CHRISTINE HARWELL: Hello ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Trial is commencing on this case which I will tell you is a simple case about missing rare camera negatives of Jamie Scott Enyart.
BILL KLABER: It’s 1996. I’m seated in the gallery of a courtroom to witness the trial. Scott Enyart vs the city of Los Angeles.
HARWELL: Mr. Enyart will testify that in June 1968 he went to the Ambassador Hotel to take pictures of the victory speech of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles.
We will show the failure of the defendants to return Mr Enyart’s camera negatives.
BILL: Enyart is suing the city because he says the LAPD took his film the night Kennedy was murdered, and never returned his negatives.
HARWELL: We will prove that Mr. Enyart’s negat - had Mr. Enyart’s been available for use in the investigation and trial of Sirhan B. Sirhan many 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.
We will present evidence that the LAPD and officers willfully and intentionally, recklessly manipulated the evidence, including Mr. Enyart’s camera film.
You will see the secrecy and hiding at the expense of Mr. Enyart was to keep the LAPD from being embarrassed for doing a one-sided job and hiding evidence in one of the three political assassinations of the century.
SKIP MILLER: Your honor, I totally object, this is far beyond the scope of the photograph case.
JUDGE: Are you done?
MILLER: Inappropriate, this is not the RFK Sirhan -
JUDGE: Counsel, we’re not going to argue at the counsel table.
BILL: I’m Bill Klaber, and today on The RFK Tapes, the mysterious case of Scott Enyart and his missing photographs.
TED CHARACH: How long have you worked with a professional camera Scott?
ENYART: I had been using a camera for about two years prior to what happened here.
BILL: I first heard the name Scott Enyart in 1973 sitting in a movie theater watching a documentary called The Second Gun.
ENYART: And about a year after I took them, I finally got a number of prints back which I consider an incomplete set.
BILL: A young Enyart was on the screen, telling the story of his missing photographs.
ENYART: I feel there are some missing from it. I took a 36 exposure roll of film and I got 26 prints back.
BILL: The film then showed some of the photos that were returned to Enyart. Corresponding audio from the night played underneath. There were photos of Kennedy giving his speech, Kennedy leaving the stage.
Then suddenly, the screen went dark.
Except for the sound of a camera shutter and chaos. The empty frames were placeholders for Enyart’s missing photos.
It was a cinematic device, and a good one, meant to represent what is not known about the murder of Robert Kennedy.
This film introduced Scott Enyart into the Robert Kennedy assassination folklore. From that time forward, some version of Enyart’s story was featured in nearly every book and documentary on the case.
BILL: Scott, tell me what happened that night at the Ambassador Hotel.
ENYART: I was photographing Robert Kennedy’s speech, I was 5 feet from the podium...
BILL: In 1992, I interviewed Enyart for my radio documentary, the original RFK Tapes.
ENYART: As he finished his speech I followed him into the pantry area. As I got into the pantry I was about ten feet behind him, continuing to take pictures as he shook hands with people. All of a sudden I saw him drop from the frame. He fell and I continued taking pictures, I backed up and jumped up on a table, everyone in front of me had been shot and fell. I jumped up on a table to get out of the way and continued taking pictures for a while. Once I realized what had happened, particularly when Ethel Kennedy came into the room nine months pregnant, kneels down next to her husband and says, “Please leave us alone,” I couldn’t take pictures anymore.
BILL: Enyart said that soon after Kennedy was shot, officers from the LAPD took his camera.
ENYART: And they told me later on that my photographs were going to be used in the trial of Sirhan Sirhan. they gave me back photographic prints of the speech and then everything after I left the pantry but they took all the pictures that I actually took in the pantry. Those were missing.
BILL: Do you think you might have caught some of that- a man with a second gun or-
ENYART: Well you would have seen whatever took place behind Robert Kennedy.
BILL: Enyart told me that after the LAPD released their case files in 1988 he asked for the return of his film.
ENYART: I get a letter back from the California State Archives saying,
‘We can only conclude that your photographs were among the two thousand four hundred photographs destroyed by the LAPD three weeks before Sirhan’s trial in a hospital incinerator supervised by two police officers.’
BILL: And with that, Enyart sued the city of Los Angeles for two million dollars.
But just before the trial began attorneys for the city found photo negatives in the state archives that they thought were Enyart’s. Enyart was invited to check them out.
ENYART: It doesn’t have any pictures from the pantry. And I did not use Ilford film.
