Dan Moldea Interview

Dan E. Moldea
Author of: The Killing of Robert F Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity.
(W. W. Norton and Company, 1995)

June 5, 1968, The Ambassador Hotel Room, Los Angeles. Sen. Robert Kennedy gives a victory speech in the hotel’s ballroom after winning the Democratic primary in California. Departing the stage, he leaves through a kitchen pantry where he is shot. The next day he dies. He is 42 years old.

Investigative reporter Dan Moldea researched and studied the events surrounding the assassination of Robert Kennedy in his book “The Killing of Robert F Kennedy, an Investigation of Motive, Means and Opportunity.”

Dan Moldea spoke with us about his book.

Q – Dan, I saw you on “Unsolved Mysteries” hosted by Robert Stack in I believe the late 1980s, talking about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. You believe then that there was a second gunman involved. Now, I see on YouTube in a 2014 interview that you believe Sirhan Sirhan acted alone? Is that your conclusion, that Sirhan acted alone?

A – Well, you didn’t have to wait until 2014. I published a book in 1995 that received not one but two rave reviews in the New York Times. I went through the whole history of my investigation.

In 1985, three experts on the murder of Senator Kennedy introduced me to certain details about the circumstances of the case that left open the possibility that two guns were fired at that crime scene.

They brought me in to do what I could to force the public release of the sealed records in the case that had been held by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

In June 1987, I published my article about the RFK case in Regardie’s magazine in Washington, D.C.

And, because of that article, the City of Los Angeles—while my story was still on the newsstands—ordered the release of the sealed police file. And the following year those records went to the state archives in Sacramento.

Upon their public release, I went through those records, and I started to find lists of police officers, fire officials, and deputy sheriffs, among others, who were involved in the crime scene investigation.

Using the lists I assembled at the state archives, I located and interviewed 114 of them. I asked them two basic questions “What did you see that night?” And “What did you do?”

Many of them were telling me they saw four bullet holes in the walls and in the doorframes in Sirhan’s line of fire. So, that was persuasive to me that this needed further investigation.

Sirhan had fired an eight-shot .22-calber revolver, and all the bullets were accounted for.

I’m not a ballistics expert or a firearms identification expert. I don’t know a land from a groove, but I do know that an eight-shot revolver can’t shoot more than eight bullets. What these people were telling me was there were at least twelve shots and twelve bullet holes that were in that were discoverable in that crime scene.

So, I wanted to know who the suspected second gunman was, the person identified by the people who brought me in: Greg Stone, Phil Melanson, and Paul Schrade. They believed the second gunman to be Thane Eugene Cesar, a temporary security guard at the hotel that night.

After receiving his name, I checked with the LA District Attorney’s Office. And one of my sources there told me that he had died several years earlier.

So, I wanted to find out what I could about him. I did a public records search and found an attorney that had represented him in a recent legal action. So, I went to his attorney, and it turned out that Cesar was alive and well and living in Simi Valley, California. And so, I asked him to arrange an interview.

Cesar balked. But I was relentless to get the interview. He finally agreed, and we had a series of very long interviews, most of which were recorded on audio tape.

Frankly, I thought I was going to make history during that first interview. I thought I was going to break this guy down and get him to confess that he was the second gunman at Robert Kennedy’s murder.

But instead, he was defiant. He held his ground. To be sure, there were a lot of contradictions during these interviews. In one part of the interview, he said that he was so close to Kennedy that he got powder burns in his eyes from Sirhan’s gun, that he fell down and then came up with his gun drawn, his 38 revolved drawn.

In another part of the interview, he said that he saw the flash from Sirhan’s gun, then he pulled his gun, his 38, and then he fell to the floor.

In another part of the interview, Kennedy fell to his left, in another one he fell to his right, and in another third version he fell on top of him.

So, he had a lot of conflicting statements there. I was just in a quandary. And, because I was spending so much time and money on my investigation of him, I needed some test or measurement to determine how much further I was willing to go.

I asked Cesar, “Are you willing to be hypnotized or polygraphed?” He replied, “Either one.”

So, I went to a federal prosecutor, a trusted friend of mine, in Los Angeles, and I said, “What do you think?”

