SAN DIEGO — Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, was recommended parole by a California board on Friday after two of the late senator’s sons said they supported his release.
It was the 16th time Sirhan, 77, had appeared before a parole board. The ruling by the two-person panel will be reviewed over the next 90 days by the California Parole Board’s staff. Then it will be sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant it, reverse it or modify it, according to The Washington Post.
Sirhan told members of the California Parole Board that he had learned to control his anger and was committed to living peacefully.
Sirhan assassinated Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968, moments after the senator from New York -- and the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in November 1963 -- won the Democratic primary in California, a key race in the run for the party’s nomination.
Kennedy died the next day. He was 42.
Sirhan admitted to the killing in 1969 and has been incarcerated for 53 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Over half a century has passed,” Sirhan told the two parole commissioners, according to the Post. “And that young impulsive kid I was does not exist anymore., Sen. Kennedy was the hope of the world and I injured, and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed.”
Sirhan had originally been sentenced to death for the murder, but California abolished capital punishment in 1972. At that point, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life in prison, the Post reported.
Sirhan, 24 at the time of the assassination, was and a Palestinian immigrant who wrote a manifesto calling for Robert Kennedy’s death, the Times reported.
Sirhan, then a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant who had written a manifesto calling for Kennedy’s death, shot the senator outside the since-demolished Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1968. Kennedy was considered a leading candidate for president and had just won primaries in South Dakota and California at the time of his assassination.
The board’s decision was influenced after they received letters of support from two sons of Robert Kennedy, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Post reported.
Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father was killed, said earlier Friday he was moved to tears by Sirhan’s remorse and called for his release if he was not a threat to others, the AP reported.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” Douglas Kennedy 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.”
Angela Berry, Sirhan’s attorney, said her client had not been accused of a serious violation of prison rules since 1972, the first year he was eligible for parole. She added that prison officials had deemed him a low risk to violence, the Times reported.
Between 1983 and 2006, Sirhan was granted parole hearings every one to two years. Beginning in 2016 the hearings were held two times per decade, the newspaper reported.
He last hearing was in 2016, when he was denied.
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