SOURCE: Special to HNN ()
- Shane O'Sullivan: Response to Mel Ayton
- Dan Moldea: Response to Shane O'Sullivan
- Shane O'Sullivan: Response to Dan Moldea
- Dan Moldea: 2nd Response to Shane O'Sullivan
- Mel Ayton: Response to Shane O'Sullivan
Irish screenwriter Shane O’Sullivan’s book Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy (2008) is a fast paced thriller clearly written by someone who knows his way around scriptwriting. In fact, not only does it resemble a fictional movie script in its format but also in its content. (1)
O’Sullivan’s book was published some 6 months or so following the issue of his DVD about the assassination, RFK Must Die. Both are carefully constructed to lead the reader along the conspiratorial yellow brick road into a wilderness of smoke and mirrors. It is a narrative of speculation and innuendo which substitutes for the known established facts of the case. The end result leaves the reader wondering who didn’t shoot Bobby Kennedy.
O’Sullivan builds much of his conspiracy case on the bedlam that followed the assassination of RFK in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel when an estimated crowd of 77 people reacted to gunshots fired by the assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. After the first shot had been fired the crowd acted as one would expect. Some witnesses reacted out of fear for their own safety and attempted to avoid the gunman who was firing wildly into the crowd after he had succeeded in placing his gun against RFK’s head and firing. Others fell about after hearing gunshots and observing flashes eminating from the muzzle of Sirhan’s gun. Consequently, the pantry was in such a turmoil it is no wonder the witness statements were contradictory and fraught with speculation as to what exactly happened.
O’Sullivan is crudely manipulative and deceptive when it comes to presenting witness statements. O’Sullivan wrote, “…not one witness placed Sirhan’s gun close enough to Kennedy and in the correct firing position to inflict the wounds observed in the autopsy.”(emphasis added) (2) However, the controversies over the trajectories of the bullets entering RFK were never an issue when the witnesses were interviewed therefore they were never asked. O’Sullivan thus glosses over the statements made by witnesses Juan Romero, Boris Yaro, Vincent DiPierro and Freddy Plimpton who were close to the Senator and who said Sirhan placed his gun at RFK’s head.(see: http://hnn.us)
Out of this turmoil a number of witnesses gave knee-jerk and incorrect ‘more than one shooter’ responses to the news media and to police officers on the scene. They later retracted what they had said or their stories were rendered implausible when close colleagues or friends took issue with their claims. (see: http://mcadams and http://hnn.us)
To most rationally-minded observers this was an entirely natural occurrence. However, O’Sullivan chooses the least plausible explanation for anomalous events as described by pantry and Embassy Room witnesses. He then links one bureaucratic error after another to build his sinister scenarios. Accordingly, O’Sullivan concludes these witness statements were proof positive that a second gunman had been present when Sirhan fired his shots.
Unfortunately, O’Sullivan has ignored just about everything writer Dan Moldea took years in uncovering. Unlike O’Sullivan, Moldea is a veteran investigative journalist. His excellent work on the case decisively destroyed the many ludicrous answers conspiracy writers gave to some anomalous evidence surrounding the crime scene and witness statements. (see: http://www.amazon.com)
But O’Sullivan isn’t satisfied with Moldea’s explanations because they get in the way of building his case for a second gunman in the pantry. To counteract Moldea’s research O’Sullivan nitpicks his way around minor contradictions which were the result of slight changes to witnesses’ statements when they were re-interviewed. And, if a witness makes a condemning statement about Sirhan, he has to be rendered not credible. For example, Sirhan confessed to killing RFK to ACLU lawyer A.L. Wirin and Sirhan defense investigator Michael McCowan. O’Sullivan dismisses Wirin because he supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. He dismisses McCowan because he heard a rumor McCowan had links to the CIA. O’Sullivan’s methods of discrediting those who fail to identify his purported CIA agents in the Ambassador Hotel take a similar turn.
