in the infantry for 3 1/2 years. There is no question in my mind that this was a bullet and not a nail or any other object." Martin Patrusky, a waiter, told Bugliosi he participated in a LAPD reconstruction of the crime scene several days after the shooting. He stated that "one of the officer pointed to two circled holes on the center divider of the swinging doors and told us that they had dug two bullets out of the center divider...I am absolutely sure that the police told us that two bullets were dug our of [those] holes." Bugliosi, best known as Charles Manson's prosecutor and author of Helter Skelter, had several unusual experiences tracking down additional bullet holes. These are described in The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Random House, 1978) by William W. Turner and John Christian, the most comprehensive single work on the case. In a recent interview, Bugliosi said that the Turner- Christian book accurately describes his many involvements in the RFK case, more of which will be dealt with later in this article. The Associated Press sent out an unusual wirephoto on June 5, some hours after the shooting. Captioned "Bullet Found Near Kennedy Shooting Scene," It showed two uniformed LAPD officers pointing to a bullet "still in the wood of the frame (not of the center divider) of one of the swinging doors to the pantry. In 1969, DA Evelle Younger publicly promised to release information regarding this photo and similar problems, but never did. In 1975, Bugliosi tried to find the two police officers, with no cooperation from the LAPD and despite an assertion from then-DA Joe Busch that the AP cation was erroneous. With help from "workaday cops," Bugliosi identified and contacted the two men in the photo, sergeants Robert Rozzi and Charles Wright. In a signed statement he gave to Bugliosi, Rozzi said he had seen "a hole in the door jamb, and the base of what appeared to be a small-caliber bullet was lodged in the frame." Later, Bugliosi telephoned Sergeant Wright, who "unequivocally declared that a bullet had been in the hole, but I do not know who did it." Bugliosi intended to get a signed statement on this from Wright the next day, a fact he inadvertency told LAPD officer Phil Sartuche (now top assistant to LA Police Chief Daryl Gates, according to researcher Christian). Before Bugliosi could meet Wright, the sergeant got calls from Sartuche and, as Bugliosi put it, "Deputy City Attorney Larry Nagen, who instructed him not to give a statement. The sergeant retreated from his positive position of the evening before, now saying that the object only looked like a bullet and, because it was so long ago, he was not at all sure he couldn't have been mistaken." The DA's office also prevented Rozzi and Wright from testifying under oath about the matter in a later civil suit. Given LAPD stonewalling and obfuscation in 1975 and earlier, Bugliosi, Lowenstein and others troubled by the lone-assassin theory were unable to prove that bullets beyond the eight officially attributed to Sirhan had been acknowledged by the authorities. Local authorities, that is. FBI documents obtained in 1976 through the Freedom of Information Act list four bullet holes in the "doorway area leading into the kitchen from the stage area." These had never been acknowledged by the LAPD. When this was brought up publicly, the FBI claimed it had not conducted a formal ballistic examination. However, former Lowenstein aide Gregory Stone notes that the Bureau "did not explicitly disavow" the report of the four extra bullet holes. Also in 1976, Bugliosi got a signed statement from former FBI agent William A. Bailey. Bailey discussed his examination of the kitchen area and stated that he and "several other agents noted at least two small-caliber holes in the doorway area. He added, "There was not question in any of our minds as to the fact they were bullet holes." The obvious way to clear up the allegations about extra bullets was to re- examine the door frame, divider post and ceiling tiles, all of which had been removed by the LAPD and held as evidence. Unfortunately, when Bugliosi, Lowenstein, and others requested the re-examination in 1975, then-assistant police Chief Daryl Gates announced that the evidence had been destroyed on June 27, 1969. This was just a few weeks after a Los Angeles Free Press article by citizen-investigators Lillian Castellano and Floyd Nelson made public the existence of the AP wire photo. Lowenstein found Gates' announcement as curious as the wondrous meandering attributed to the eight Sirhan bullets, because an earlier police board of inquiry had city a 1971 inspection "of the ceiling tiles removed from the pantry" as refutation of questions posed then about a second gun. In the Feb. 19, 1977 Saturday Review, Lowenstein asked how "such an inspection could have refuted anything if the tiles had been destroyed two years before." In the 1970s, there were all sorts of arguments and counterarguments about ballistics and forearms evidence. Some experts said markings on victim bullets proved or at least suggested that more than one gun was fired, whose other experts disagreed. Much of the confusion stemmed from the esoteric minutiae of the "science" of ballistics and firearms, and from the differences over what constitutes "proof" among firearms experts. Judge Robert Wenke assigned a panel of seven such experts to re-examine the bullet evidence. On October 6, 1975, the panel reported it found no evidence of a second gun. Most news media, led by the LA Times, thus pronounced all second gun theories dead forever. Most of the media failed to report that the experts also said they found no evidence that there was not a second gun. Most of them recommended further testing and stated that many questions remained to be answered. In 1982, electrical engineer Michael Hecker, PhD, of the Menlo Park-based SRI think tank, analyzed three sound recordings from the Ambassador Hotel. According to the Easy Reader, an LA-area weekly, Hecker's earlier work "included analysis of the Watergate tapes for the White House." On December 15, 1982, Hecker declared in a signed witness statement, "On the basis of auditory, oscillographic and spectrographic analysis of these three recordings, it is my opinion to a reasonable degree of scientific certainly, that no fewer than ten gunshots are ascertainable following the conclusion of the Senator's victory speech until the time Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was disarmed." Hecker told the Easy Reader's Kevin Cody that he believed there were more than ten shots, but with less certainty than he felt about the first ten shorts. Thus the testimony of numerous sources, including police and the FBI, indicate that more than eight bullets were fired in the Ambassador kitchen pantry the night of the RFK murder. If this is so, then despite the apparent satisfaction of the LA police and DA with evidence indicating that Sirhan -- and only Sirhan -- fired a pistol that night, another conclusion is inescapable: At least one additional gunman was firing bullets during the pandemonium. And unless one accepts the preposterous coincidence of two unconnected assassins shooting simultaneously, the only explanations is what Robert Cutler calls "that dirty word `conspiracy'." The Challengers Why are so few people aware of evidence and testimony pointing to a conspiracy? One explanation is that it was "obvious" that Sirhan acted alone. Even his defense attorney's accepted this. All the witnesses saw him shoot at Kennedy. In challenging the obvious, one risked being labeled a crackpot. Among local opinion leaders, only Baxter Ward and Vincent Bugliosi dared to challenge repeatedly the official version of the assassination. Others prominent in government or law enforcement kept their doubts to themselves. After all, challenging the official story meant challenging the veracity of the "authorities." As Allard Lowenstein noted in an unpublished manuscript, "Lawyers, for example, must deal with the LAPD and the District Attorney's office, and clients want lawyers with good relationships with law enforcement agencies." Another reason LA opinion leaders ignored troubling questions was the "not another Dallas" sentiment so prevalent among journalists, politicians, police and prosecutors. After the JFK and Oswald murders of 1963, Dallas was stuck with a national reputation as a city filled with hate and governed by inept clowns. In order to avoid similar notoriety, LA's official and unofficial city leaders labored mightily to see that Sirhan got, or appeared to get, a fair trial and that all indications of conspiracy appeared to have been refuted by diligent, impartial investigation. Any call for reopening the investigation implied official indifference, ineptitude or worse, which could severely tarnish the reputation of a city that was -- and still is -- often a target of national ridicule. Most Americans