BILL: The negatives were shot on black and white film stock called Ilford. Ilford was sold in bulk and hand rolled before being loaded into a camera. Enyart said he didn’t use bulk-loaded film.
ENYART: Bulk loaded film has many disadvantages. As a result of friends who used it and watching their bad results, I’ve not used it, so I always used Kodak in my work.
BILL: The judge ordered that the bulk-loaded film from the state archives be brought to Los Angeles to be examined by experts.
But then as the film was being transported the courier said it was stolen.
This reinforced my feeling that something very wrong was going on here.
On the second day of trial, Enyart’s lawyers played his original LAPD interview from the night of the murder.
SGT MCGANN: I’m Sgt McGann from homicide division, Scott. You took some pictures did you.
ENYART: Ok, I was about here.
SGT MCGANN: Okay, and he left this way?
ENYART: Yes, he left this way and I left this way. I got to about here...
BILL: Enyart is showing detectives his movements the night of the shooting, using a floor plan of the Ambassador Hotel.
SGT MCGANN: This was down a hallway, more or less, you were shooting?
ENYART: No. Can please I - I’ll show you.
BILL: We can hear Enyart drawing on the floor plan.
ENYART: There was like a division here that goes out, curtain like things. And here was a bar and right about here was this table. I got up on the table and was above and I took pictures down.
SGT MCGANN: You took some pictures did you? Of the shooter, of the suspect doing the shooting?
ENYART: I’m not sure, I could only tell by the pictures.
BILL: For me, listening in the courtroom, it was difficult to tell where Enyart actually was.
But Enyart’s lawyers said Enyart climbed onto a steam table in the kitchen pantry, a perfect vantage point from which to photograph the murder scene.
HARWELL: What’s important is that when you listen to the tape and you clearly hear a young man describing being in the room while the murder took place, the room was the pantry.
BILL: And they called a witness to prove it.
CHARACH: It was mass chaos. I entered and saw Senator Kennedy on the kitchen floor.
BILL: This is Ted Charach, a journalist who made that documentary I mentioned earlier. He had also been in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel the night of Kennedy's murder.
CHARACH: And I saw a young man taking photographs.
HARWELL: Where was the young man that was taking photographs?
CHARACH: He was on a table inside the kitchen pantry. He was to my left.
HARWELL: Are you able to identify the person you saw on the table in the pantry taking pictures?
CHARACH: I most certainly am able to identify that man.
HARWELL: And who was that person?
CHARACH: Scott Enyart.
BILL: Then Scott Enyart took the stand.
BAILIFF: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole and nothing but the truth so help you god?
EYART: I do.
BILL: Enyart told the jury his story.
ENYART: I followed Kennedy directly in with his supporters and when we walked into the pantry...
BILL: That he followed Kennedy into the pantry, and then jumped up on a steam table when the shooting began.
ENYART: I didn’t use steam table at the time when I talked to police but I’ve since learned that that’s what it’s called, yes, the table in the corner that I jumped up on and that’s when I started taking pictures.
BILL: And Enyart’s lawyers were ready with more than just words.
HARWELL: Put up the blown up photograph.
BILL: They had a photograph.
ENYART: This photograph was taken by, I assume, the second photographer to enter the pantry from the other side.
BILL: His lawyers introduced a photo of the chaos in the pantry taken by another photographer. And in the background of the photo is a man standing on a steam table, slightly out of focus, holding a camera. According to Enyart, the man in the photo was him.
ENYART: I am on the table where I said I was, taking pictures, aiming down, going back and forth between the struggle for the gun and Kennedy on the floor.
HARWELL: Mr. Enyart identifies himself where he was standing at the time he was taking pictures. Mr. Enyart did not receive back his negatives or the majority of his photos. No photos were logged in the police files under his name. He is dropped from the list on the pantry witnesses. Are all of these occurrences just coincidences? I don’t think so. i think what we see here is a consistent and deliberate attempt to erase Scott Enyart and his photographs from the record of this case.
JUDGE: Mr. Miller, you may begin.
MILLER: Thank you, your honor.
BILL: Enyart’s lawyers seemed to have proof that Enyart took photos of the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
But now, it was the attorney for the city, Skip Miller's turn.
MILLER: This is an interesting case, contrary to all the discussion, it isn’t really about the assassination, it isn’t about conspiracy, it isn’t about willfulness and intentional manipulation of evidence. It’s about- it’s kind of a mystery. It reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The question is what happened to Mr Enyart’s photographs? He was at the hotel, no question about it. He did take photographs. Was Mr. Enyart in the pantry area where Senator Kennedy was shot? We intend to show that he was not in the pantry area. Don’t believe me, just listen to the witnesses.