O’Sullivan also repeats the many myths about the RFK assassination including the oft-repeated claims that Sirhan was too far away from the Senator to fire the fatal shot; had been facing Kennedy when he fired his gun; could not have fired the fatal bullet to the back of the Senator’s head and that a girl in a polka dot dress had been his accomplice. (see: http://hnn.us and http://hnn.us) And, without any scientific training whatsoever, O’Sullivan manages to pour scorn on an acoustics report which decisively proves the recent 13 shot shooting scenario provided by conspiracy buff Philip Van Praag was seriously flawed.(3)
But it is O’Sullivan’s claim that CIA agents were present at the Ambassador Hotel the night RFK was shot that renders his overall thesis suspect. O’Sullivan devotes three quarters of an hour of his 138 minute documentary and four chapters of his book to the controversy about the alleged CIA agents. To his credit, O’Sullivan does show David Morales’ best friend Reuben Carbajal on camera denouncing those who say Morales was the man identified as having been present at the Ambassador Hotel . However, O’Sullivan still included in his documentary presentation the wrongful identifications made by his discredited sources, none of whom knew the agents well. This, despite the overwhelming evidence supplied by David Talbot, Jefferson Morley and myself (see: http://hnn.us and (http://www.maryferrell.org) and the fact O’Sullivan eventually discovered the real identities of the men who were actually Bulova watch salesmen. (see: http://www.washingtondecoded.com)
It is clear throughout his documentary and book that O’Sullivan has labored long and hard to preserve the myth of CIA involvement in the RFK assassination. Following the real identifications of the alleged agents he then immediately sullies his own discoveries of the real identities of the ‘agents’ by attempting to characterize the Bulover Watch company as a ‘CIA asset’. O’Sullivan’s unnamed sources said the company was a ‘well-known CIA cover’ thus implying the men he identified in the news film footage were CIA personnel after all. But O’Sullivan does not tell us who claimed the Bulova Watch Company was a ‘CIA front’. In fact, there is no credible evidence whatsoever to support this claim. This is simply another classic tactic used by conspiracy buffs to sow seeds of doubt.
O’Sullivan must have known, during the final stages of editing, that he no longer had a sensational story of CIA involvement in the Robert Kennedy assassination for his documentary centerpiece. He has therefore invented a novel way of having his cake and eating it. He has kept his sensational DVD documentary in circulation, which makes the outrageous RFK/CIA claims, whilst at the same time disavowing them in his book. However, it does beg the question – why market a film that is chock full of lies and innuendo?
The answer seems to lie in the fact that his heavy financial investment (he had ‘backers’ for his film) in travelling the length and breadth of the United States looking for confirmation of his preconceived and hand–fed theories that the CIA killed RFK must have weighed heavily on his shoulders. Without a raison d’etre for his documentary all O’Sullivan was left with was the regurgitation of the same old myths connected with this case which have previously been debunked (see HNN links above).
For years O’Sullivan has been heavily influenced by conspiracy buffs who have been desperate to link the CIA with the purported conspiracies to murder John and Robert Kennedy. In his endeavors he was assisted by committed British socialist and former member of a militant print workers union, John Simkin. Simkin is a friend of Castro’s Cuba and well –known for his animus towards intelligence agencies of the western kind. He is also noted for his attempts to link the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr , JFK and RFK to the CIA. In his website forum Simkin also had the audacity to accuse Dan Moldea of having concluded Sirhan was a lone assassin for financial considerations. Simkin was forced to issue a retraction. (4)
O’Sullivan was also aided by Michael Calder, well – known in the conspiracy community for his claims that the CIA murdered President Kennedy. Embracing these two conspiracists alone renders O’Sullivan’s quixotic efforts suspect. It is a little like employing the services of a kamikaze pilot to learn how to fly. Both are credited in Sullivan’s documentary. (5)
But O’Sullivan’s most important contact was Bradley Ayers whom he met in 2004. The former Army captain had been writing a book about his early 1960s work for the CIA’s Miami station, JMWAVE. It is a self-published book entitled ‘The Zenith Secret – A CIA Insider Exposes The Secret War Against Cuba And The Plot That Killed The Kennedy Brothers’ (2006). Beginning in 1968 Ayers became convinced of a JFK assassination plot. Since that time he has become part of the conspiracy industry consisting of numerous individuals and organizations so committed to the concept of a JFK plot that they do not allow mere facts to interfere with their ‘religion’.