expect a free press to be a bulwark against governmental misdeed or negligence. Yet after Sirhan's trial, only the underground LA Free Press and two journalists, Ward (then with KHJ-TV) and Art Kevin (KMPC Radio), were willing to rock the official boat by talking about unanswered questions. Also noteworthy in this respect are Robert Kaiser's book RFK Must Die! (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970),and Ted Charach's film, The Second Gun (1973). Unfortunately, in "official" LA, nothing was really news unless the Times wrote about it, and that paper was, and still is, obsessed with the "not another Dallas" syndrome. When Lowenstein and Paul Schrade held their first press conference calling for further investigation of the case,the Times didn't attend or report it, even though many out-of-town papers did. Occasionally the Times has run unbiased reportage on critics of the lone-assassin theory, but its editorials invariably praise the DA and LAPD while ridiculing their critics. A May 16, 1974 Times editorial labeled then-County Supervisor Ward's attempt to reinvestigate 1968 ballistics evidence "A Strange and Ghoulish Inquiry." An August 17, 1975 editorial that erroneously cited "90 to 100 witness" to the shooting attacked "the inane suspicions of those who still want to believe that there is an official conspiracy to conceal critical evidence in the case." Other editorials in the 1970s suggested that Ward and Bugliosi had raised questions about the assassination to enhance their electoral ambitions. As recently as April 30, 1988, a Times column by John Kendall complained the "the die-hard doubters, conspiracy buffs and secondgun theorists are at it again." The Times apparently has convinced most of its readers that Sirhan alone killed Kennedy. It has scared off skeptical "conspiracy buffs" who do not wish their sanity and sincerity attacked in public. As Lowenstein noted, the fear of such attacks leaves public criticisms of the official theory "to people who seem flaky, which, in turn, makes it easier to regard as flaky [those] people who are critical." Public ignorance of a possible conspiracy also stems from public silence by most of RFK's closest associates. Perhaps this is because uncovering a plot to kill Kennedy might also reveal unsavory truths about him, most notable his relationship with Marilyn Monroe. Finally, it should be noted that some influential opinion molders who are neither dupes not cover-up artists have expressed the belief that Sirhan alone killed RFK. Some Arab and leftist journalists contended that Sirhan was a genuine poetical assassin. To these journalists, the cover-up was the portrayal of Sirhan as a "nut," which obscured his antipathy for American support for Israel. In a similar vein, former Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, RFK's opponent in the 1968 California primary, has explained how the Palestinian's hatred of Israel could have motivated him to target Kennedy, even though all the Presidential candidates supported Israel. McCarthy says that both he and RFK advocated donating the jets to the Jewish state. Sirhan was known to read Jewish newspapers, and McCarthy recollected that Sirhan stated that Kennedy's position "made him mad, made him feel he had to defend his people." Sirhan's background lends credence to this theory. Born in 1944, he was a refugee from the section of Jerusalem that Israel occupied in the fighting of 1944. (His citizenship is Jordanian and he is a Palestinian Christian.) As a child, he was traumatized by the explosions and bloodshed occurring around him In 1957, the Sirhan family moved from a refugee camp to America, but the father, Bishara, returned alone to Jordan after less than a year. Sirhan and his brothers and sister (who died of leukemia in 1965) settled down with their mother in Pasadena. Although shy, Sirhan seems to have led a fairly normal adolescence, graduating from high school and then attending Pasadena City College. Although well-read and intelligent, he got poor grades and was dismissed in 1965 for spotty attendance. He then pursued a career as a horse trainer and, due to his diminutive size, as an apprentice jockey. But after being injured in a fall from a horse in 1966, Sirhan suffered an early close to his potential career - - his employers felt he lacked the nerve to be a jockey. From 1966-68, he encountered increasing frustration hue to lack of money and inability to land a satisfying job. Although he was not a political activist, he grew bitter in those years toward Israel and America's support of the Jewish state. He also developed an increasing resentment toward people of affluence. There is evidence to suggest that Sirhan hated Bobby Kennedy and sincerely wanted to kill him. But his hate and sincerely do not explain the extra bullet holes or the autopsy report. And none of Sirhan's motives explains or condones the many questionable activities of the LAPD, the DA mayor after the shooting took place. Top-Down Bungling In the years since the Robert Kennedy assassination, the leaders and institutions of Los Angeles have drawn widespread criticism from some quarters for their handling of the RFK killing. Indeed, some of their activities raise disturbing questions about the motivations of those who have sworn to enforce the law, obtain justice and lead the city. Starting at the top, there were legal outrages committee by Mayor Sam Yorty, a flamboyant reactionary who wasted little time injecting himself into the case. Within hours after Sirhan had been identified, Yorty held two press conferences at which he portrayed the alleged assassin as a communist and read inflammatory passages from notebooks the LAPD had seized from Sirhan's bedroom. Yorty instructed Judge Arthur Alarcon to slap a gag order on all witnesses and local officials, forbidding release of information on the case. The order was served on Yorty himself by the sheriff's department. LA Country District Attorney Evelle younger was probably appalled by Yorty's antics, but his office's prosecution of Sirhan is also open to question. Generally, the DA's office proved to be too unquestioning of the findings of SUS -- even when that information conflicted with witness testimony and physical evidence. At the Sirhan trial, prosecutors built much of their case on the testimony of witnesses who saw Sirhan shoot, but who placed him much father away from RfK than the autopsy showed was possible. They made their case knowing full well that Coroner Noguchi's findings, which no prosector disputed, did not square with witness descriptions. In his book and in our interview, Noguchi related how, after he testified to his findings before the grand jury, an assistant DA (who he refuses to name) asked him if he hadn't confused inches with feet for the distance between RFK's head and the assassin's gun muzzle. Noguchi told him he had certainly meant inches. His insistence, however, did not deter the DA's office from portraying Sirhan as the only person who could have fired the fatal shot. Curiously, like many of the key figures who seemed to have looked the other way in the investigation, Younger had ties to the intelligence community. He headed FBI's National Defense Section during part of World War II, then went to the counterintelligence branch of the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor agency of the CIA for service in the Far East. During the 1970s, many people called for reopening all or parts of the investigation. Younger's successors continually resisted, claiming that a court of law with its rules of evidence and opportunities to cross-examine witnesses was the only appropriate place to re-examine the case. However, when Superior Court Judge Robert Wenke convened a formal judicial proceeding in 1975 to address victim Paul Schrade's questions, the DA's office blocked the testimony of police officers and others who had asserted that unaccounted-for bullets had been fired. Still, it was not the DA's but the LAPD's activities that were the most troubling. The department's conservative stance over the years has been well documented. Even before the assassination, the LAPD was involved in a decision that would later be seriously questioned: not to station officers at the Ambassador Hotel, in marked contrast to the LA Fire Department, which placed several men there to guard against fire hire hazards caused by overcrowding. The LAPD has maintained that both Bobby and Ethel Kennedy rejected police protection in an insulting manner. LAPD files document an angry confrontation along a Kennedy motorcade with campaign aide Fred Dutton, who allegedly assailed officers with profanity and comments about police brutality. Police files report that when officers responded to the telephoned death threats against RFK during his speech at Valley College (May 15, 1968), campaign workers yelled, "We don't want you fascist police here. We didn't call for the Gestapo." At