"What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right," Rhodes-Hughes said in an exclusive interview with CNN. "The truth has got to be told. No more cover-ups."
In a response also filed in federal court in Los Angeles, the defense team led by New York attorney William Pepper contends that the FBI misrepresented Rhodes-Hughes' eyewitness account and that she actually had heard a total of 12 to 14 shots fired.
"She identified fifteen errors including the FBI alteration which quoted her as hearing only eight shots, which she explicitly denied was what she had told them," Sirhan's lawyers argued in February, citing a previously published statement from Rhodes-Hughes.
Rhodes-Hughes tells CNN the FBI's eight-shot claim is "completely false." She says the bureau "twisted" things she told two FBI agents when they interviewed her as an assassination witness in 1968, and she says Harris and her prosecutors are simply "parroting" the bureau's report.
"I never said eight shots. I never, never said it," Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "But if the attorney general is saying it then she's going according to what the FBI chose to put into their report."
"There were more than eight shots," Rhodes-Hughes said by phone. She says that during the FBI interview in her Los Angeles home, one month after the assassination, she told the agents that she'd heard 12 to 14 shots. "There were at least 12, maybe 14. And I know there were because I heard the rhythm in my head," Rhodes-Hughes said. She says she believes senior FBI officials altered statements she made to the agents to "conform with what they wanted the public to believe, period."
"When they say only eight shots, the anger within me is so great that I practically -- I get very emotional because it is so untrue. It is so untrue," she said.
An analysis of a recently uncovered tape recording of the shooting detected at least 13 shot sounds erupting over a period of less than six seconds. The audiotape was recorded at the Ambassador Hotel by free-lance newspaper reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski and is the only known soundtrack of the assassination.As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I used to know Ira Goldtein, one of the five non-fatally wounded victims shot that night. Although he was only a teen at the time, he was recording "actualities" (to use the then-current term of art) for a local news radio station. He had left his tape recorder behind when he followed RFK and his entourage through the kitchen. After the shooting, Ira went to retrieve his equipment; it was missing.
Audio expert Philip Van Praag told CNN that his analysis establishes the Pruszynski recording as authentic and the 13 sounds electronically detected on the recording as gunshots.
"The gunshots are established by virtue of my computer analysis of waveform patterns, which clearly distinguishes gunshots from other phenomena," he said in an e-mail. "This would include phenomena that to human hearing are often perceived as exploding firecrackers, popping camera flashbulbs or bursting balloons."
He always presumed that a dishonest individual simply helped himself to a free tape recorder, although it is difficult to believe that someone had petty theft on his mind on that occasion. I asked if the recorder was close enough to the shooting site to pick up the sounds of the gunshots. He said it was possible.
Back to CNN's story on Rhodes-Hughes:
Rhodes-Hughes says that after she entered the kitchen pantry's west entrance, she could see Kennedy in left profile, "greeting" well-wishers a few feet ahead of her. She says a moment later she was looking at the back of the senator's head, as he continued onward, when suddenly the first two or three shots were fired.
"I saw his left profile. And then, very, very quickly, he was through greeting, and he turned and went into the original direction that he was being ushered to," Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "At that point, I saw the back of his head and part of his shoulders and back."
"My eyes were totally on him, and all of a sudden I started hearing popping sounds, which I thought at first were flashbulbs from a camera," she said. It was Rhodes-Hughes' account of Kennedy's movements in the pantry that Sirhan's lawyer Pepper focused on in particular when CNN asked him to comment on Rhodes-Hughes' account of the shooting.
"This observation is vital," said Pepper. "Her clear recollection of being some short distance behind the Senator and seeing his left profile and then seeing him quickly turning so that the back of his head was in her sight at the time the shooting began -- this reveals that the Senator was almost directly facing Sirhan just before he took three shots, from behind, in his back, and behind his right ear at powder burn range, making it impossible for Sirhan to have been Robert Kennedy's shooter," the defense attorney said in an e-mail to CNN. "It clearly evidences the existence of a second gunman who fired from below and upward at the Senator."
Rhodes-Hughes says that while she was behind Senator Kennedy, looking at the back of his head and hearing the first two or three gunshots, Kennedy did not appear to be struck by bullets at that point.
Still believing the first shots were merely flashbulbs, she says she then took her eyes off the senator, while turning leftward, and caught her first glimpse of Sirhan standing in front of Kennedy and to the candidate's left.
She told CNN that the 5-foot-5-inch tall Sirhan was propped up on a steam table, several feet ahead of her and slightly to her own left. Rhodes-Hughes says part of her view of Sirhan was obstructed and she could not see the gun in his hand but she says that, as soon as she caught sight of Sirhan, she then heard more shots coming from somewhere past her right side and near Kennedy. She told CNN that at that point she was hearing "much more rapid fire" than she initially had heard.
Rhodes-Hughes told CNN she heard gunshots coming from some place not far from her right side even while Sirhan was being subdued several feet in front of her. "During all of that time, there are shots coming to my right," she said. "People are falling around me. I see a man sliding down a wall. Then I see Senator Kennedy lying on the floor on his back, bleeding. And I remember screaming, 'Oh no! Oh, my God, no!' And the next thing I know, I'm ducking but also in complete shock as to what's going on.Debunkers, of course, will argue that an earlier statement is preferable to later ones. The upholders of the official view always make a big stink about the "earlier is better" principle -- except, of course, when a latter-day statement proves convenient to their viewpoint. There is no reason why thinking people of the 21st century should have unshakable confidence in the honesty of Hoover's FBI in 1968 -- certainly not in a case involving the Kennedy family.
"And then I passed out," she said.
Rhodes-Hughes is not telling this story for the first time, although this may be the fullest published account of her experiences. Her recollection of 12 or more shots appears in Philip Melanson's 1997 book Shadow Play and in Shane O'Sullivan's Who Killed Bobby? It has been said that, back in 1968, she told a radio or television interviewer that she heard 12 shots; if so, I do not know the exact details. Perhaps a reader can provide them...?
The O'Sullivan volume is reviewed here -- and the review provides an excellent intro to the case as a whole.
One last thing: If any of you kids consider this post an occasion to spew conspiratorial nonsense about 9/11, don't expect your inanity to appear here. The RFK case is something real. I'm continually infuriated by attempts to discredit genuine research into the assassinations of the 1960s by flavoring it with Bizarro-world bullshit. When adults are talking, children should be neither seen nor heard.