In his book Ayers makes a number of references to Jason, his British journalist friend and of how he provided him with, “…my human sources as well as my own testimony and observations”. Ayers and ‘Jason’ had “…an exceedingly harmonious, mutually complementing relationship”. ‘Jason’ is clearly a pseudonym for Shane O’Sullivan. Why O’Sullivan never mentioned this in his documentary or his Guardian article or his comments on various JFK conspiracy forums is anyone’s guess unless it was to preserve the myth of his objectivity. According to Ayers, O’Sullivan became convinced of CIA involvement in the RFK assassination long before he had had time to fully research his suspicions. Furthermore, O’Sullivan must have been under no illusion that Ayers was a conspiracy buff and heavily involved in promoting his JFK assassination conspiracy book. (6)
According to a real JMWAVE expert, former Miami Herald reporter Don Bohning, Ayers’ work is incredibly inaccurate and misleading. Bohning wrote, “There are so many inaccuracies in (Ayers’ book). One that comes to mind…he met Bill Harvey at a reception on Key Biscayne in Miami in 1963. No way that could have happened since Harvey was ‘fired’ by Bobby Kennedy from the Cuba job during the October 1962 Missile Crisis and I doubt Harvey would have come down here in 1963. Manny (Chavez) has been reading it and he said there was so much crap in it he was going to write to O’Sullivan.” (7) Ayers is the man whose credibility, according to O’Sullivan, “cannot be questioned”. (8)
Ayers’ book, research and contacts were crucial to O’Sullivan’s work, especially Noel Twyman who O’Sullivan interviewed. Ayers in turn had been aided by Twyman and Jim Fetzer who assisted the former Army Captain in his research. Fetzer wrote the introduction to Ayers’ book and he is a regular interviewee on Black Op radio, a small internet radio station devoted to promoting all kinds of US government conspiracies, where he espouses his ludicrous ideas about the JFK assassination and the US Government’s 9/11 ‘conspiracy’. Fetzer became a national figure of ridicule in 2007 when he appeared on television claiming the United States government was responsible for murdering three thousand people in the 9/11 attacks.(9) (Fetzer also has doubts that man landed on the moon.) Vincent Bugliosi excoriated Twyman in his book Reclaiming History describing him as a ‘gullible theorist’ with ‘poor research’ methods.(10)
O’Sullivan’s interview with Sirhan’s brother Munir is yet another exercise in whitewashing vital facts. Munir Sirhan stated on camera that the Sirhan family were a “…normal, happy, God-fearing family”. This is, as I found out whilst researching Sirhan’s life, arid nonsense. The father, Bishara Sirhan, had deserted his family shortly after they arrived in the United States. Sirhan had abandoned his Christian faith and embraced atheism and the occult a few years before the assassination. All the brothers except Adel had been in trouble with the police. Sharif was arrested for attempting to murder his girlfriend and, like Sirhan, hated Jews. Mary Sirhan, who had indoctrinated her sons to hate Jews, had no control over her sons and often asked Arab friends to intervene in their disputes amongst themselves and with her. Saidallah was arrested for ‘drunk driving’ and ‘drunken disturbances’. And Munir was a disciplinary problem in school, was involved in a high-speed pursuit by the California Highway Patrol and had been arrested for selling marijuana. Munir also lied to police about the provenance of the RFK murder weapon. (11)
The last remaining Sirhan brother was utilized by O’Sullivan to create the myth that Sirhan was a non-violent devout Christian. Viewers and readers are left unaware of Sirhan’s atheism, his belief in the occult, his frequent angry anti-Semitic and anti-American outbursts and the overwhelming evidence which points to Sirhan’s pathological hatred of Jews and his stated desire to eliminate US leaders who had given their support to Israel.
Bias and manipulative editing is also recognizable throughout O’Sullivan’s documentary. One example is the way in which O’Sullivan puts Paul Schrade and Robert Blair Kaiser on camera praising the Irish screenwriter for his ‘breakthrough’ in the case which places CIA agents at the Ambassador Hotel. Both men praise O’Sullivan for his investigative journalism in discovering these ‘facts’ but it is quite obvious to the discerning viewer they are both, at the time they are speaking, unaware that O’Sullivan had discovered the real identities of ‘Campbell’ and ‘Joaniddes’. And if O’Sullivan’s discovery came after he interviewed Kaiser and Schrade, O’Sullivan should have made this apparent to the viewer.
O’Sullivan has also presented poorly researched background information about the possibility Sirhan had been hypnotized to murder RFK. He references the case of Bjorn Nielsen who purportedly hypnotized Palle Hardrup to commit murder in 1951. He uses this case as a proven example of how someone can hypnotize another to commit murder. What O’Sullivan does not do, however, is inform his readers that Hardrup confessed to making everything up in 1972 in an interview with Soren Petersen of the Danish newspaper BT. (12)
Repeated efforts by conspiracists like O’Sullivan to blame individuals like Thane Cesar and the CIA for RFK’s assassination is destined to continue despite the absence of any credible evidence to support their claims. And the irresponsible way they level their charges without proper investigation must be condemned. As RFK aide John Seigenthaler said about gossip which linked him to the RFK murder, “When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of ‘gossip’. She held a feather pillow and said, ‘If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people.’”(13)
Conspiracists like O’Sullivan have a way of persuading a significant section of the American public that pure speculation, innuendo and the abililty to cast doubt on every piece of evidence that doesn’t suit their purpose are sufficient to build a case for conspiracy. It is also likely O’Sullivan will be aided in his efforts to blame the CIA by Sirhan’s new lawyer, William Pepper, who accused the US government of assassinating Martin Luther King Jr and even brought a fantasist to trial in 1999 as a co-conspirator in the case. (14)
Meanwhile, Sirhan Sirhan sits in California’s Corcoran Prison hopeful that one day the American public will be fooled into accepting the representations of the conspiracy-mongerers and demand his release.