He said, “Well if you hypnotize him, it could be viewed as tampering with a witness. So, polygraph him. See how he does.”

Cesar agreed to take the test.

I found the best polygraph operator I could find in Los Angeles. His name was Edward Gelb. He was the president of the American Polygraph Association. He told me, “If I get one of my associates to do the polygraph, it’ll cost you $400. If I do it, it’s going to cost you $4000.”

And I said, “I want you to do it. I want it to be done once, and I want it to be done right. And I want it to be done by the expert.”

Gelb was excited when he heard the details of Cesar’s story and his numerous contradictions.

Gelb recorded the entire session which took several hours.

It’s not like you sit down and get wired up and take the test. It was a raw interview process that preceded the test and served as the basis for the questions Gelb wanted to ask Cesar.

Gelb gave me the recordings, as well as the graphs of the polygraphs. I have the entire package in my possession.

Cesar passed with flying colors. Gelb concluded that, based on the test, Cesar played no role in the murder of Senator Kennedy.

The only question he had trouble with was one of the control questions that Gelb asked, “Have you ever hurt anybody?”

He was instructed to answer “no” to every question. So, when he replied “no” to that question, the needle jumped off the page.

I mean, who can answer “no” to the question—“Have you ever hurt anybody?—without the needle jumping off the page?

And so, in all fairness, when Cesar passed the polygraph test—even though I had continued lingering questions about him—I had to start treating him as an eyewitness and not as a suspected second gunman.

It was at that point that I started to turn my sites to Sirhan Sirhan.

I worked to get an interview with him, and Sirhan approved of my request. I interviewed him three times for a total of fourteen hours.

He insisted that he was drunk that night and did not know everything that had happened.

He didn’t have a specific memory of writing in his notebook that Bobby Kennedy must die. He had no memory of leaving The Ambassador Hotel and going to his car to get his gun. He had no memory of going into the crime scene, the kitchen pantry which is adjacent to the Embassy Room where Kennedy had just given his victory speech for the 1968 Democratic presidential primary in California.

Every time Sirhan had a lapse of memory—writing in the notebook, going to his car to get his gun, entering the crime scene, and firing his weapon—it went to motive, means, and opportunity.

So, I confronted him. We had a very hostile third interview.

By the end of my final exchange with Sirhan, there was just no question that he did it and that he did it alone.

I was not allowed to have a tape recorder on when I interviewed him. But, as agreed, I sent him a transcript of our conversation based on my notes.

I invited him and the one eyewitness to the exchange—his brother, Adel, who was a very fine person—to make whatever additions or corrections they felt were necessary.

Adel made only one small change. That’s what I published in my 1995 book.

Once again, you don’t have to go to an interview I did in 2014. Just go to my book that I published in 1995 and that will tell you all the specifics of why I moved from saying two guns were fired to saying Sirhan did it and he did it alone and that Cesar was an innocent man, wrongly accused.

Q – Did you ever meet Robert Kennedy?

A – No. The day Bobby Kennedy was shot was the same day as my high-school graduation from Garfield High School in Akron, Ohio.

Kennedy had been gunned down at 3:15 AM, Eastern time. We were at our commencement rehearsal. I think it was eight o’clock. Because I was senior class president, I was tasked by the principal to notify our class that Senator Kennedy had been shot.

He did not die until the following day. So, he was shot at 12:15 AM on June 5 and he died at 1:44 AM on June 6, Pacific time.

Q – What about this woman Sandra Serrano, who was sitting on the steps outside of The Ambassador Hotel and encounters a woman in a polka dot dress said, “we shot him, we shot him.” Did you ever speak with her?

A – Well, that’s irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Sirhan had no knowledge of anybody with a polka-dot dress. He told me that he saw a woman wearing a plain white dress.

There was also an anti-Kennedy presence outside The Ambassador Hotel that night. To me, it was irrelevant because it doesn’t make sense that somebody would be part of a very sophisticated conspiracy to murder a major public figure, like Bob Kennedy, and then run out of the crime scene taking credit for it. It made no sense. And once again Sirhan dismissed it himself.

Q – So, your interest in Robert Kennedy’s assassination began in high school or later?

A – I was introduced to the case by three experts in 1985. I was then living in Los Angeles at the time doing a book about the Mafia in Hollywood: Dark Victory: Ronald Regan, MCA, and the Mob, which was released in 1986.