that time the department was under widespread criticism for its abuses against anti-war and black activists, which included beatings and false arrests on madeup charges. Critics have noted, however, that even though the welcome mat wasn't out, the department was responsible for preserving public safety and preventing disorder. The Ambassador Hotel was easily a potential site for public danger and disorder the night of the 1968 primary. Three campaigns were having victory parties there: Kennedy's, Alan Cranston's and that of right-wing conservative Max Rafferty, who'd just won a bitter upset victory over incumbent Sen. Tom Kuchel, a moderate Republican. There was considerable opportunity for alcohol-stoked friction between the thousands of liberals and far-right activists in the hotel. Thus critics have said, it was odd that the LAPD wasn't present in such a volatile setting, not even -- or so the department maintained -- with plainclothes officers. The August 24, 1976 LA Herald Examiner ran an interview with "former Police Department Security Specialist Marion D. Hoover" and "Commander Peter Hagan of LAPD" under the headline "Did RFK's Order Seal His Death?" It repeats earlier assertions that RFK and his entourage adamantly rejected LAPD protection. In the article, the two cops repeatedly refer to RFK's Secret Service protection as another reason the LAPD was absent. But such protection never existed. The Secret Service did not protect any 1968 presidential candidates (except incumbent veep Hubert Humphrey) until President Johnson assigned it such duties in reaction to RFK's murder. But allowing the LAPD its rational for keeping its men away still leaves unanswered the question of why the department destroyed so much evidence in the case. As already noted, the LAPD destroyed ceiling tiles from the kitchen because, as Dion Morrow of the city attorney's office put it, "You can`t fit ceiling panels into a card file." The LAPD also destroyed items that could at least fit in a file drawer. In 1969, then-Assistant Police Chief Daryl Gates admitted that along with the tiles, X-rays had been destroyed because they "proved nothing." Once they'd been destroyed, they certainly could prove nothing. This spring, the Herald Examiner reported that State Archivist John Burns noted that the biggest surprise in assembling the police files was "the amount of evidence destroyed," Several thousand photographs were burned in August 1968 -- before the Sirhan trial had even begun. LAPD spokesperson Commander William Booth told the LA Times that the destroyed photos were "superfluous" duplicates. The Strange Saga of Sandra Serrano Most troubling about the LAPD was its investigation of Sirhan's alleged accomplices. SUS files and audio tapes released last spring suggest that the department actually engaged in a campaign to disprove, by any means necessary (including the coercive use of then-legal lie detector tests), the existence of a conspiracy. Perhaps the most striking example of LAPD malfeasance was the situation of witness Sandra Serrano. The traumatic experiences of this witness suggest that local authorities mishandled the Kennedy-Sirhan case as badly as their counterparts in Dallas dealt with the assassination of RFK`s brother. Sandra Serrano, 20-year-old co-chair of Youth for Kennedy for Pasadena and Altadena, went outside on the stairs of a fire escape for relief from the heat of the crowd inside the Ambassador hotel. There she saw ascending the stairs two men and a woman with a "nice figure" and a "funny nose" who was wearing a white dress with dark polka dots, or so she later told various interviewers. Serrano assumed they were together because the woman said, "Excuse us." Later Serrano heard sounds she though were automobile backfirings. About 30 seconds later, she saw the same woman and one of her companions running down the stairs. The woman said twice to Serrano, "We shot him!" When Serrano asked whom they'd shot, the woman, looking "pleased" replied "Senator Kennedy." Re- entering the hotel, Serrano learned of the shooting. Serrano wasn't the only person to cite a suspicious female in a polka-dot dress. She wasn't even the only one who heard "We shot him" from such a woman. But Serrano differed from other eyewitnesses in three ways: 1) She told the story to NBC's Sander Vanocur and his national TV audience; 2) she stuck to her story tenaciously; and 3) after seeing newspaper photos of Sirhan, she said he appeared to be the woman's companion who went up the stairs but did not come down. The police treated Serrano more like a suspect than a witness, subjecting her to repetitive interrogation that wore her down. Recordings reveal a distraught tone in her voice after several days of questioning. She did not change her story, however, in any significant way. This clearly displeased the LAPD, which had failed to nab the woman in the polka-dot dress and had apparently lost interest in her companion (even though he'd also been sighted by other eyewitnesses). In his book Special Unit Senator LAPD Chief of Detectives Robert Houghton refers to the "vexing case of the polka-dot girl," which had created a "fever" that had "in the press and public mind reached a high point on the thermometer of intrigue." According to Houghton, only Serrano herself "could put that spotted ghost to rest." To help her do that, SUS called on a polygraph operator, Sergeant Enrique "Hank " Hernandez, whose unusual activities in foreign climes will be examined later. Listening to the tapes of Hernandez administering his liedetector test to Miss Serrano on June 20, 1968 is an unsettling experience. The tape, made available last spring, is filled with intimidating psychological abuse, which probably explains why-unlike all the other tapes released from SUS files -- the index card for this tape reads, "Do not play or have transcribed without permission of Captain Brown" (High Brown, then-commander of LAPD's Homicide Division and titular head of SUS). Houghton's book asserts tat Serrano "readily agreed" to the test. The tape, however, reveals Serrano resisting and questioning the validity of the test. Hernandez pressed on, cajoling, telling Serrano "the country can't afford" the uncertainty that would result from not testing her. He added the familiar refrain, "We want to make sure that we don't have something like we did in Dallas, Texas." Finally, after lying that the polygraph results are "just between you and me," he convinced Serrano to consent to the test without first consulting the attorney she'd recently hired. The tape shows Hernandez wearing Serrano down with the same questions she'd been answering for two weeks. At one point, hernandez invoked "the family of Senator Kennedy...Don't you have any sentiment for them?" When Serrano refused to retract her story, he suggested that RFK was witnessing the test and urged he, "Don't shame his death by keeping this thing up" Nevertheless, she held to her story. After telling Serrano the polygraph showed her to be lying-an assertion to which Hernandez is the only witness -- Hernandez turned up the heat and begged Serrano to let RFK "rest in peace". As her resolve crumbled, the tape reveals, Hernandez insisted that Serrano confess her "lie," which he described as "a deep wound that will grow with you like a disease, like a cancer." By then, the tape shows, Serrano was reduced to whimpering, but she still held to her story. Hernandez, now sounding frantic, then urged Serrano to "let this thing that is going to go with you and is gong to make an old women out of you before your time come out of you..." This statement appears to have broken Serrano, who said, "it's too messed up. Even I can't remember what happened anymore." After more grilling, Hernandez eventually convinced the defeated girl to after to the following: 1) The woman's dress may not have had polka dots; 2) the woman may have said, "He shot Kennedy"; 3) that she got "all messed up" by the commotion and by leading questions from police investigators on assassination night. Ultimately, the tape shows, Hernandez convinced Serrano that she got much of her story from a waiter (Vincent DiPierro) who'd reported seeing Sirhan with a "shapely" woman in a polka-dot dress in the kitchen just before the shooting began. After Serrano`s recantation, according to Houghton, "Hank Hernandez sighed with relieved satisfaction." But it's heard to see why. Serrano had recanted to polka dots and the "We shot him." But even had Serrano told of a woman in a crimson jumpsuit reciting Mother Goose, her story would've been important because it said Sirhan went upstairs with two people who came down without him right after the shooting. Serrano never recanted this. Also Hernandez accepted her distraught explanation that leading questions and comments at the police station had shaped her story. This was impossible, for she had told her entire story live to Sander Vanocur and his