HNN Editor: Source notes to Mel Ayton's piece follow Dan Moldea's response.
Shane O'Sullivan is an Irish author and filmmaker based in London. His feature documentary RFK Must Die was recently released theatrically in London and New York and is now available on DVD. His book, Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy has just been published by Union Square Press.
The starting point for any review is an objective reviewer. When I saw LAPD apologist Mel Ayton had "reviewed" my film and book, I knew such objectivity was impossible and I could have scripted the "review" myself.
How could HNN commission such a partisan "reviewer" to write a "special to HNN" on the first substantial book on the Robert Kennedy assassination in eleven years? Since when does an author pushing his new paperback "review" a competing title in the marketplace? The agenda at work here is plain to see.
This is not a review. It's a premeditated rant, riddled with errors. When first posted, Ayton couldn't even get the title of my book right, calling it Who Killed Bobby Kennedy? I had to ask for a correction.
Asking Mr. Ayton to review my work is akin to Jimmy Hoffa reviewing Robert Kennedy's The Enemy Within. Lacking the teeth or wit of Mr. Hoffa, Ayton's habitually sour, lumbering jabs at my work merely highlight the cranky disposition of a retired schoolmaster who devotes his golden years to spreading disinformation and taking pot-shots at conspiracies without doing his homework.
It's clear, for instance, that Ayton wrote his book on the RFK assassination without checking the FBI files on the case, reading the trial transcript or interviewing a single witness, preferring to regurgitate the LAPD final report ad nauseam.
From his bunker at the University of Sunderland, Ayton leans heavily on two main sources, to which he displays blind allegiance - Dan Moldea's book, The Killing of Robert Kennedy and the LAPD final report.
After an impressive investigation that lays out a compelling case for conspiracy, Moldea's book features one of the most unconvincing U-turns in the history of non-fiction (Moldea hasn't had a book commissioned since.) Moldea pays a last visit to Sirhan and shamelessly goads him by asking if he'll come clean and remember the shooting after his mother dies. Moldea then has the painfully contrived epiphany that Sirhan acted alone.
Moldea's conclusion includes an extremely dubious "confession" Sirhan allegedly gave chief defense investigator Michael McCowan during the trial. Throughout the Sirhan case, McCowan was under probation for an earlier mail fraud charge. He was forced to resign from LAPD in 1965 after using his uniform to confiscate three diamond rings belonging to his girlfriend from the post office and selling them without her knowledge. Is this a credible source for a Sirhan "confession"? A "confession" McCowan didn't bother disclosing to Sirhan's defense attorney at the time.
Moldea also declares security guard Thane Eugene Cesar innocent of any involvement in the shooting after he passes a polygraph test 25 years after the fact. Given the LAPD's abuse of the polygraph in this case and the ease with which you can "fool" a polygraph, this seems an absurd way to determine Cesar's innocence.
When I contacted Moldea to see if I could interview Cesar for my film, Moldea told me it could be arranged for $50,000. An interview with Moldea would cost $2,500. My BBC colleagues chuckled at Moldea's exaggerated sense of his own worth and Moldea confided that he was godfather to one of Cesar's children.
Mel Ayton defers to Moldea completely in his book when it comes to the crucial ballistics evidence yet Moldea is a close family friend and effectively the agent of the man many believe to be Kennedy's real assassin.
When it comes to the LAPD final report, Ayton treats it as Gospel. Let's look at the men who controlled the physical evidence and the witnesses to conspiracy in that investigation.
LAPD criminalist Dewayne Wolfer testified at the trial that all seven bullets in evidence matched Sirhan's gun. When the Wenke panel re-examined the firearms evidence in 1975, they concluded none of the bullets in evidence could be matched to the Sirhan gun.
Conclusion: Wolfer lied repeatedly on the stand about the physical evidence. None of the bullets fired that night have ever been matched to the Sirhan gun. The 1975 panel heavily criticised Wolfer for his incompetence and mishandling of evidence. Ayton stupidly dismisses Wolfer's errors as "bureaucratic" and "minor contradictions."
And even if you feel Sirhan acted alone, no objective observer of this case can excuse Sgt Enrique Hernandez's bullying of Sandra Serrano and countless other witnesses to conspiracy. Witness retractions under those conditions are meaningless and, as seen in my film, Serrano still sticks to her original story.
