'Could You Believe That Dumb Story?'

The 'Report on Accuracy and The Associated Press' contained this July 26, 1979, story in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner:

Sirhan Sirhan: Could you believe that dumb story?

"SOLEDAD (AP) -- Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was granted a four-month reduction on his prison sentence yesterday after the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy told a parole board he has been offered asylum in Libya."

Times used to be that a news story gave you the facts clearly, concisely and objectively. You could take a news story on its face value. These days, though, we're afraid that the old-time reporting may have suffered in competition with flashier, snappier "reportage." Fact is, folks, we goofed.

Yesterday we ran an almost incomprehensible Associated Press wire service story on the sentence reduction for Sirhan Sirhan. The lead, reprinted above, would have suggested to a sensible reader that (1) the California parole system is inordinately impressed by Libyan government support for convicted assassins incarcerated in California prisons or (2) you can walk out of a murder rap if a foreign country offers you asylum.

After talking with the parole board in Sacramento, we know neither point is true. Seems the AP reporter at Sirhan's hearing played the whole Libyan thing out of proportion, and we let it slip by.

However, and we have this straight from the Community Release Board, it is true that Sirhan Sirhan has been offered political asylum in Libya. Moreover, he has standing offers of employment from the Arab companies based abroad and in New York City.

Every convicted assassin should have it so good.

The parole board granted Sirhan Sirhan a four-month "good time" sentence reduction. Now he's eligible for parole in November 1984. "Good time" is what you get when you've been a model prisoner, demonstrated self-education and improvement, and have a file full of good officer reports. Incredibly, Sirhan has been getting rave reviews at Soledad prison lately, so he received the maximum amount of good time possible -- four months.

When Sirhan Sirhan comes up again next year for his Community Release Board interview, he'll probably get another four-month reduction if he keeps up his Arabic studies and other projects. He could get four months off again the year after that, and so on.

So we figure that if Sirhan continues the good work and gets the maximum off his sentence each year, he could be out of Soledad by summertime 1983. Perhaps he'll go to Libya then, or maybe take up one of those job offers in New York. In California, though, Sirhan Sirhan belongs in one place: Soledad. Forever.