Although Sirhan pled guilty at his original trial in 1969, Pepper contends that Sirhan was betrayed by a lead member of his original legal team, Grant Cooper, who Pepper notes was himself under federal indictment at the time for illegally possessing grand jury proceedings in another famous case, involving card cheating at the Beverly Hills Friar’s Club. Cooper, who faced possible jail time for that, ended up being let off with a $1000 fine. Intriguingly, his client in the Friar’s affair, John Roselli, was an organized crime figure with CIA ties often named as a possible conspirator in the death of President John F. Kennedy.
The defense had Sirhan admit guilt and sought to portray him as both mentally deficient and acting on impulse. Pepper notes that the attorney’s personal vulnerability was known to the judge and prosecution, and that they nevertheless said nothing while Sirhan’s real interests were not represented, and exculpatory evidence was suppressed. Although Sirhan confessed to shooting at Robert Kennedy, he later said that he could remember nothing at all of that tragic day.