Jamie Scott Enyart was born in 1953. On 6th June, 1968, Enyart, a 15 year old high school student, a high-school student, was taking photographs of Robert F. Kennedy as he was walking from the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel to the Colonial Room where the press conference was due to take place. Enyart was standing slightly behind Kennedy when the shooting began and snapped as fast as he could.
As Enyart was leaving the pantry, two LAPD officers accosted him at gunpoint and seized his three, 36-exposure rolls of film. Later, he was told by Detective Dudley Varney that the photographs were needed as evidence in the trial of Sirhan Sirhan. The photographs were not presented as evidence but the court ordered that all evidential materials had to be sealed for twenty years.
In 1988 Scott Enyart requested that his photographs should be returned. At first the State Archives claimed they could not find them and that they must have been destroyed by mistake. Enyart filed a lawsuit which finally came to trial in 1996. During the trial the Los Angeles city attorney announced that the photos had been found in its Sacramento office and would be brought to the courthouse by the courier retained by the State Archives. The following day it was announced that the courier’s briefcase, that contained the photographs, had been stolen from the car he rented at the airport. The photographs have never been recovered and the jury subsequently awarded Scott Enyart $450,000 in damages.
The only photographs snapped during the actual shooting may have been those taken by Jamie Scott Enyart, then a fifteen-year-old high school student, who was standing ten to fifteen feet behind Kennedy, holding his camera above his head and aiming it at the senator. But the young photographer has no idea what ten of his pictures had memorialized. Later that night, law enforcement officials impounded his film when the student was taken in for questioning. Two weeks later, after repeated requests, he was given some but not all of his pictures. In 1988, John Burns, the California state archivist, informed Enyart that his pictures were not in the LAPD files and might have been among 2,400 photographs that had been destroyed by the LAPD.
My name is Jamie Scott Enyart and I was present the tragic evening Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I was 15 years old and taking photographs for a school assignment when this tragedy occurred. After your men arrived I was taken as a witness to Rampart Station where I described what happened and volunteered my film for use in the investigation. Now, twenty years later, I understand the files are open and I had hoped, by writing to you, I could now have my film back.
The negatives of some photographs taken in the moments surrounding the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy are missing.
That is not a matter of debate.
But almost everything else about the pictures is.
Did they show the crucial seconds when bullets felled the presidential candidate in a pantry at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, as claimed by the photographer, Jamie Scott Enyart? Or did they show nothing of the assassination, as alleged by the city attorney's office?
Could they have been destroyed, along with other evidence, after the official assassination investigation, as suggested by Enyart? Or were they simply misplaced, only to turn up in state archives more than 25 years later, as claimed by city and state officials?
And was a manila envelope containing the recently rediscovered negatives stolen from a courier's car in Inglewood last Friday, as claimed by the courier? Even attorneys for the city, who may soon have to mount a defense in Enyart's $2-million lawsuit over the missing negatives, admit that the circumstances surrounding the alleged theft are "highly unusual."
Enyart's attorney, Alvin Greenwald, hinted darkly at a conspiracy--a suggestion, never substantiated, that has haunted every investigation of the New York senator's death.
"Somebody, for some reason, is making sure those photos do not reach public view," Greenwald said.
Louis "Skip" Miller, an attorney for the city, conceded that the incident in Inglewood was strange, but he scoffed at Greenwald's suggestion.
"What happened here is just a petty theft," Miller said. "A run of bad luck."
The Los Angeles City Council offered a $5,000 reward Wednesday for the negatives' safe return, saying they are "critical evidence" in the defense against Enyart's lawsuit.
Enyart said Wednesday that he is in "absolute shock" over the missing negatives.
"They've been playing fast and loose with the evidence since Day 1," he said, suggesting that some important material in the case had been deliberately destroyed. "All I want is my photos."
The city of Los Angeles is hoping Scott Enyart will go away. They have spent over double the amount of the award given to Mr. Enyart for the city's destruction of the pictures he took of the RFK murder. After all, it isn't their money. The city is appealing and the appeal process could take up to two years to go through. They seem determined to spend the people's money towards that goal. Interest is mounting on the award and it could get near the million dollar mark by the time the case is settled.