NBC audience before she was taken to the police station. Other eyewitnesses said Sirhan had been with a "shapely" or "well-build" woman in a polka-dot dress, and several found something noteworthy about the woman's nose. many other reported seeing this woman apart from Sirhan. Nevertheless, SUS used Serrano's partial retraction to write off all but one of the other witnesses who hadn't recanted during re-interviewing by the police. SUS attributed the tales to "contagion" stemming from the considerable media coverage of Serrano's story. Hernandez' promise of secrecy for Serrano -- which he had no right to make -- lasted until May 28, 1969, when DA Younger told the media, "Miss Serrano admitted that the report of the polka-dot girl was pure fabrication on her part." He added some further fabrications of his own, asserting that Serrano recanted "when confronted with the prospect of a polygraph examination." He also said she'd claimed "she heard gunshots in the pantry," which LAPD should tests proved impossible. In fact Serrano always said she thought she heard a car backfiring. Since the SUS files were released last April, Serrano has refused all but one request to talk about the RFK killing. On April 21, she told Jack Thomas of KUOP-FM in Stockton that "a lot of badgering" and "everyday harassment" led her to change her description of the dress after she "came unglued." She continued to stand by the remainder of her story, adding, "I have no faith in the system, and I don't want to set myself up for harassment again." A decent witness, who there was every reason to believe, was turned into a virtual "enemy" of police investigators. She was coerced into a statement she did not mean to give by an unethical police examiner who, one has to assume from all other evidence of a LAPD behavior in the case, was acting on instructions from above. (Hernandez could not be located for an interview.) Then there is the matter of the other witness to the polkadot dressed woman, waiter Vincent DiPierro. SUS couldn't afford to discredit him because he was slated to testify at the trial about the shooting. Hernandez was called in again to work his magic. Hernandez, the tape release last April reveals, led the eager-to-please young waiter into stating he had obtained his description of Sirhan's girlfriend from Sandy Serrano. Nevertheless, DiPierro maintained, his testimony about seeing Sirhan shoot was his own. Hernandez' session with DiPierro demonstrated three important flaws in the "search" for conspirators. First, Hernandez and the LAPD accepted -- and used to demonstrate as evidence there was no conspiracy -- both Serrano's amended "confession" that she got her story from DiPierro and DiPierro's amended assertion of the exact opposite, that he got the description from Serrano. Secondly, Hernandez exhibited a prime example of SUS's pickand-choose approach to eyewitnesses, in which the unit accepted testimony that supported its official theory while ignoring or dismissing difficult, contrary testimony from the very same witness -- on the grounds that eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. Thirdly, Hernandez' work with Serrano and DiPierro demonstrated an SUS fixation on a mystery woman and her dress style. The identity of her forgotten companion(s) -- some witness claim to have seen her with four men -- became a non-issue, despite its potential significance. Uncovering a Coverup Not surprisingly, many people have accused the LAPD not only of wishful thinking, but of undertaking an outright cover-up. Some critics include the police commission, the DA, the city attorney's office, the FBI and Sirhan's defense team, which suggest that the cover-up was intended to hide either official incompetence or official complicity. The most blatant blunder of the LAPD came from its criminalist, DeWayne Wolfer, in testimony at Sirhan's trial. There, and earlier before a grand jury, Wolfer testified that bullets taken from RFK's neck and from victims Ira Goldstein and William Weisel came from Sirhan's gun and "no other gun in the world." He came to this firm conclusion by comparing victim bullets with bullets he'd test-fired from the Sirhan gun. He entered into evidence an envelope containing three of the testfired slugs. After the trial, it was noted that the gun serial number on the envelope was that of a gun seized by the LAPD several months before the RFK murder. It was the same make and model, but not the same gun. Wolfer claimed it was all a clerical error, but the mixup led to years of arguments over ballistics, which were compounded by the fact that the alternate gun could not later be test- fired to see where the comparison bullets at the trial came from. The reason? The LAPD had destroyed it. Wolfer also: - conducted the sound tests at the Ambassador that the LAPD said "proved" Sandy Serrano could not have heard the gunshots that, in fact, she never claimed to have heard; - came up with the official eight-bullet explanation that many witnesses, wounded victims and investigators find to be farfetched, if not simply impossible; - lost or never compiled important laboratory records related to bullet and gun examination in the case. Not surprisingly, Wolfer's professional judgement was called into question. Noted forensics expert Marshall Houts, in a June 26, 1971 letter to Attorney General Evelle younger, claimed, "Wolfer suffers from a great inferiority complex for which he compensates by giving the police exactly what they need to obtain a conviction. He casts objectivity to the winds and violates every basic tenant of forensic science and proof by becoming a crusading advocate." An LA Times article of December 3, 1975 states that the California state court of appeals concluded that "wolfer gave false testimony bordering on perjury" in another case. It quoted the court that his "testimony on acoustics and anatomy was negligently false." On May 31, 1980, the items reported that LAPD Chief Gates hit Wolfer, by then the head of the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division, with a 30-day suspension without pay because Wolfer "had failed to provide proper storage and analysis of bullets and other evidence and had improperly supervised firearm and explosives investigators." In Special Unit Senator, Chief of Detectives Robert Houghton-the man who put SUS together -- stated that, on the day of the shooting, he was vacationing In Yosemite Park and that he "did not know what had happened at the Ambassador Hotel until the morning of June 6." The LA District Attorney's Office files on the RFK case contain a tape of a 1975 interview of local FBI agent Roger "Frenchy" La Jeunesse by CBS producer Lee Townsend. In reference to June 5, La Jeunesse stated, "I think got together with Bob Houghton that same morning" to discuss the RFK investigation, and "I remember meeting with Bob Houghton the first morning." How curious. There is evidence of some incompetence and some of complicity, though more of the former than the latter,and to be sure, there was plenty of incompetence worth covering up. The decision not to station police at the Ambassador Hotel looked bad in 1968, as did the superficial investigation of Thane Cesar, the security guard who pulled a gun right behind RFK. And, certainly, the LAPD had reason to feel embarrassed at not having found Sirhan's alleged female companion, a possible motive for trying to will her out of existence. Baxter Ward told the LA Weekly that, in the late 1970s, DA John Van de Kamp (now State Attorney General) invited him to a recreation of the murder involving some of the actual 1968 witnesses. One witness, Lisa Urso, "had told officers that night [June 5, 1968] that the gun was fired point-blank." according to Ward, when the man playing Sirhan in the reenactment placed his gun right next to the RFK surrogates's head, Urso objected, saying, "I testified point blank, but not that point blank." Ward recollected that Urso estimated the distance as three or four feet. Later, he said, those running the re-creation said they convinced her to change her estimate to theirs, "but that was not her immediate recollection." Some investigators believe the LAPD went so far as to cover up the conscious, willing participation of some of its officers in an RFK assassination conspiracy. So concludes Jonn Christian, coauthor of the 1978 book The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. His explanation for this centers on Paul Sharaga, the first police officer to reach the Ambassador Hotel. In the hotel parking lot, Sharaga encountered a middle-aged couple who said that on an outside terrace (probably one floor abort Sandy Serrano) they "were almost run over by a younger couple rushing our of the embassy ballroom." The younger woman, wearing a polka-dot dress twice shouted "We shot him!" When asked whom they'd shot , the young woman replied, "Kennedy! We shot him!" With that "the youngsters clattered