Special Counsel Thomas Kranz also deliberately misrepresented witness Don Schulman in his 1977 report. The summary of the Kranz interview with Schulman is full of outright lies and falsifications. The long-suppressed audiotape of the session confirms that from his position behind Kennedy, Schulman continued to insist he saw three wounds erupt on Kennedy's body, saw a security guard with a gun drawn and "was pretty sure he fired." The security guard was Thane Eugene Cesar.
So much for Ayton sources. Do you trust these men with your history?
Now, consider the indisputable evidence concerning the ballistics in this case. Sirhan was seen firing by many witnesses. His gun held eight bullets and eight empty shells were found in his revolver. But the evidence that more than eight shots were fired is overwhelming:
Kennedy was hit three times and five others were injured. A further bullet passed clean through the shoulder-pad of Kennedy's jacket, back-to-front, in the opposite direction from the injured bystanders. In addition, FBI agent William Bailey and numerous LAPD officers saw bullets in two holes in a center-divider between the pantry doors. This suggests eleven shots were fired. In addition, three further bullet holes in doorframes were observed by witnesses.
The autopsy states the fatal shot came from one inch behind the senator. The muzzle of Sirhan's gun, according to witness statements at the time, was one-and-a-half to five feet in front of Kennedy. What would "most rational-minded observers" give as a "plausible explanation" for this?
Well, assistant maitre d' Karl Uecker and attorney Frank Burns (an advisor to California Speaker Jesse Unruh) were actually standing between Kennedy and Sirhan and insisted Sirhan could not have fired the shots described in the autopsy.
I gladly acknowledge Uecker and Burns as just two of the "conspiracy buffs" who have "heavily influenced" me "for years." I'd also add FBI agent Bailey, and Paul Schrade, a close friend of Robert Kennedy's, who was walking behind the senator that night and was shot in the head. For 35 years, Schrade has campaigned for a reopening of the case due to troubling inconsistencies in the ballistics evidence.
In the last few months, the only known recording of the shooting has been rediscovered and newly analysed by forensic audio expert Philip Van Praag. Van Praag concludes the recording contains 13 shots, with two "double shots" (shots fired so close together, they could not have been fired from one gun). Two independent forensic experts commissioned by the Discovery Channel have independently verified there are at least 10 shots on the recording.
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has validated Van Praag's findings and Paul Schrade calls them "proof of a second gunman" and is now putting together a legal team to reopen the case.
Ayton, of course, disputes Van Praag's analysis, with the help of "experts" like rock drummer Steve Barber. I contacted Ayton's most credible expert, Phil Harrison, on May 20. A week later, this was his reply:
Apologies again for the delay in replying. I only received the book last week. I am not currently in a position to carry out a review of Van Praag's work or to do any further analysis of the recording myself. I am absolutely snowed under with other work related commitments. However, when this eases I will get back to it.
So yes, you read that correctly. Mr. Harrison has not yet had time to fully review Van Praag's work yet Ayton continues to publicly insist that Van Praag's findings are wrong. Ayton had previously informed his "experts" that Stus Pruszynski (the Polish reporter who made the recording) was in the pantry when the shooting started. Actually, Pruszynski was forty feet away, walking towards the pantry, the shots gradually increasing in volume as he approached. This is obviously key information, essential to any accurate interpretation of how many shots were fired. More sloppy research and another Ayton blunder. Do you trust a man like this with your history?
More disinformation from Mr. Ayton regarding the alleged CIA agents at the hotel. Two, not four, of the 19 chapters in my book concern them, one describing the process by which they were misidentified. I, and I, alone, discovered that the men identified as "Gordon Campbell" and "George Joannides" were salesmen for the Bulova Watch Co. As the chairman of Bulova at the time was Gen. Omar N. Bradley and 40% of its revenue came from the defense industry, I explored the possibility that these men were using Bulova as "cover" for another agency. Ultimately, in both my film and book, I concluded this was unlikely. Ayton misrepresents me again.
I included all of the Morales identifications in my film, so the viewer can make their own judgement on whether Morales appears in the footage. I clearly voiced my doubts in my film and the Guardian, among other newspapers, praised my journalistic integrity in doing so.
Identifications aside, the fact remains that leading CIA operative David Morales confessed to his attorney, Robert Walton, that he was in Dallas and Los Angeles and involved in both Kennedy assassinations.
It's also clear to "most rational-minded observers" that Robert Blair Kaiser and Paul Schrade were interviewed before I discovered the Bulova connection. That is why the Bulova section comes after the Kaiser and Schrade interviews in my film. Common sense eludes Mr. Ayton once again.