But is this case about money? For Scott it surely can't be. If he gets the full amount today, he will be approximately $l00,000 short. Yes, he has spent more than he will receive. True, there could be a book deal but what if the book doesn't sell? Scott Enyart, like Jefferson Smith in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, won't let authority run roughshod over him.
Is this hero worship? Maybe. It takes guts to take on the powers who continue to cover up the RFK assassination. Scott's life has been threatened, his attorney's life has been threatened, his attorney's wife received a phone threat against her husband. To go through with this does take guts.
Why don't we quickly go through the pertinent evidence? RFK was shot from the back at point blank range three times. Sirhan was in front of the senator. Someone else, most probably Eugene Thane Caesar, a security guard, was the killer. He was behind RFK and the senator fell on him. Scott and several others saw Caesar get up with his drawn gun. One of the three shots was in RFK's back. Yet, LAPD never seriously questioned Caesar, nor did they take his gun or give him a paraffin test to determine if he had fired a gun. Somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen witnesses saw a "woman in a polka dot dress" with Sirhan. One witness saw her with a man who had a gun in a newspaper. She was heard to say "We got him". LAPD contends she didn't exist. A sergeant Rodriguez handled the "polka dot business." One of the things he told witnesses, according to Professor Philip Melanson, was that each of them was the only one who saw that woman!
Scott Enyart, to the satisfaction of the jury, was in the pantry taking pictures of the murder. Since Robert Kennedy was shot point blank in the back, Mr. Enyart's photos would most likely have shown the killer. Those photos were taken and never returned to Scott Enyart.
Does any of this sound like a cover-up? Commissioner (Emily) Elias wouldn't allow Mr. Enyart's lawyers to present evidence of a police cover-up! That goes to motive for why his pictures are missing! Amazing...
With the case back on the calendar, the city began to organize its resources for the fight against Scott Enyart. Although his office had 358 attorneys on staff, City Attorney James Hahn retained . Louis "Skip" Miller of the law firm Christensen, White, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser & Shapiro to handle the Enyart case.
Christensen, White had been one of the law firms hired by Los Angeles the previous year to defend councilman Nate Holden against charges of sexual harassment. The firm received a reported $800,000 for its successful defense, and the money spent on Holden's defense became a page-one story in the Los Angeles Times, . According to the Times, the contract for Christensen, White allowed the city to be billed $250 an hour for a partner, $175 an hour for an associate attorney, and $70 an hour for a paralegal.
The Christensen, White partner who had defended the Holden lawsuit was Skip Miller. His assumption of the Enyart case stimulated another protest in the Los Angeles Times. "Why," asked columnist Bill Boyarsky, "is Los Angeles paying $225 an hour to Miller, a Century City courtroom star, instead of letting a deputy city attorney do the job for about a quarter of the cost? Is it because the city is trying to cover up failures in the Kennedy investigation, as Enyart charges?"'
City Attorney Hahn answered that Miller was brought into the case to combat any latent perception that there was "a giant conspiracy" responsible for the murder of Robert Kennedy. "It is important to emphasize," said Hahn, "the credibility of the Los Angeles Police Department."' Boyarsky then concluded that Miller was hired because the case was "too big for the city and the LAPD to lose."
With the outside law firm in place, trial preparations moved forward. Motions for discovery were filed, depositions taken, and a new search for Scott Enyart's missing photographs begun. Then, an unexpected discovery. In August 1995, attorneys for the city found photos and negatives in the state archives that seemed to match those that Scott Enyart had received back from the police in 1968. The pictures had been booked and filed under the name of George Ross Clayton, and there was only one set of negatives with 30 images. Clayton could not be located, but from what could be deduced from the original 1968 police reports, there appeared to be a legitimate question as to whether Clayton had been the source of the film.
Scott Enyart and his attorney Christine Harwell traveled to Sacramento to inspect the new discovery. Although the images there appeared to match most of the photographs he had received back from the police, Enyart claimed that there was some mistake. The film found at the archives was Ilford brand, 125 ASA, while Enyart claimed that the night of the California primary he had been using Kodak, Tri-X, 400 ASA.