down the fire-exit stairs and disappeared into the night." The older couple told Sharaga the other two "were smiling gleefully." Sharaga radioed in a description of the two suspects and sent his interview notes to an LAPD command post in the hotel. SUS files mention Sharaga's notes about the couple, but the two never appear again in the files, a striking and curious gap in the investigation. Not much later, LAPD Inspector John Powers canceled Sharaga's radio alert, assuring him Sharaga told author Christian, that the sole killer was in custody and adding, "We don't want this thing turning into a big federal conspiracy case." This was many hours before Sirhan's identity had been established. Sharaga's notes vanished after he sent the older couple inside, but he remembers their story to this day. A detailed report he gave SUS also disappeared. Not long after, he told Christian, his superiors "began turning on me" and he retired from the force. Shown a transcript of an SUS "interview" of himself by Christian, Sharaga swore it was a phony that "contains false and deliberately misleading statements." The allegedly phony report downplays details suggesting a conspiracy. Christian concludes that there was a "railroading of an investigation by highest-level LAPD obvious coconspirators in RFK's assassination were being aided and abetted in escaping by SUS operatives." (Italics his.) Sharaga still has a copy of his original vanished report and wants to show it to government officials he feels he can trust. He has, however, given a copy to researcher Christian who insists that it is "explosive new evidence" sufficient in itself to warrant a re-opening of the case. Even if there is another explanation for the Sharaga forgery other than that LAPD officers were involved in the killing itself, at minimum, it would seem to represent dramatic evidence of a departmental effort to cover up some type of conspiracy. Coupled with the Hernandez tapes, this second stunning piece of evidence that strongly suggests that unknown officials of the LAPD behaved in the most negligent and possible criminal manner possible to thwart a full department inquiry into a conspiracy. Enter the Goddess Incompetence and complicity are not the only possible reasons for an RFK cover-up. As Watergate demonstrated, many coverups hide earlier coverups. In this case, there is considerable evidence of an official 1962 LAPD cover-up involving Bobby Kennedy. This evidence centers on the unnatural death that -- second only to RFK`s-was the most talked about in Los Angeles history, that of Marilyn Monroe. Much unfounded speculation has been printed about Monroe. However, one book, Goddess (Macmillan, 1985), is quite credible thanks to author Antony Summers' diligent research and to documentation obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Summers, one of the world's most noted investigative reporters, makes a convincing case that Monroe and RFK had an intense love affair that Kennedy abruptly ended after learning that the mafia and the Teamsters Union were collecting information on the affair, in order to blackmail or discredit him. Devastated over having been shunned by RFK, the already unstable Marilyn consumed increasingly large quantities of sedatives and alcohol. Summers cities strong indications that to end things amicably, RFK visited Monroe secretly on the night of August 4, 1962 and found her in a fatal coma at her home, which was very likely bugged by his enemies. Further evidence uncovered by Summers suggest that as soon as Monroe died, RFK persuaded J. Edgar Hoover to save him from scandal by obliterating all evidence -- such as telephone company records-linking him to Monroe. Summers mentions that LAPD Chief of Detectives Thad Brown knew of the affair and notes that speculation in the newspapers that LAPD Chief William H. Parker had kept RFK's name out of the investigation into Monroe's death "to curry favor with the Kennedys." Summers also suspects that LAPD officers helped private detectives hired by RFK to obscure the senator's links to Monroe. In 1975, the LAPD conducted a re-inquiry into Monroe's death under the supervision of Daryl Gates, who refused to make the investigative files public. Summers notes the DA's office no longer possesses the reports on Monroe and RFK filed years ago by one of its own investigators, Frank Hronek, now deceased. On the November 5, 1988 edition of Fox TV's The Reporters, former Deputy DA John Miner said his own report on Monroe is also missing from the DA's office. If Summers is correct, local police and prosecutors were investigating Monroe's death at the same time the FBI was eradicating local evidence of her affair with RFK. Local officials therefore had to know of Hoover's illegal effort to save Kennedy from scandal. Certainly, it is hard to imagine that LAPD Chief parker didn't know the FBI was seizing or destroying evidence on his turf. That the affair remained secret for years suggest that the LAPD and the DA acquiesced or assisted in, Hoover's cleaning up after RFK. Thus, a sincere and thorough problem of a possible conspiracy to kill RFK might well revealed local official's complicity in Hoover's actions six years earlier. This many explain why local law-enforcement agencies apparently covered up, dismissed and ignored the many indications that Sirhan was not a "lone-nut" assassin. Authorities Reply When asked for an interview, the LAPD flatly rejected the request. According to department spokesperson, Commander William Booth, "It was so long ago -- no one here was involved." That statement is false. Several key figures from the investigation are still working for the LAPD. Booth added, "We decided to let the [newly released] files speak for themselves." This is something the LAPD strenuously resisted for 19 years. The DA's office granted this writer a lengthy interview with its number-three man, Assistant DA Curt Livesay. Also sitting in but saying little was Steve Sowers, head of Deputy DA of the Investigations Division. Livesay was not part of the Sirhan prosecution team but he was on the staff then and reviewed the entire case just last April Livesay said the DA's office was -- and still is -- completely satisfied with the SUS investigation on which Sirhan's prosecution was based. As of today, says Livesay, "We haven't found any credible evidence that there was a conspiracy...or that there was more than one gun." Asked about the autopsy findings clashing with eyewitness accounts, he replied, "it's so well- recognized in the criminal law that persons observing an event see it from different perspectives and form different opinions as to what happened...that it's a jury instruction." Asking about people reporting having seen Sirhan with one or more companions, Livesay made the curious reply that "there's no credible evidence to put forth that we could argue, that a prosector could ask jury to believe." Apparently, this means that the prosecutors didn't consider indications of a conspiracy worth following unless they would lead to the conviction of a conspirator. Livesay's unqualified approval of the LAPD investigation and the Sirhan prosecution basically rests on two foundations. One is that the prosecutors "proved their case to a jury, the pinnacle of our entire justice system, beyond a reasonable doubt." When reminded that Sirhan's defense never brought up questions about extra bullets and women in polka-dot frocks, Livesay replied, "Well, I ask you, `why not?' " That's a reasonable reply, suggesting that the defense knew such questions wouldn't help their case. However, when confronted with the fact that Noguchi's report conflicted with eyewitness accounts, Livesay stated, "it was litigated...and 12 people gave Sirhan Sirhan the death penalty." Of course, the muzzle distance never was "litigated" in any sense of the word. For 20 years, Livesay's office has failed to appreciate, at least publicly, that there was and is a legitimate public concern over what really happened in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen, a concern that cannot be allayed by simply convicting one gunman. At the start of the interview, Livesay was asked whether the DA's function is simply to obtain a conviction. He replied that "the purpose and function of the district attorney's offices is to obtain justice." Here, justice may have been obtained in the sense that a criminal was punished, but no larger sense of justice seems to have prevailed. The other foundation for official satisfaction with the RFK investigation and trial is the March 1977 Kranz Report, a mindnumbing, single-spaced, 136-page investigation of the RFK murder by a "special independent outside council" Thomas F. Kranz. In reply to many questions, Livesay said his office's answer could be found in the Kranz Report. Kranz gave the 1968-69 investigation and prosection a clean bill of health at a time police and prosecutors were concerned "not with