BILL: Miller said that Enyart was lying. He said there were no photographs of the shooting in the pantry, because Enyart had not been in the pantry.
That’s after the break.
BILL: Before the break, Scott Enyart sued the City of Los Angeles over missing photographs he said he took the night Robert Kennedy was murdered. His legal team produced testimony and even a photograph supporting Enyart's claim. But then the City’s attorney, Skip Miller, called a witness.
HARRY BENSON: Harry James Benson. H-A-R-R-Y, J-A-M-E-S, B-E-N-S-O-N
MILLER: Tell us what your profession is.
BENSON: I’m a photojournalist.
MILLER: How long have you been in that line of work?
BENSON: All my life really, since I was about 16 years old.
BILL: Benson had photographed everyone from The Beatles to Muhammed Ali and he had followed Kennedy into the pantry that night.
BENSON: I saw him walking through the pantry. He was a good bit ahead of me, maybe five yards or maybe six. It was then a girl screamed. I come around and I could see Kennedy falling. It was just awful, just mayhem.
MILLER: What did you do next after the mayhem broke loose.
BENSON: Well these things go thru your mind, “This is it…This is an historical event and I’m a news photographer. This is why I’m here so I’ve got to do the dirty work.”
MILLER: Did you take pictures after the shooting?
BENSON: Yes I did.
MILLER: Did you take pictures from a particular vantage point?
BENSON: Yes, it was a place to keep plates warm and I climbed on top of it. And it was not a bad view because I could look down...
BILL: Now Miller hands Benson the photograph that Scott Enyart testified was of him on that steam table with a camera. Benson glances at it.
MILLER: Ok look at this picture, is this you?
BENSON: Oh that’s me. That’s me in the moment of crisis. No question. I mean, that’s me. And some other people have said, “There’s some guy on TV who says he’s you.” But that’s me alright. I didn’t really want to get involved but I feel I had to cause it’s the right thing to do. Some individual saying he was me which I thought was funny but It made me a bit like, “How dare he say it was me.”
BILL: The city of Los Angeles then called another witness. Someone who had been very close to Enyart.
BRENT GOLD: Well we first met when I was about eight years old so over 30 years.
MILLER: Were you good friends or just acquaintances in the neighborhood? How would you describe the relationship?
GOLD: I thought we were best of friends.
BILL: This is Brent Gold, and he was with Enyart that night in 1968. They were just fifteen years old.
MILLER: Tell us which way you went at the end of the speech.
GOLD: The entrance to the Embassy Room is probably over here somewhere, we simply - I simply walked in this direction out to the front.
MILLER: Alright tell us which way Scott Enyart went after the speech.
GOLD: We were together with each other.
MILLER: You said you made your way out into the lobby and then you heard the screams and so forth. Did you ever see Scott Enyart in the pantry area of the hotel after the shooting?
GOLD: I don’t recall seeing him there.
MILLER: Now, until this lawsuit was filed, did Mr. Enyart ever say to you, “Hey Brent, I actually got a picture of the shooting, of the actual assassination” ?
GOLD: No, he never said that.
MILLER: Did he tell you that he was a witness to history?
GOLD: No, not at all.
BILL: Twenty years later, Gold saw Enyart on television talking about the mysterious lost photos he said he had taken in the pantry.
GOLD: And I called him, I registered my concern. I said “I’m fearful that you’ll get yourself in trouble,” because I know where we were. I know we were both outside in the lobby area when Kennedy was shot. That he wasn’t in the pantry.
MILLER: And what did he say?
GOLD: He said that wasn’t his recollection of the event.
MILLER: Alright, thereafter did you have contact with Mr. Enyart?
GOLD: Later on, he invited me to the house and he wanted to talk about the pictures and the lawsuit and at one point-- it seemed that he was indicating - well, it was a quote I wrote in my notes which is, he said, “I would never ask you to lie.”
MILLER: What happened next?
GOLD: He began telling me how hard things had been with him medically and financially.
MILLER: And what did you say to him when he started telling you about how hard things had been?
GOLD: I was just listening sympathetically. I felt very badly for him. We were talking about his photographs and the lawsuit and that I would probably be contacted by the city attorneys.
MILLER: Did you say anything back to him?
GOLD: I told him I would tell the city exactly what I knew.
MILLER: Is that what you have done?
MILLER: Good morning, Mr Enyart. Would you look at exhibit...