Enyart suggested that if the images were indeed his, then some sort of forgery must have taken place. He would testify at his trial that he noticed enhanced contrast in the images, which suggested to him a generational copying from the original negatives. He also noted that the single roll of film in the archives appeared to include images from all three of the rolls he said he had shot. He said that some of the photographs appeared to be out of sequence. And there were no photographs at all from inside the pantry.
With the authenticity of the discovered film now challenged, superior court judge Emilie Elias* ordered the negatives delivered from Sacramento to the court in Los Angeles where they could be used as evidence in the trial and be examined by photographic experts for both the plaintiff and the defense. On January 12, 1996, just a month before the scheduled start of the trial, courier George Philip Gebhardt flew from Sacramento to Los Angeles. In his locked briefcase was a folder containing the negatives.
When he arrived in Los Angeles Gebhardt went to the Midway Rent-A-Car agency where he picked up a white Mazda sedan, which he had reserved. On Century Boulevard just outside the airport, the courier stopped for a red light. According to his videotaped testimony in court (Gebhardt had suffered a heart attack shortly after this incident and testified from his hospital bed), a red car pulled up next to him and a Hispanic man got out and began to bang on his own car for no apparent reason. A block later the white Mazda was making a dull thumping noise. Gebhardt pulled over, got out to inspect and found that his right rear tire was slashed. When he got back into his car, the briefcase with the negatives was gone.
With the most important piece of evidence now stolen, the trial was postponed. The rising intrigue, however, found a forum in the media. In a story printed in the Los Angeles Times, Enyart's attorney Alvin Greenwald hinted at conspiracy. "Somebody, for some reason," he said, "is making sure those photos do not reach public view."
"What happened here," responded attorney Skip Miller in the I same story, "is just a petty theft. A run of bad luck."
The television show Unsolved Mysteries was quick to broadcast a story on the Enyart case. During that program a photograph was displayed, which was said to be new evidence. It was from The Last Campaign, a book by Bill Eppridge and Hays Gorey, documenting Robert Kennedy's 1968 quest for the presidential nomination. The book included ten photographs Eppridge had shot in the chaotic hotel pantry after the attack upon Robert Kennedy. In the selected print, a young man with a camera could be seen in the background, standing on a table, taking photographs. The young man was said to be Scott Enyart.
Court TV, which was hoping to televise the upcoming trial, then ran a story of its own. In the nationally televised segment, Assistant City Attorney Edmund Fimbres commented on Enyart's claim that he took important photographs of Kennedy being shot. "It's just a fish story," he said with disdain. "Over the years the fish has gotten bigger."
Opening arguments began precisely at 10:00 AM on Tuesday July 2, 1996. Enyart attorney Christine Harwell explained to the jury some of the elements of the plaintiff’s case. One of these was the improper seizure of Scott Enyart’s camera and film in the early morning hours of June 5th, 1968. Somewhere along the way however, that changed, because during the jury instructions given on August 6th, 1996, the judge informed the jury they must consider that the LAPD officers who detained 15 year-old Scott Enyart had probable cause to do so and that it was not an unlawful detention. This fact made the confiscation of his camera and film proper in the eyes of the law. The defense won this argument, but it was a dubious ruling at best, because the specific probable cause was never offered or explained.
Other elements stressed by Harwell included the improper handling of Enyart’s property; failure of the LAPD to properly perform a thorough investigation; deliberate misuse of his film; willful and deliberate misidentification and mislabeling of his property; willful and deliberate failure to provide Enyart with a receipt for his property, even when one was requested; failure to properly and safely preserve evidence (Enyart’s film); the transfer of title to his property without Enyart’s express permission or authority and without even his knowledge; a false assertion by the City of Los Angeles that Enyart’s property, in its entirety, has been returned to him. Ms. Harwell emphasized that the LAPD’s own documents relating to this matter would prove the plaintiff’s case.
