Gavin Newsom Denies Parole for RFK's Assassin Sirhan Sirhan: 'Potent Symbol of Political Violence'

In August, a parole board had granted Sirhan Sirhan his 16th request for parole, more than 52 years after his conviction

Sirhan Sirhan arrives for a parole hearing, in San Diego. Sirhan faces his 16th parole hearing Friday for fatally shooting U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968
Sirhan Sirhan. Photo: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Nearly six months after a California board granted parole for Robert F. Kennedy's assassin Sirhan Bushara Sirhan, Governor Gavin Newsom has reversed the decision.

In an announcement on Thursday, the Governor's Office wrote that Newsom "completed an extensive review of Mr. Sirhan's case and determined that he currently poses an unreasonable threat to public safety."

Newsom expanded on his decision in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, writing that decades after being convicted of murdering the former senator, "Sirhan refuses to accept responsibility for the crimes."

"Kennedy's assassination not only changed the course of this nation and robbed the world of a promising young leader, it also left his 11 children without a father and his wife without a husband. Kennedy's family bears his loss every day," Newsom wrote, adding that "millions of Americans lost a unifier" just over two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly five years after Robert Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy, was murdered.

"Yet, after decades in prison, Sirhan still lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the kind of dangerous and destructive decisions he made in the past," Newsom continued. "The most glaring proof of Sirhan's deficient insight is his shifting narrative about his assassination of Kennedy, and his current refusal to accept responsibility for it."

Newsom called the evidence against Sirhan "overwhelming and irrefutable" and maintained that the 77-year-old remains "a potent symbol of political violence."

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Robert F. Kennedy in 1963. PhotoQuest/Getty

Sirhan was convicted for the murder of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. He was originally sentenced to death, though his sentence was commuted to a life sentence.

In August, a parole board granted Sirhan's 16th request for parole. "He's happy. He's just trying to still process it," Sirhan's attorney Angela Berry told PEOPLE at the time.

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Although six of Kennedy's children decried the decision, Sirhan's case was bolstered by two of the late senator's sons, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy. Sirhan and Robert Jr. met in December 2017 ahead of the 50th anniversary of his father's assassination.

"They spoke for about three hours, and Robert Kennedy has been outspoken about his support for Sirhan over the years," Berry said.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Berry did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment regarding Newsom's decision to reverse Sirhan's parole.

On Thursday, six of Robert F. Kennedy's children — Kerry, Rory, Joseph, Christopher, Maxwell, and Courtney — shared a joint statement on social media regarding Newsom's announcement.

"Because of how entwined into popular this murder has become, amplified by the regularity of [Sirhan's] attempts to be freed, our family has been forced to watch our husband and father be killed thousands of times," the statement read. "The pain of reliving his last moments, over and over again, is simply unbearable."

The statement added that "no time served is long enough to justify paroling a man entirely lacking insight into his premeditated political assassination."

"We are greatly appreciative of the Governor's consideration of the facts and his faithful application of the law. His decision represents the vindication of the rule of law over all who would betray it with hatred and violence," the statement concludes. "By reaffirming that freedom is dependent on responsibility, the Governor protects Californians and people around the world — and that is in the tradition and faithful to the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy."

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