Once again, while I was in town, I was contacted by Greg Stone, Phil Melanson, and Paul Schrade. Paul was one of the shooting victims that night. He was shot in the head but survived.

So, they contacted me and told me they were interested in somebody with investigative journalist credentials to do an investigation into the case and then publish a story with the intent of trying to convince the City of Los Angeles to release the LAPD’s secret files and to make them public.

I published my article in Regardie’s magazine in Washington, D.C., in June 1987. The story received two great reviews in the Washington Post and the LA Times, both of which advocated what I had asked in my story—that the RFK files be released by the LAPD.

And while the magazine with my article as its cover story was still on the newsstands, the City of Los Angeles ordered the release of those files that we shipped to the California State Archives in Sacramento where it took about a year for the state agency to organize and catalog these records.

When the files became available to the public, I visited the state archives. I wanted information about the police officers and other law-enforcement people who were part of the RFK crime scene investigation.

After obtaining those documents, I started interviewing them shortly thereafter—114 of them.

Q – In 2019, Robert F Kennedy Jr. went to the prison where Sirhan is in talked to him. He came away with the feeling that Sirhan did not murder his father and there was a second gunman. Did you ever talk to Robert Kennedy Jr.?

A – Yes, a couple of times. He called me in December 2017 just to say he had seen my book and that he had a feeling there was more involved.

He believed that Gene Cesar played a nefarious role at the crime scene. I advised him to be careful about this. His credibility was at risk.

He called me again in the spring of 2018 after he had met with Sirhan, and they had spent a few hours together. After that meeting, RFK Jr. said that he was convinced that Sirhan didn’t do it, that he was misunderstood, and that he was essentially innocent of being the gunman who shot Senator Kennedy.

I told him, “Bobby, this is the guy who killed your dad.”

RFK Jr. then went to the Washington Post with his story. The Post did a series of articles that were completely irresponsible, complete garbage initiated by RFK Jr. poorly sourced facts and his half-baked opinions. Consequently, a whole new crop of conspiracy nuts was spawned.

Essentially, it is a situation where you had a QAnon-like, Sirhan Sirhan cult members who are insisting that Sirhan was an innocent man wrongly accused. And nothing could be further from the truth.

I have begged the New York Times to clean up the mess that the Washington Post has created.

Q – I interviewed a gentleman by the name of Warren Cowan who wrote a book about Robert F Kennedy titled, “The Bobby Kennedy I Knew.” He traveled with Robert Kennedy in 1968 and he relayed a story to me about a threat that was made against Robert Kennedy.

A – Just to be clear Senator Kennedy was threatened all the time.

Q – Some of Robert Kennedy’s aides surrounded him while he was on stage at a campaign rally. When he got off stage he said, “What was that all about?” When they told him he said, “Don’t ever do that again. I’m not going to live my life like that.” What do you do with a guy like Robert F Kennedy? If anyone should have known the dangers of being a public figure it should have been Robert Kennedy. He saw what happened to his brother and Martin Luther King. He needed security around him!

A – Well said. Absolutely. Two athletes were there: Rafer Johnson, an Olympic decathlon gold medalist and Rosie Grier, a legendary member of the LA Rams. Those two guys were there for publicity purposes and crowd control.

Because of the Watts riots, Senator Kennedy wanted no police presence there. He wanted to keep an arm’s distance from the LAPD. And the LAPD was upset about it.

The only person there who was an official bodyguard was a former FBI agent named Bill Barry who was not armed. But there was just nothing Barry could have done. He was just on the wrong side of Kennedy at the time Sirhan opened fire.

So, you’re absolutely right. If Bobby Kennedy had more of a law-enforcement presence there, he probably would’ve stood a better chance of surviving that evening, and history would have been a lot different.

Robert Kennedy to me was the greatest crime fighter this country has ever had. When he was chief counsel of the Senate rackets committee from 1957 to 1960, he was eating Mafia guys for breakfast. And, when he became U.S. Attorney General, he started eating them for lunch and dinner, too.

Kennedy got threatened all the time. There were wiretaps of mob guys that the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations revealed during its 1978-1979 investigation. And those Mafia guys were flat-out fantasizing about killing this guy.

