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At the COPA


Pat Speer
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I was able to attend much of COPA's convention in L.A. In comparison to the JFK assassination I am a novice when it comes to the RFK assassination, and this served as a quick blast of cold air.

The convention was held in a back room of a bowling alley adjacent to a hotel. While this back room--presumably used for things like local Chamber of Commerce meetings--was small, it helped keep the meetings intimate. Unfortunately, sometimes they became too intimate, and people would interrupt the speakers with irrelevant questions. The other problem with this setting was that sometimes people in the bowling alley would use the wrong setting on the intercom, and announce "Attention All Bowlers" into the room. Most of those in attendance appreciated the surreality and shrugged it off.

On Friday, Dr. Robert Joling and Phil Van Praag spoke about their recent research and their new self-published book. I believe much of this was web-cast. Anyhow, they make a very compelling case--using the Pruszynski tape of the shooting and the ballistic evidence--for the existence a second gun. They were accompanied by Paul Schrade, RFK's friend, and a fellow victim of the shooting in the pantry. There was a Japanese TV crew in attendance but I'm not sure if any other reporters were there to observe their presentation. Also speaking was Dr. William Pepper, Sirhan's attorney, whose goal is to get Sirhan to meet with hypno-therapists, so that they can find out what Sirhan was doing in the pantry, and if he can remember the shots. He said his efforts are currently being blocked by the California Bureau of Prisons, which won't permit Sirhan--who was briefly treated as a terrorist after 9/11--close contact with his visitors. Pepper asked for any and all ideas on how they can move forward. He was introduced by former Congresswoman and current Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. At the close of the evening, Mark Sobel showed the first two-thirds of his film RFK. This film featured an interview with Vincent Di Pierro, in which Sobel played him the LAPD's interrogation tape of himself, in which he recanted his earlier statement that he'd seen a woman in a polka dot dress. A saddened Di Pierro acknowledged that he really did see a woman in a polka dot dress, and that he was intimidated by Hernandez into changing his story.

The next day I arrived too late to catch the presentations of Bill Turner and Lisa Pease. I spoke to Bill the night before and he confirmed that he still suspects Gerry Owen was somehow involved, and that Sirhan's connections to organized crime figures may have played a role as well. I have Lisa Pease's book The Assassinations and will re-read her articles on RFK in the near future. The first speaker after lunch was Darwin Horne, a last minute addition. Darwin Horne was a Secret Service agent for many years. He's in his 80's. But he still spoke emotionally about the days after the shooting, when he was assigned to guard the Kennedy family and accompany RFK at the hospital, at his funeral, and at his burial. He was defensive of the Service as a whole, and spoke negatively of agents who later bad-mouthed their protectees. He said that the agents who spoke out about JFK's dalliances have been ostracized by their fellow agents. He also said a few things that could lead one to believe Talbot's view of RFK and Ethel--that they believed JFK had been killed by a conspiracy. He said that, while Bobby trusted U.S. Marshals, the family as a whole had a dislike for cops. He said they had a code for any situation where there were too many cops around ---"TMBS--too many blue suits". Perhaps this reflected their belief that the DPD had something to do with Jack's death. He didn't say this, of course. Horne also spoke briefly about assassins--he said that assassins generally strike just to get famous, etc. This, apparently, is the company line. As Horne was in protective services for decades, this apparently reflects the training of the Secret Service--LOOK OUT FOR NUTS. I think this is a dis-service, as most assassins, historically, have had motives beyond just getting famous.

After Horne spoke Michael Calder spoke briefly about his efforts to identify just who made the decision to move RFK through the pantry. Afterwards, Summer Reece, a friend of Sirhan's former attorney Larry Teeter, spoke about her ongoing efforts to get his 200 boxes of papers back from the California Bar Association. They were picked up after his death in the interest of justice, as the people living in his house had thrown them all around, but they have not made them available to anyone associated with Sirhan's case. She said they coughed up 14 boxes at one point, but that included in these boxes were parts of 64 other cases, or some such thing, so there was reason to suspect much of Sirhan's file is still in their possession. Her efforts continue.

After she spoke Shane O'Sullivan spoke and showed his movie. The first half of his film, detailing the assassination and its aftermath, is excellent, and features Sandy Serrano, who went on TV and talked about the polka dot dress lady in the hours after the shooting, recanting her statements on the LAPD's tapes. Shane then interviews her and she echoes Di Pierro's statements to Sobel...that they were pressured by the interviewer into changing their statements out of fear. At this point I kind of wished Sobel and O'Sullivan could have made one film, featuring both Sobel's footage of Di Pierro and Shane's footage of Serrano. If this footage were shown on 60 Minutes or some national news magazine, it would cause a public outcry, IMO. The last part of Shane's film deals with his search for the identities of the men he'd previously identified as CIA agents. He now backs away from that claim, but has an ongoing interest in them. (Just a thought--perhaps the man he'd previously thought was David Morales was part of an LAFD team on the premises).