the validity of the verdict in the Sirhan case, but [with] the erosion of public confidence in the system of justice in Los Angeles Country due to the many questions that were continually being raised in the Sirhan matter" (from the report's introduction). The Kranz Report did indeed help restore public confidence in the DA's office and LAPD but, to serious students of the case, it was simple a whitewash of official blunders and misconduct. In July, 1977, Allard Lowenstein cut the Kranz Report's validity to shreds with a point-by-point analysis of its findings and methodology. His list of corrections to Kranz' many misquotes, misstatements, misrepresentations and omissions is too lengthy to cover here, but as the DA's office relies on the report to justify SUS and its handling of the case, it's worth looking at two major flaws in the report: 1) Kranz was neither "independent" nor "outside". He was special counsel to the DA's office and, as such, he assisted in blocking the testimony of important witnesses in the proceedings before Judge Wenke mentioned earlier, in which gunshot victim Paul Shrade obtained a separate evidentiary hearing into the case. (Among those prevented from testifying: Noguchi, LAPD officers Rozzi and Wright, Ambassador Hotel maitre d' DiPierro and Robert Alfeld, who claimed he found empty cartridge shells in the Ambassador after the police had supposedly swept it clean for evidence.) Furthermore, Kranz freely admitted in the report's introduction that he wanted to become DA. 2) The Kranz Report duplicates the LAPD's pick-and-choose approach to eyewitness testimony. Nowhere does the report mention that not one eyewitness in the kitchen said that Sirhan's gun muzzle was within inches of RFK's head. At an April 5, 1977 LA Country Board of Supervisors meeting, Baxter Ward asked Kranz whether there was "eyewitness testimony of a point-blank firing." Kranz responded, "Oh, absolutely not." When Ward noted that acting DA John Howard had recently cited "a great many witnesses who say it point-blank," Kranz said, "Well there haven't been any. There never were." Yet, despite the fact that all witnesses were, in the DA's eyes, ipso facto wrong about the distance, Kranz -- like the LAPD -- freely used the same witnesses to corroborate other pasts of the 1968 investigation, just as had the LAPD. In fact, the number of people who saw a saw a second gunman shoot RFK is equal to the number of people who saw Sirhan fire close enough to conform to the autopsy report: zero. Or, as Ward said to Kranz, "You must acknowledge that no one saw much of anything. And that's what has always troubled me." Sad to say, it apparently never troubled the institution sworn to "obtain justice" for the residents of LA County. Accomplices If Sirhan did not act alone, who were his accomplices? Enough names have been raised by journalists and citizen-investigators to fill a book. Below are sketches of the three most popular suspects. The people who may have hired them will be discussed alter. The Mystery Woman -- The recently released LAPD papers and tapes show that quite a few people other than Sandy Serrano and Vincent DiPierro told police about a suspicious woman in a polka-dot dress. Prior to June 20, when Hank Hernandez "proved" she didn't exist, the police were busily searching for such a woman. Perhaps the most startling item in the LAPD files is a puzzling half- page report dated October 14, 1968 showing that police actually apprehended a woman they believed to be Sirhan's companion. Since this woman's 1988 recollection of the incident differs from the official record, both versions are worth examining. According to the terse police report, the LAPD took into custody and interviewed a Cheryl Wessels on the afternoon of June 5. Police interest in Wessels was "a result of a call from an informant, naming her as the then- outstanding suspect wearing a polka-dot dress wanted in the Kennedy shooting." The interview was recorded and she "was released from custody after being photographed and fingerprinted to facilitate a record check." When police reviewed the tape in October, it was "found to be blank." The report closes by saying Wessels was re-interviewed by phone and said she was at home at the time of the assassination and had no idea of the identity of the informant. It concluded: "She owns a polka-dot dress, but has not worn it for several months. She is unable to furnish any additional information regarding the investigation." Presumably, the LAPD knew the informant's identity and should have checked our Wessels' story with her parents, at whose houses she claimed to be on primary night. However, no record that the LAPD made such a routine follow-up appears in the report. With help from California marriage records and a relative of Wessels, the LA Weekly and private assassination researcher John Christian found the woman living out of state under her new married name. In October, she gave Christian an account of her adventures. She says she was formally arrested "for the murder of Robert Kennedy" by three LAPD plainclothes officers while visiting a friend in jail on a drug charge. They told her, she recalls, that "someone called them and said I was one shot was these...It had to be someone who knew me well and where I was going, and they also had to know that I had a polka- dot dress...It would have to have been a woman." The interviewer, LAPD officer Joe Goodman, did not tell her the interview was being recorded. She told Christian she did not remember being photographed, but a few minutes later said is was a "horrible photograph." Both Wessels and the report agree she was questioned on June 5, and she says she was released on the same day. The report doesn't say when she was released. Her mug shots are dated June 6, 1968. Wessels remembered receiving a call some months after her arrest but it wasn't from police investigators. Instead, the caller said he was LA Police Chief Thomas Reddin. The caller apologized for the arrest and "said everything would be taken off my record...He said he was sorry, but they had to follow up on every lead that they had." In the SUS files, Christian found a log that showed a call to Wessels' Anaheim number at 8:10 pm on Oct. 14. The call was placed not by Chief Reddin, but by Sergeant Dudley Varney, who, according to Christian, was involved in other cover-up activities with SUS. The Wessels affair raises far more questions than it answers. What happened to the tape? Did someone forget to push the "record" button, or did SUS have its own Rosemary Woods who went around erasing "problem" tapes? Why would a SUS agent call a witness and pretend to be the police chief? Is the brief official report of Wessels' arrest and interrogation a reliable document? Was Wessels truthful with Christian? How good is her memory? Finally, the biggest question pertains to the identity of the informant and what he or she said that led police to arrest Wessels. Thane Eugene Cesar -- This security guard is on many informed lists as the real Kennedy assassin, and not just because he drew a gun while standing closely behind the victim. Cesar was a rightwinger who disliked RFK. He once owned a .22-caliber pistol, which he told the DA's office in 1971 he had sold to a friend before the assassination. The friend, Jim Yoder, said he bought the gun from Cesar after the killing and had a receipt to prove it. The gun was later stolen. According to the Turner-Christian book, Yoder said Cesar worked at Lockheed, "in an off-limits area which only special personnel had access to. Yoder also told Turner-Christian that Cesar "looked a little worried, and he said something about going to the assistance of an officer and firing his gun. He said there might be a little problem over that.," In a similar statement in the film The Second Gun, Yoder recalled Cesar talking about firing the gun and worrying about "repercussions." Soon after Cesar's gun was publicized by Ted Charach, director of Second Gun, the gun was stolen from Yoder's retirement home in Arkansas. Yoder said it was probably taken by local kids. Investigative journalist Dan Moldea, working for Regardie's magazine, tracked down Cesar last year (Cesar commented on widespread speculation that he was dead: "I want it that way"). Cesar admitted to Moldea that he had changed parts of his story in different interviews with police, but maintained he did not shoot RFK. He said he does not know how his clip-on necktie ended up on the floor next to RFK's body. In an interview with this writer, Moldea stated that he found nothing incriminating in Cesar`s background and history, though another author, David Scheim, has linked him inconclusively, to mobster John Alessio. (At the time of the assassination, Cesar was a 26-year-old plumber at Lockheed who moonlighted as a security guard.) Cesar claimed that on assassination night, he volunteered to be interviewed by an uninterested LAPD. He