In fact, I was the first to say in my 1978 book on Jimmy Hoffa that the ex-president of the Teamsters Union, Carlos Marcello the Mafia boss of New Orleans, and Santo Trafficante the Mafia boss of Tampa, Florida, arranged and executed the murder of John Kennedy in 1963.

My book came out before the select committee’s hearings began in the fall of 1978. When its final report was released in July 1979, they concluded that, among others, Hoffa, Marcello, and Trafficante had the “motive, means, and opportunity” to have the President killed.

The chief counsel of the committee said unequivocally: “The mob did it. It’s a historical fact.”

I believed it then. And I believe it now.

Q – I interviewed photographer Michael Zagaris who knew Robert Kennedy. I asked Michael if Robert Kennedy believed there was a conspiracy involved in his brother’s death.

A – Bobby Kennedy believed that Jimmy Hoffa and the Mafia were involved in his brother’s murder.

Q – Michael Zagaris said Bobby Kennedy believed the CIA killed his brother. He called the CIA and said, “You killed my brother. I know it.”

A – I don’t believe that. I know that Attorney General Kennedy went to the CIA and confronted the agency’s legal counsel when he learned that the Mafia and the CIA had been plotting to kill Fidel Castro, the same Mafia guys Bobby Kennedy was trying to put in jail.

In my opinion, the CIA was corruptly working in concert with the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro without the knowledge of the Kennedy brothers.

Attorney General Kennedy learned about those plots from J. Edgar Hoover, that the Mafia in the CIA were working together. And that started before the Kennedys came to the White House. That began in 1959. The Kennedys didn’t come into the White House until January 1961.

I believe the murder of John Kennedy murder sprang out of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. I think the CIA was covering up its relationship with the Mafia. And the FBI was covering up the fact that they had denied that a national crime syndicate even existed until 1958.

Notably, Alan Dulles was on the Warren Commission. I wish that Dulles had simply said to his colleagues on the commission, “Listen, guys, I should probably tell you that when I was director of the CIA, we were working with the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro.”

That information would have created a whole new avenue of investigation for the Warren Commission and would have dampened their enthusiasm for concluding that Oswald did it and did it alone.

Regarding the Robert Kennedy murder, to me, Sirhan did it and he did it alone.

Once again, Kennedy was the only person shot and fatally wounded that night. Five other victims were shot but all survived. In the aftermath, three of the eight bullets fired were still intact and suitable for firearms identification. Preparing for trial, the criminalists matched those three bullets with Sirhan’s gun.

Then, seven years later, in 1975, Paul Schrade got together with former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and they led an effort for a court-authorized re-firing of Sirhan’s Iver-Johnson .22 caliber, eight-shot revolver, which was essentially a Saturday-night special.

So, the designated panel re-fired the gun. But, during their comparative analysis, they could not match the new slugs with the old. The immediate reaction was that Sirhan’s gun was not the gun that fired the fatal shots.

Many people concluded that there was a second gunman, and, thus, a conspiracy.

Again, I interviewed 114 of those who played some role at the crime scene, including several from the LAPD’s crime lab.

One of them, an LAPD Medal of Honor winner, told me after Sirhan was convicted in 1969 that his fellow criminalists, looking for souvenirs, took Sirhan’s gun and fired hundreds of rounds into a water tank. And everyone received sets of bullets to add to their existing collections from other crimes.

Once again, I am not a firearms identification expert, but I do know that when you fire a gun it changes the configuration of the barrel. And, if it has been fired enough times, it might be impossible to match new bullets with the bullets previously fired during an actual crime.

And so, the souvenir hunters in the SID—after Sirhan’s conviction, after his appeals—privately and repeatedly re-fired Sirhan’s gun, making it impossible to match the bullets fired from that gun in 1968 with the bullets the court-authorized firearms panel re-fired in 1975.

Q – There’s never been a guy like Bobby Kennedy, before or since.

A – I agree, 100%. One of the greatest in American history.

Q – If Robert Kennedy had someone with him that night who planned a safe way out of The Ambassador Hotel, we wouldn’t be talking today.