After Shane's film Mark Sobel showed the last part of his film. This part was quite interesting and featured an interview with Scott Enyart, who claimed to have taken photographs of the shooting. When he finally won the release of his photos from the California Archives, of course, they were stolen from the courier. This is fishy as heck, and troubles Enyart to this day.

I was not able to return on Sunday. In sum it was quite interesting for me, and gratifying to meet fellow Forum members Shane and Bill and Frank Caramelli in the flesh. It was also a treat to get to spend time with Paul Schrade, Bill Pepper, Robert Joling, Phil Van Praag, Lisa Pease, Ted Charach, and John Judge, among others, with whom I'd never previously had contact. I left the meetings optimistic that Joling and Van Praag's research, along with Shane's and Mark's films, along with Pepper's commitment to Sirhan, will lead this case to a greater public awareness over the next year or so. Thane Cesar should get himself a lawyer.

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I thought Pat was going to burst out singing:

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)

The hottest spot north of Havana (here)

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana

Music and passion were always the fashion

At the Copa....they fell in love

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl

With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there

She would merengue and do the cha-cha

And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar

Across a crowded floor, they worked from 8 till 4

They were young and they had each other

Who could ask for more?

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)

The hottest spot north of Havana (here)

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana

Music and passion were always the fashion

At the Copa....they fell in love

(Copa Copacabana)

His name was Rico, he wore a diamond

He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancin' there

And when she finished, he called her over

But Rico went a bit too far, Tony sailed across the bar

And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two

There was blood and a single gun shot

But just who shot who?

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)

The hottest spot north of Havana (here)

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana

Music and passion were always the fashion

At the Copa....she lost her love

(Copa. . Copacabana)

(Copa Copacabana) (Copacabana, ahh ahh ahh ahh)

(Ahh ahh ahh ahh Copa Copacabana)

(Talking Havana have a banana)

(Music and passion...always the fash--shun)

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl

But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show

Now it's a disco, but not for Lola

Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair

She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind

She lost her youth and she lost her Tony

Now she's lost her mind!

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)

The hottest spot north of Havana (here)

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana

Music and passion were always the fashion

At the Copa....don't fall in love

(Copa) don't fall in love

Copacabana

Copacabana

I just got "Havana Nocture - How the Mob Owned Cuba and then Lost it to the Revolution" by T. J. English, and am getting in the mood.

BK

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William Pepper is asking for ideas to generate a legal avenue for resolving the RFK assassination, and I would normally suggest presenting the new evidence to a grand jury.

But that has been tried before, by a women lawyer from San Francisco who I corresponded with, who explained that the local assistant DAs and prosecutors won't take the case to a grand jury if it involves corruption or mistakes by the LAPD.

These DAs have to work with the LAPD on a daily basis in court, prosecuting regular criminals, and won't have anything to do with the RFK assassination if there are accusations against the LAPD.

It seems that everyone is concentrating on making movies, rather than solving the crime. While documentaries influence opinion and government policy, on occassion, I think they need to go back to court and create some new evidence and witness testimony and then be able to do something with it.

BK

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I just got "Havana Nocturne - How the Mob Owned Cuba and then Lost it to the Revolution" by T. J. English, and am getting in the mood.

I just finished it and predict you will enjoy reading it, Bill. While I have questions about the credibility of some of the sources used in English's narrative,

Havana Nocturne is a very good read in my opinion. The photographs are great too.

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A couple of more thoughts on the COPA meeting, which I'll record here for posterity and discussion.

One is that, while witness Di Pierro has, in recent years, argued against the second gun theory, by claiming he saw Sirhan place his pistol within a few inches of Kennedy's head, Shane O'Sullivan, in his film, confronts him with his earlier statements suggesting Sirhan was feet away when he began firing, and he does not acquit himself well. It seems likely that Di Pierro has tried to make sense of the incident, and has gradually come to re-remember it in accordance with the official story...

A second point which should be made--I have no idea if this is well known or not--is that Ted Charach, the creator of The Second Gun, the first book or movie to bring up the possibility RFK was killed by Thane Cesar, the bodyguard standing behind him, now insists that his research and movie were secretly funded and supported by....LIFE Magazine. Apparently, the decision-makers at Life in 1969 and 1970 were of a far different breed than those making the decisions in 1963.

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