The thinness of a review is apparent when six paragraphs are spent gossiping about "conspiracists" who have "assisted" me, with quotes cobbled together from internet forums. Clearly, Mr. Ayton has a lot of time on his hands and very little of substance to say about my book.
If HNN readers want an honest, thorough, comprehensive look at the troubling questions that remain unresolved in this case, it should be clear from the above that LAPD apologist Mel Ayton is not the place to start.
1. O'Sullivan alleged: "After an impressive investigation that lays out a compelling case for conspiracy, Moldea's book features one of the most unconvincing U-turns in the history of non-fiction."
Moldea replies: Following suit with many other respected publications, the New York Times lauded my U-turn, publishing not one but two favorable reviews of my 1995 work on the RFK case. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the Times top book critic, wrote on May 25, 1995, that my work was:
Carefully reasoned . . . ultimately persuasive . . . dramatic. . . . The author meticulously dissects how the various disputes arose and how critics were drawn into the orbit of the case. . . . The cleverness of [Moldea's] strategy in the book lies in his playing so effectively the part of devil's advocate. . . . His book should be read, not so much for the irrefutability of its conclusions as for the way the author has brought order out of a chaotic tale and turned an appalling tatter of history into an emblem of our misshapen times.
In the second review that appeared in the New York Times Book Review on June 18, 1995, the reviewer, Gerald Posner—a well-known critic of JFK conspiracy theorists—wrote:
In The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, a persuasive reexamination of the assassination, Mr. Moldea does what many journalists would lack the courage for—admit that his earlier work was wrong. . . . His new conclusion . . . is amply supported by prodigious research, including many first-time interviews with dozens of police officers involved in the investigation.
This book presents a remarkable turnaround for a writer who had partly staked his reputation on the existence of a second shooter. But because of the honesty and logic with which he approaches his study, Mr. Moldea's journalistic instincts have never looked sharper.
If students of the assassination or fans of Mr. Moldea's earlier work think that this less sensational resolution of the case is not as interesting as a conspiracy theory, they're mistaken. . . . How Mr. Moldea separates good leads from bogus ones, how he eliminates key suspects, and his climactic prison confrontation with Mr. Sirhan in 1994 make for far more interesting reading than any conspiracy theory based on hearsay and speculation.
Beyond presenting what is likely to be the best understanding of what actually happened on June 5, 1968, Mr. Moldea is stinging in his criticism of shoddy work by the Los Angeles Police Department. . . . [T]his is the best written of his books, finished in a clear and easy style.
For excerpts of other reviews of my book, please see: Reviews and essays.
Notably, in its June 6, 2008, review of Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary about the RFK case, the New York Times stated:
Like a dog unleashed in a field full of rabbits, [O’Sullivan] chases one shard of ‘evidence’ after another—a second gunman, a girl in a polka-dot dress—without bothering to arrange them in any coherent pattern.
2. O'Sullivan alleged: "Moldea hasn't had a book commissioned since."
Moldea replies: In January 1997—two years after the release of my book about the RFK murder—I published my sixth book, Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson, which I wrote with Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter, the two lead detectives on the Simpson case. That book made every major bestseller list in the country, rising to #5 on the New York Times list. Then, the following year, I published my seventh "commissioned" book, A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm. (See: The Hunting of the President: The Movie.)
O'Sullivan's false claim that my career as an author ended in 1995 with the publication of my RFK book—a very easy fact to check—is indicative of the poor quality of his research, as well as his obvious penchant to defame at will.
3. O’Sullivan alleged: “Moldea pays a last visit to Sirhan and shamelessly goads him by asking if he'll come clean and remember the shooting after his mother dies. Moldea then has the painfully contrived epiphany that Sirhan acted alone.”
Moldea replies: This dramatic moment, which O’Sullivan has unfairly characterized, came near the end of my third and final interview with Sirhan—after it became clear that he had been lying during the fourteen hours that I had spent with him. Like the New York Times, Newsweek, among many other publications, respected my interviews with Sirhan, saying in its own news story:
[T]he dramatic first two thirds of Moldea's book describes disconcerting inconsistencies in testimony and evidence; bullets that didn't match, and the conspicuous absence of key police records. But through interviews with police officers involved in the original investigation--some of whom had never talked about the case before--Moldea shows that simple (and sometimes hilarious) human error explain these suspicious coincidences. . . .
If this reporting doesn't seal the case, Moldea's chilling prison interviews with Sirhan do.
4. O'Sullivan alleged: "Moldea's conclusion includes an extremely dubious 'confession' Sirhan allegedly gave chief defense investigator Michael McCowan during the trial."