A – It was because of Bob Kennedy’s murder that Secret Service protection was afforded to the top presidential candidates. And so, it’s a shame he didn’t have the Secret Service that night. Once again, he didn’t want a police presence near him. He didn’t want any uniforms around at all.

Q – That’s the crazy part of all of this. If anyone knew the dangers of being a well-known public figure it was Bobby Kennedy. He saw what happened to his brother and Martin Luther King just a few months before.

A – In fact, he was personally involved and made the announcement of Martin Luther King’s murder in April 1968. He knew how vulnerable public figures were.

About the issue of supposed extra bullets at the crime scene, Greg Stone, Phil Melanson, and Paul Schrade gave me an official FBI report, prepared in the aftermath of the shooting that included several photographs with circled holes and markings inside those circles. The captions under four of the pictures identified what the FBI claimed were four bullet holes in the walls and doorframes in Sirhan’s line of fire.

From the outset, it was this FBI evidence, which had been obtained by the Stone-Melanson-Schrade effort via the Freedom of Information Act, that convinced me that this case needed to be reopened.

After I began reinvestigating the evidence in the case, I learned that this FBI report was an orientation review of the crime scene after the shooting.

I got a magnifying glass—apparently nobody had ever done this before—to look at the markings in each of the circles around those holes.

The scribbling was up-and-down, up and down. Then there was the number “723” and then “LASO.”

Greg Stone, Phil, and Paul told me that they could never figure out the origins of the markings.

I believed that LASO must mean Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

And I believed that “723” was the badge number of the guy who made the markings.

They said, what about the scribbling up-and-down? I couldn’t figure that out.

I had a source at the LASO, an administrative guy. I called him and said, “I need to know who was badge 723 on June 5, 1968.” He put me on hold and came back a few minutes later and said, “Walter Tew.”

Hearing that, the up and down scribbling was consistent with “W Tew,” a LASO sheriff’s officer, badge number 723. Unfortunately, Tew had died eighteen months earlier. But my source did give me the phone number of his widow.

I called Mrs. Tew to pay respects. I asked her, “How long had your husband been a criminalist? A firearms identification expert? A ballistics expert?”

She replied, “Oh, he wasn’t any of those things. He was just a motorcycle cop.”

I said, “He wasn’t a crime-scene expert? Or a firearms identification expert? Or a ballistics expert?”

She replied, “Well, he had a gun.”

I thought, “Okay, here’s a guy, who was untrained and unqualified to determine firearms-identification evidence and who marked what he wrongly believed was evidence at a major crime scene.” Consequently, everyone who walked by that location saw what appeared to be legitimate evidence of bullet damage.

As it turns out, because there was no police presence at the crime scene, the crime scene got really messy in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. People were going, as you can imagine, out of their minds, crying and screaming and throwing themselves on the floor.

A contingent of LASO personnel, who were guarding election-day ballots at the nearby IBM building, were summoned to The Ambassador which was nearby. When LASO people entered the crime scene, they formed a wedge in the kitchen pantry and cleared out the space of non-law-enforcement officials.

Walt Tew was among those in the LASO contingent. And it was then that Deputy Tew marked what he wrongly believed was evidence.

Because it was the FBI report that convinced me this case needed further investigation, I also went to the FBI special agent who wrote that report. His name was Alfred Greiner.

I ambushed Greiner at his home. He would not talk to me.

So, I went back up to Sacramento and started going through records, trying to figure out what or who convinced Greiner that the four holes pictured in the FBI report had actually been made by bullets.

After all, in that FBI report, he didn’t say that these were alleged bullet holes or reported bullet holes. He flat-out identified them as “bullet holes.”

Significantly, if they were, in fact, four bullet holes, then that would provide evidence of twelve bullets at the scene—four more bullets than Sirhan’s eight-shot revolver could hold. Thus, that would mean that a second gun had been present.

However, what I found at the state archives was a report that Greiner had written about his movements at the crime scene while doing work for his report.

Greiner’s own report showed that the person who had given him the tour of the crime scene was not a police officer. It wasn’t a ballistics expert or a firearms expert.

In fact, the person who gave him the tour of the crime scene was an assistant hotel clerk at The Ambassador.

Sirhan did it, and he did it alone.

Official website: www.moldea.com
© Dan Moldea 2023

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