publicly admitted to Ted Charach that he owned the .22 pistol and that he had agreed to take a lie-detector test. The LAPD did not take him up on this, although it conducted polygraph exams on quite a few witnesses. Despite contradictions and false statements from Cesar in the past, Moldea told the LA Weekly, "I don't believe he went in there intentionally and did it." Moldea wouldn't amplify on this statement, which leaves open the possibility that a panicky Cesar accidentally shot RFK during the commotion following Sirhan's volley. The fatal bullet was so damaged that there's no certainty from what kind of gun it issued. Nevertheless, the LAPD failed to examine Cesar's pistol on June 5, 1968. At a recent public appearance by Moldea at Santa Monica's Midnight bookstore, citizen-investigator Jack Kimbrough pointed out that if Cesar did not shoot Kennedy, he "must have seen who did" because he was right in back of the victim. Jerry Owen -- An itinerant preacher known as Jerry "The Walking Bible" Owen for having memorized the Old and New Testaments, went to the police following the assassination after seeing Sirhan's photo in the paper. He told police he had picked up a hitchhiker downtown on June 3, 1978. He later recognized the hitchhiker as Sirhan. Owen said he had entered into a tentative deal with the hitchhiker to sell him a horse to be delivered at the Ambassador Hotel parking lot late on primary night. Owen described some friends of the hitchhiker, including a woman wearing a polka-dot dress. Owen believed that the horse deal, which he did not follow up, was an attempt to set up a means of escape for Sirhan. The LAPD concluded that Owen was lying in order to attract publicity and lost interest. Authors Christian and Turner also feel that Owen lied, but not for publicity. They found links between Owen and Sirhan preceding June 3. In 1970, Owen sued local KCOP-TV for canceling his religious TV show and for telling some of his followers he'd been involved in the RFK killing. Vincent Bugliosi defended KCOP in the late 1975 trial. Despite severe limitations imposed by a judge who wanted to try a civil suit, not a murder case, Bugliosi got several witnesses to admit under oath to having seen Owen together with Sirhan before June 3. Allegedly, Owen was flashing a big wad of bills. (Sirhan, like Owen, has habitually broke, but he had four $100 bills on him when arrested.) The LAPD and the DA never showed any interest in these revelations. The LAPD blocked the release of its files on Owen, which Bugliosi wanted to put on the record. Official disinterest extended to another curious part of the Jerry Owen story. At the KCOP trial, Owen had intended to introduce as a character witness his brother's former secretary, Gail Aiken. He canceled this plan when Bugliosi discovered that Aiken was the sister of Arthur Bremer, whose nearly- successful murder attempt on George Wallace altered the course of the 1972 presidential election almost as much as RFK's murder altered the 1968 race. Nevertheless, local officials were not sufficiently intrigued to reopen a probe into Owen's 1968 activities. A Possible Scenario Supporters of the SUS investigation often note that Sirhan has confessed to the killing. Indeed, at his trial, he yelled our, "I killed Robert Kennedy with 20 year's malice aforethought! " Since he was only 24, this is obviously nonsense. However, he admitted it elsewhere. But, like most other people, Sirhan came to his conclusion because, as he also said at the trial, "All the evidence has proved it." He felt it was too obvious to deny. In fact, Sirhan repeatedly said that he does not remember shooting RFK. His mind drew a blank from sometime late in the evening until he found himself struggling with Rosey Grier and others around 12:15am. This memory failure has helped prompt endless speculation about trance states and hypnosis. Sirhan had definitely been dabbling in self-hypnosis at home. However, some critics believe he as a "Manchurian Candidate" hypnotized by someone else to kill and then forget what he did and who told him to do it. Others argue that his lack of memory is a convenience meant to protect co-conspirators. Sirhan left in his bedroom a set of notebooks in which he stressed the necessity of RFK's death. like the diary of George Wallace's would-be killer, Arthur Bremer, Sirhan's notebooks were extremely incriminating and helped convince the jury and the media of his premeditation. On one page he writes, "My determination to eliminate RFK is becoming more the more of an unshakable obsession" on the same page, he scrawled "RFK must die" and "RFK must be assassinated." Near these phrases he wrote "please pay to the order of." This phrase, sometimes followed by his name, appears numerous times in the notebooks. Not surprisingly, this has helped convince many "assassination buffs" that Sirhan was hired to kill or help kill RFK. The notebooks are essentially a collection of written babble, much of it nonsensical, sometimes called "automatic writing" by experts in hypnosis. Sirhan testified that he did not remember writing the notebooks, but he agreed that he must have. If RFK's death was a murder-for-hire, critics speculate that there may have been several assassination teams at the hotel, since RFK's route wasn't known in advance and the crowd was so thick that killers in the pantry could not have moved elsewhere in time to encounter Kennedy. One theory holds that there were possibly two or more women in polka-dot dresses. The Turner-Christian book notes that the barrel of Sirhan's gun "was heavily coated with lead, yet copper-coated bullets such as Sirhan allegedly fired leave a lead-free bore." These bullets literally "clean out the lead," and the bullets recovered from the victims were definitely copper-jacketed. This has led them to speculate that a duped or hypnotized Sirhan may have fired blanks while someone else did the real shooting. Furthermore, their book continues, some witnesses say a lengthy "tongue of flame" came out of Sirhan's gun, which firearm experts say is more consistent with firing blanks than copper-jacketed bullets. As for the one or more women in polka-dot dresses who ran out of the hotel shouting, "we killed him." etc., they could have been decoys to direct attention from the escaping killer(s) and to simply add a loud and lasting note of confusion to the proceedings. Jonn Christian, who has studied the assassination almost since it happened, believes that something like this took place. A similar scenario also takes place in Donald Freed's "faction" novel, The Killing of RFK (Dell Publishing, 1975) The Men at the Top If there was a conspiracy to kill RFK, it surely wasn't organized by Sirhan or anyone else in the hotel that night. To determine who might have led an assassination conspiracy, the obvious procedure would be to make a list of the victim's enemies. In the case of Bobby Kennedy, the list of enemies is extremely long and covers the entire political spectrum. Starting at the left, Fidel Castro undoubtedly hated both Kennedy brothers because he believed they were active in efforts to overthrow or even kill him and destroy much of his country's infrastructure by financing attacks by anti- Castro Cuban exiles and soldier of fortune. Oddly, many of these Cuban exiles also hated the Kennedys for not sufficiently supporting the Bay of Pigs invasion and for calling off the later "secret war" against Castro mounted by the CIA and Cuban exiles. The far right hated RFK for his general liberalism and his alliances with blacks, the poor and other anti-establishment groups on the volatile 1960s. White Southerners hated him for his vigorous use of the attorney generals office to pursue civil rights for blacks. The Teamsters Union and the mafia hated and feared RFK because of his legal attacks on them, first as Senate Committee investigator and then as his brother's attorney general. Until the tragedy in Dallas, John and Bobby Kennedy were a team, sharing the same supporters and enemies. This, it's hardly surprising that the same organizations that had reason to want JFK dead are also among the likely suspects in the RFK murder. JFK's murder, which even a house Committee declared in the late 70s to be a likely conspiracy, could have been intended to end his younger brother's war on labor corruption and organized crime, both of which required solid support from the White House. Also, it is possible that JFK's assassins may have feared that Bobby, if elected president, would use the power of the office to discredit the Warren Report and reopen the JFK- Oswald-Ruby investigation. A popular rumor had RFK personally investigating a lead in his brother's murder while campaigning in California. Bobby Kennedy had a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness. He made enemies of men and organizations far more ruthless than he. This writer believes that the most likely organizers of an RFK