Moldea replies: During my investigation, I received information that led to the following passage in my book—after I had published a letter from Sirhan, in which he arguably took credit for killing Senator Kennedy. (See: Sirhan's "Hey Punk" letter.)
Michael McCowan . . . told me a similar story, indicating Sirhan’s clear knowledge of his crime. During a prison visitation, McCowan tried to reconstruct the murder with Sirhan.
Suddenly, in the midst of their conversation, Sirhan started to explain the moment when his eyes met Kennedy’s just before he shot him.
Shocked by what Sirhan had just admitted, McCowan asked, 'Then why, Sirhan, didn't you shoot him between the eyes?'
With no hesitation and no apparent remorse, Sirhan replied, "Because that son of a bitch turned his head at the last second." (See: McCowan's statement.)
In short, I believe McCowan—who has been the target of conspiracy theorists and Sirhan’s apologists, like O'Sullivan, ever since. (See: Sirhan's stooge and Moldea responds to "The Curious Case of Dan Moldea.".)
5. O’Sullivan alleged: “Moldea also declares security guard Thane Eugene Cesar innocent of any involvement in the shooting after he passes a polygraph test 25 years after the fact. Given the LAPD's abuse of the polygraph in this case and the ease with which you can ‘fool’ a polygraph, this seems an absurd way to determine Cesar's innocence.”
Moldea replies: As I wrote in my book, I—as an independent journalist—was in the midst of spending an enormous amount of time and money investigating Cesar. Consequently, I needed some test or measurement to determine how much more time and money I was going to spend on him in the future. When Cesar agreed either to be hypnotized or polygraphed, I went to a friend in the law-enforcement community. Essentially, he advised me that hypnotizing Cesar “could be tantamount to tampering with a potential witness.” Thus, he suggested that I have Cesar polygraphed.
I found the best polygraph operator in Los Angeles and paid him top dollar for his work. As I accurately reported, Cesar’s lie-detector test indicated no deception. In fact, as I chronicled in considerable detail in my book, Cesar “passed with flying colors.”
If Cesar had failed that test, I would’ve spent every waking hour and every cent I had pursuing him.
In the end, my interviews with Sirhan—not the polygraph test—convinced me that Cesar was an innocent man who for many years had been wrongly accused of murder.
Conspiracy theorists, like O'Sullivan, may continue to suggest that Gene Cesar is a murderer. But that suggestion is totally untrue and completely unfair.
6. O’Sullivan alleged: “When I contacted Moldea to see if I could interview Cesar for my film, Moldea told me it could be arranged for $50,000. An interview with Moldea would cost $2,500.”
Moldea replies: Since 1995, I have received many calls and letters about the RFK case. Most of those who contact me are people I have never heard of, like Shane O’Sullivan. And I have learned from a series of harsh experiences that if they haven't been referred by someone I know, then I don't trust them or their motives. To be sure, almost all of them want to talk with Cesar, who is simply tired of this nonsense and has told me that if anyone wants to waste his time, it will cost $50,000. That’s what I told O’Sullivan's producers at BBC.
With regard to the proposed $2,500 for my participation in the BBC documentary, in my written response to a separate interview request from one of those BBC producers on November 17, 2006, I replied:
As I told Shane, I always ask to be paid for filmed reports—usually because my best insights wind up in the narrator's script. But I will do a live interview . . . for free. If you want me to appear on any other live interviews in the future, I will be pleased to participate.
In other words, if I'm going to be used as an unwitting research assistant for taped-and-edited film documentaries—and that's what usually happens in these situations—then I expect to get paid for that task. And the fee I usually ask for and receive is $2,500—unless I’m doing a favor for a friend and/or someone I respect.
Live interviews are different. I always do them for free—because they are not edited. I own my words and information, and I am credited for what I say.
7. O’Sullivan alleged: “My BBC colleagues chuckled at Moldea's exaggerated sense of his own worth and Moldea confided that he was godfather to one of Cesar's children.”
Moldea replies: Considering how much ridicule the BBC has received for its 2006 presentation of O’Sullivan’s embarrassing work—especially his bogus claim of the presence of nefarious CIA agents at the RFK crime scene, which was widely discredited prior to the release of his 2008 film and book—I am certainly enjoying the last laugh.
O'Sullivan's work on the RFK case is a joke. With his reliance on repudiated evidence and imaginary conspirators, he has done nothing more than create yet another paranoid's paradise.