Harwell’s opening statement was interrupted numerous times by defense attorney Skip Miller. His objections mostly relied on the plea that Harwell’s assertions of willful, deliberate and even malicious disregard of this important evidence, were “beyond the scope” of the lawsuit. He literally sprang out of his chair when Harwell suggested that pictures developed from Enyart’s missing film probably showed someone other than Sirhan firing a gun in the kitchen pantry. The judge, Commissioner Elias, sustained the objection. Miller objected again to Harwell’s assertion that many eyewitnesses to the shooting were not even questioned by LAPD and that there was evidence to indicate eyewitness testimony had been altered. Again, the objection was sustained. Miller wanted to keep the focus of the case as narrow as possible. There would be no discussion of a conspiracy in the RFK murder here. That would make for a clear motive for the “mishandling” of Enyart’s film, which might have been the Zapruder film of the RFK case. The judge gave Miller a clear victory by agreeing with him on this narrow grounding of the case.
By 11:30 AM, Miller had already demonstrated most of the courtroom tactics he would employ during the plaintiff’s portion of the trial, which included frequent objections, apparently meant in part to break up the opposing attorneys’ rhythm and the continuity of their presentation. In his opening argument however, he laid out what would be the brunt of his defense against the charges pending. He told the jury that the defense would prove Scott Enyart to be a liar regarding all the allegations specified in his lawsuit, including the key issues of whether or not Enyart was in the pantry at the time of the shooting; whether he shot three rolls of film or just one; whether LAPD officers who confiscated his camera and film at gunpoint had probable cause and, whether the mishandling of Scott’s film evidence was knowing and willful, or just simple clerical errors.
I recently talked with a man whose camera contained, in his words, "the only photographs of record of the assassination." At the time, Scott Enyart was a high school RFK enthusiast who was trailing along after his hero, snapping picture after picture. In the pantry, lie Nvas slightly behind the senator to his left, and when the shooting began, he snapped as fast as he could. As lie left the pantry, two I,APD officers accosted him at gunpoint and seized his film. Later, he was told by Detective Dudley Varney of the SUS that his film would be developed and was needed as evidence in the Sirhan trial. The photos were not used at the trial, but Varney informed Enyart that the court had ordered all evidential materials sealed for twenty years. After the twenty years, Enyart formally requested that his photos be returned. First lie was told that the State Archives couldn't find them, then that they had been burned. So Enyart filed a lawsuit, which finally came to trial in 1996; a jury awarded him $450,000. Curiously, during the trial the Los Angeles city attorney defending the suit announced that the photos had been found, misfiled, in Sacramento. But the courier retained by the State Archives to bring them to the Los Angeles courthouse claimed his briefcase containing the photos was stolen from the car he rented at the airport. Thus vanished the RFK version of the Zapruder film, which might have shown who shot him from behind.
Then on eve of trial, the photos somehow were recovered. This after Enyart was told that they were destroyed by burning. Enyart said the supposed print collection was incomplete-there were none from inside the pantry, he did not recognize some of them, and the actual film stock was different. He concluded that an elaborate forgery might have taken place. Now these rejuvenated photos were sent to Los Angeles by courier. But, amazingly, they were stolen out of the back seat of a courier's car, right before they were to be delivered to the court to be used as evidence at the upcoming trial (Ibid. p. 305). Enyart's attorney said, "Somebody, for some reason, is making sure those photos do not reach public view." (Los Angeles Times, 1/18/96) In 1996, Scott's lawsuit finally went to trial. Had LAPD destroyed these important photos? As Enyart's attorney, Christine Harwell, said in her opening statement, "We will prove that had Mr. Enyart's negatives been available for use in the investigation and trial of Sirhan B. Sirhan... many questions that plague us today would have been answered about whether or not someone else may have shot off guns at the same time." She later said her client's pictures were lost or "destroyed to hide what they showed ... to keep the LAPD from being embarrassed for doing a one-sided job and hiding evidence in one of the three major political assassinations of the century." (Klaber and Melanson pp. 301-302) If they upheld the official story, why were they not used at trial? Why were they not returned to Scott? The jury held with the plaintiff. Granted, the book was published the year before the trial, but still Moldea could have included more than a paragraph about Enyart (p. 91). Is this just another example of an error of omission by the LAPD? They forgot to look at those photos before they were burned?