assassination conspiracy come from one or more of four groups listed below. These groups are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they've had overlapping membership for years. Three of these powerful, unscrupulous groups have long been cited, particularly by the House Investigation, in connection with the murder of JFK, and the fourth also had a high public profile. Still, connecting any of them conclusively to the killing at the Ambassador Hotel is an extraordinarily difficult task, certainly one that law-enforcement officials were unable or unwilling to tackle. But since 1968, journalists and citizeninvestigator have unearthed compelling information linking these groups to suspicious people known to have been in the hotel on June 5, 1968 or involved in the subsequent investigation and trial. The Intelligence Community -- There is a curious moment recorded on one of the SUS audio tapes when Hank Hernandez is talking with Sandy Serrano. She has expressed her doubts about the validity of lie-detector tests and he concedes that such doubts are appropriate regarding unqualified polygraph operators. He then touts his own qualifications: "I have been called to South America, to Vietnam and Europe, and I have administered tests. The last test that I administered was to the dictator in Caracas, Venezuela. He was a big man, a dictator. Marcos Perez Jiminez was the man's name." Hernandez's official SUS resume mentions none of these activities, which obviously are not among the typical duties assigned to an LA police officer. Assuming that he was truthful, Hernandez was probably giving tests in Vietnam, Europe and Venezuela while on loan to, or while a member of, the CIA or another US intelligence agency. William Turner told the LA Weekly that the CIA was probably signing up the deposed dictator as an "asset," and that Hernandez was brought in to establish the veracity of the man's information. In an interview with the Weekly, Bill Blum, author of The CIA: A Forgotten History, said that Robert Kennedy, as US attorney general; had arranged for Spanish-speaking LA police to train cops in the Dominican Republic in "crowd- control" technique, to squash anti-government riots. This program was successful and resulted in the "White Helmets" police unit much hated by Dominicans. Perhaps this explains Hernandez bragging on tape to Serrano that he had personally received a commendation from Bobby Kennedy. Hernandez wasn't the only apparent link between RFK assassination investigators and the world of spies and spooks. In his book, Special Unit Senator, Chief of Detectives Robert Houghton spoke glowingly of Lt. Manuel Pena, Houghton's choice to head the investigative section of SUS. According to Houghton, Pena "had connections with various intelligence agencies in several countries." Authors Turner and Christian, in The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, cite evidence that both Pena and Hernandez had worked for the "Office of Public Safety of the Agency for International Development (AID)," They described (accurately, as attested by congressional investigation) this office as "a cover for the CIA's clandestine program of supplying advisors and instructors for national police and intelligence services in Southeast Asia and Latin America engaged in anti-communist operations." They also stated that other LA police officers had trained or worked with the CIA. Turner's The Police Establishment offers a possible explanation for strong ties between US intelligence agencies and the LAPD. He notes that despite ideological compatibility, there was a feud between J. Edgar Hoover and William Parker, LA police chief from 1950-66. Because of the feud, Parker's "Officers" were not accepted at the prestigious FBI National Academy..." Nevertheless, the LAPD had long been known for its many officers welltrained in the deceptive arts of intelligence possible by the CIA. In addition, the CIA is known to have infiltrated many police departments during those years. Enemies of Fidel Castro -- The Bay of Pigs fiasco left John and Robert Kennedy very distrustful of the CIA and the anti-Castro activists and Cuban exiles allied with "The Company." In William Turner and Warren Hinckle's book, The Fish is Red (Harper & Row, 1981), the brothers are depicted as quite eager to inflict damage on Castro. They organized their own "secret war" on Cuba, however, under the supervision of Bobby Kennedy, excluding many of the groups and individuals prominent in earlier anti-Castro crusades. Among the excluded were some harshly conservative Cuban exile groups various CIA operatives and mafia figures like John Roselli and Sam Giancana, who had been part of the CIA's ineffectual plots to kill Castro. Also, RFK's Department of Justice and other parts of the federal government began to crack down on some of the Cuban exiles and soldier of fortune who had been launching freelance attacks on Cuba. For a time, Sirhan worked for a horse-breeding farm partly owned by Desi Arnez. Turner and Christian point out that Arnez "came from a wealthy Cuban family and was a fervent opponent of Fidel Castro." They also cite close ties between Jerry "The Walking Bible" Owen and Arnez' lawyer, Jerome Weber. There is no evidence, however, that Sirhan ever met with Arnez. Organized Crime and the Teamsters -- As attorney general RFK vigorously prosecuted Teamster Union boss Jimmy Hoffa, as well as numerous leaders of organized crime. Both the Teamsters and organized crime were involved in the CIA plans to kill Castro. Informants have reported that Hoffa and various mobsters separately discussed killing RFK. The Fish is Red says some of this plotting was conducted at a Miami house partly owned by Marcos Perez Jiminez! Whether any of them moved from talk to direct action is impossible to tell. David Scheim, author of Contract on America (Shapolsky, 1988), says that Thane Cesar may have been tied to a mobster named John Alessio. Scheim also notes that prior to Sirhan's trial, his chief attorney, Grant Cooper, had "represented one of four co-defendants of Mafioso Johnny Roselli in a gambling case." Roselli was involved in the CIA-mob attempts on Castro's life. (In 1972, Cooper stated that "had there been any information available to the defense that Sirhan had not actually fired the shots into Senator Kennedy, my approach to his defense would have been materially altered." He failed to mention that such information was available in the autopsy report and eyewitness accounts.) Nixon Supporters -- The chief political beneficiary of RFK's death was Richard Nixon, who probably would have lost to any antiwar Democrat. Hubert Humphrey was the best possible opponent for Nixon in 1968, especially with George Wallace's strong third party taking millions of Southern and blue- collar votes were refusing to vote. Nixon was also the main beneficiary of Arthur Bremer's crippling assassination attempt on Wallace four years later. Wallace probably would have walked out of the liberal 1972 Democratic conventions and on to 50 state ballots had he been abler to walk at all. Unlike 1968, in 1972 Wallace would have taken most of notes from Nixon. Although "everyone knows" that George McGovern lost in 1972 because he was "too far to the left," the Prairie Peacenik could have won had Wallace stayed healthy and Tom Eagleton told McGovern about his psychiatric problems. Although he passed through Dallas on November 22, 1963, Nixon makes for an unlikely assassination conspirator. However, his supporters included many in the ranks of the three previous groups cited from which a plot to kill RFK might have sprung. This is particularly true of the mobster-Teamster group. The Teamsters endorsed Nixon, who had organized crime ties through Bebe Rebozo and San Diego's C. Arnholt Smith, whose US National Bank failed in 1973 due to illegal financial machinations. Alessio was on this bank's Board of Directors. Conclusion Many of the people who have doggedly pursued this case believe that last April's release of the Unit Senator files and tapes will eventually answer these three questions: Who killed Bobby Kennedy? Who hired the killer(s)? Why? The events that propelled America into three of our last five wars remain somewhat mysterious. Yet, today, far more is known about the sinking of the Maine, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the August 1964 events in the Gulf of Tonkin than the official explanations put out at the time. Such knowledge may help forestall future unjustified military adventures. Similarly, the more that can be learned about the RFK assassination, the less likely we are, perhaps, to be deceived again by illicit, organized, covert power. That in itself might forestall yet another assassination of a political leader. Copyrighted This piece has appeared in the LA Weekly and San Jose Metro. Source: PeaceNet cdp:nfd.ifeatures


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