With regard to the “godfather” issue, Cesar was so grateful to me for clearing him in my 1995 book that he asked me to be the godfather of his youngest child in 1999. Knowing that I was never going to write another book about Senator Kennedy's murder, I accepted this honor from the Cesar family without any fear of a conflict of interest.
I am always very candid about this relationship with Cesar when dealing with other reporters—and even with people I’ve never heard of, like O’Sullivan, who is now desperately flailing away because he isn't getting very much respect for his work, which was already discredited before its release.
When it comes to being shameless, the hapless Shane O’Sullivan is peerless.
NOTES to MEL AYTON'S PIECE
(1) O’Sullivan goes further and actually lies. O'Sullivan states that he saw me in the Rare Books section of the British Library looking at a microfilm reader at the same time he was carrying out his research. Well, I have never been to the British Library in London in my life. I received my copy of the 1500 page LAPD/SUS file on microfilm from the California State Archives and viewed it at Sunderland University. Whilst this is a minor point, it does highlight how O'Sullivan simply makes things up to suit his purposes whatever that may be in this instance.
O'Sullivan is also wrong in stating Jefferson Morley was the 'first out of the starting gate' to criticize Newsnight’s RFK/CIA allegations. I provided Newsnight editor Peter Barron with incontrovertible evidence it was I who was the first to post on the Tuesday morning following the Monday night broadcast. (the post was removed - see Post 75 http://www.bbc.co.uk). I was also the first to publish an article which provided witness evidence that denounced O’Sullivan’s identifications. O'Sullivan doesn’t acknowledge that either.
(2) O’Sullivan Who Killed Bobby? (2008) 78
(3)In an email to the author dated 21st April 2008 Steve Barber wrote: "Van Praag's pulling 13 shots out of this recording is absurd, to say the least. I have studied this recording for 2 years. I received my copy of it in April 2006. I publicly presented my findings on the National Geographic Channel program, "CIA Secret Experiments", which aired March 10, 2008, and I pointed to a computer graph that shows 8 spikes, one for each gunshot. The gunshots are distinct, once you use Dolby C setting on a tape deck. I counted 8 distinct gunshots, fired rapidly, one after the other. I have the same, exact source of the recording that Van Praag uses, and, in fact, Van Praag and I corresponded in 2006, and he sent me a CD copy of what he calls his "master" which he said he was given permission to record “digitally” while at the California State Archives. The two sounds which Van Praag describes as coming too close together to be fired by one gunman are not two gunshots fired close together. The second of the two sounds I firmly believe to be the bullet striking a solid object. It does not have the characteristics of a 'pop' sound at all, and that is why it doesn't present a spike on the graph like the other gunshot sounds do. I am currently working directly with acoustics expert Phillip Harrison. Our findings differ drastically with what Van Praag claims to have found."
See also: http://www.moldea.com
(5) In the Newsnight forum debate in the weeks following the story’s broadcast Calder accused me of having some connection to the CIA. Calder wrote,“Could it be the publisher of your book is not ‘Potomac Books’ but in reality, ‘Langley Books’?” Hopefully, Potomac Books will respond to Calder’s ill-considered comment. There is also an inherent silliness to Calder’s accusations – had he taken the time to research Potomac Books’ website he would have discovered they published Joan Mellen’s book ‘A Farewell To Justice’ which accuses the CIA of assassinating JFK. http://www.bbc.co.uk Post 92.
Calder, like most conspiracy theorists, manipulates everything about this case to suit his arguments that the CIA was behind both assassinations. In a recent HNN post Calder told readers that he had postive proof that Evan Freed told officials he had observed a second shooter in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. However, Calder knows very well that not one reader in a thousand would know the background to this ‘factual information’. Calder failed to tell readers that Freed had retracted his statement many years ago and continues to do so – his most recent denial that he saw a second shooter is presented in O’Sullivan’s documentary.
(6) Ayers, ‘The Zenith Secret – A CIA Insider Exposes The Secret War Against Cuba And The Plot That Killed The Kennedy Brothers’ pages 260-261.
Incredibly, O’Sullivan published an HNN reply to my RFK/CIA article in which he stated “You obviously haven't read (Ayers’) book because it has nothing to do with JFK conspiracy theories (emphasis added)….. please research these new suspects more carefully before you attack the credibility of men brave enough to step forward and identify them.” http://hnn.us
(7) Don Bohning, email to the author, 26 March 2007
(10) Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi page 1053
(11) Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 58-62 and http://www.frontpagemag.com Munir has stated: “He’s not a Muslim; [he’s] always been a Christian, a devout Christian”. http://www.pasadenaweekly.com
(12) O’Sullivan, 387, Brainwash – The Secret History Of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild, (2006) 177
(14) See: http://crimemagazine.com