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Auction of Sirhan papers blocked

The killer's purported handwritten account of his actions before RFK's assassination may be evidence in the parole effort, a lawyer says. The auctioneer and seller agreed to suspend the event after learning the attorney might go to court to stop it.

April 13, 2011|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Lawyer William Pepper appears last month with Sirhan Sirhan at a parole hearing at Pleasant Valley State Prison.
Lawyer William Pepper appears last month with Sirhan Sirhan at a parole… (Ben Margot, Associated…)

The scheduled auction of a handwritten account by Sirhan Sirhan of his actions before the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was blocked Tuesday by the convicted killer's attorney.

Lawyer William Pepper said the purported description of Sirhan's visit to the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was gunned down may be "significant evidence" in an ongoing effort to win parole for the Pleasant Valley State Prison inmate, now 67.

The online auction of the documents, written on a yellow legal pad and accompanied by a sketch that depicts areas of the Los Angeles hotel that Sirhan walked through, had been planned for Tuesday afternoon.

Auctioneer Nate D. Sanders said he and the seller of the material, Century City business executive Michael McCowan, agreed to suspend the sale after being advised that Pepper would seek a temporary restraining order if necessary to stop it.

McCowan, now 78, was a law school graduate volunteering as an investigator for Sirhan's defense team in early 1969 when the accused assassin jotted down the account.

"He wrote it right in front of me," McCowan said.

Sirhan also wrote of visiting a shooting range shortly before going to the hotel, McCowan said, and signed a release giving him the rights to the documents. "He knew I'd put a lot of work in on the case and wasn't being paid," said McCowan, who initially intended to write a book about the case.

In March, Sirhan appeared before a parole board for his 14th hearing since his conviction in May 1969. Pepper has suggested that Sirhan was "manipulated" and "hypno-programmed" and did not act alone when Kennedy was shot.

Pepper said Sirhan has a pending habeas corpus proceeding and is "under court order to submit a supplemental brief on two outstanding issues" by April 23. He said McCowan's documents "belong to my client and must be considered part of the attorney work product associated with his defense."

Both McCowan and Sanders said Sirhan's writings are unlikely to help with his parole effort.

"The material would hurt him, since he supposedly can't remember what happened that night," McCowan said Tuesday. He said it is clear to him that there was never any conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

The pair said the assassination documents may be rescheduled for auction at a later date.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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