BILL: When Miller cross-examined Scott Enyat the trial took an unexpected turn. Well, not that unexpected. This was LA after all.
MILLER: Alright I’d like to just show you some of the pages of your manuscript. By the way that was titled “Witness to History” is that correct?
ENYART: That’s correct.
MILLER: This story outline for a television movie or a theatrical movie was intended to be an autobiography of you. Correct?
ENYART: It was to be a story of a 15-year-old boy in 1968 against the background of an assassination.
BILL: Scott Enyart had written a screenplay about a 15 year old boy, set in 1968, titled Witness to History.
MILLER: Were you the model for the story? Is that a fair statement.
ENYART: Yes. That’s a fair statement.
MILLER: Was it intended to be a combination of fact and fiction?
MILLER: In other words this work for television was intended to be fact and not fiction?
ENYART: That’s what I was hoping, yes.
MILLER: Not fictional.
ENYART: That’s correct.
MILLER: Take a look at page three, it says, “working as a photographer assistant to Tom Kelly on Santa Monica Blvd, Scott would wander across the street to watch The Doors rehearse at their studio, often bumping into Jim Morrison, on his frequent trips to the liquor store.”
ENYART: That’s true.
MILLER: And Jim Morrison is the deceased singer who was with the group The Doors?
ENYART: That’s correct.
MILLER: And then the next sentence - just across La Cienega one afternoon a fire broke out at topless bar called The Phone Booth, causing a dozen naked girls to run out into the street. The Doors, used to such things, just kept rehearsing. Is that also factual?
LAWYER: Objection! It’s irrelevant. It’s entertaining but it’s irrelevant.
MILLER: I’m not gonna ask about the naked girls. Ok let's go to the next page, i have some more questions about fact and fiction.
BILL: Miller then read from the part of Enyart’s outline about the night Robert Kennedy was murdered.
MILLER: At around middle of page, there is a reference of you “chasing police as Sirhan is taken from the hotel.”
MILLER: This is all factual. Correct?
ENYART: I was following the police. I used the word chasing because they were moving as fast as they could. Because they were getting Sirhan out of the building as quickly as possible.
MILLER: “Scott then helps wounded victims as ambulances arrive.” And you were helping wounded victims?
ENYART: That’s in my nature.
MILLER: That’s in your nature, that’s good. Was that something you were doing? Cause you certainly didn’t tell us that on direct examination.
ENYART: I wasn’t asked.
MILLER: Then it goes on, “escorting Kennedy to the ambulance as the hotel erupts into chaos.” This isn’t factual. This is fiction, isn’t it? You never told us about escorting Kennedy to the ambulance when you were testifying before.
JUDGE: It’s compound.
MILLER: This was written for movies and television, correct?
ENYART: No. This was written to lay out the facts of what happened to me that evening. These are statements that are truthful.
BILL: Sitting there watching, I was squirming in my seat. Enyart seemed to have no idea of what territory to defend and what territory to surrender and he got stuck on everything in his story being absolutely factual. When, clearly, it wasn’t. It just made him look silly. And it got worse and worse.
MILLER: Alright. This is a letter dated June 8, 1991. You recognize that letter don’t you Mr. Enyart?
ENYART: Yes I do.
MILLER: This is your letter to Christine, who is an agent?
ENYART: That’s correct.
MILLER: And in fact she became your agent, correct?
ENYART: That’s correct.
MILLER: Your agent for purposes of representing you and and attempting to sell your story to movies books and television whatever. This is after the lawsuit was filed, correct?
MILLER: At the top of the second page of your letter to Christine Foster, quote “My multimillion dollar lawsuit against the LAPD, the FBI and the state of California, which already has received newspaper and television coverage, will add to public interest in the television movie.” You see that.
BILL: In the closing arguments, Enyart's attorney made a final plea to the jury.
HARWELL: I urge you to find for the plaintiff and to order the city to compensate him for the loss of use. The LAPD has put plaintiff through a degrading process and tried to make him out as a profiteer. You know this is not so. All we ask for is justice and a fair that gives the LAPD the right message: You can’t abuse and oppress the citizens and get away with without paying the consequences.
BILL: She reminded the jury that whether there was a conspiracy or not, Scott Enyart's roll of film was lost forever.
JUDGE: Ok, alright so we have the jury. I understand you have a verdict.
JUROR: We have your honor. We the jury, above entitled action, find the following special verdict on the questions submitted to us. Question one, were any of the defendant's negligent? Answer, yes.
BILL: The jury found in favor of Scott Enyart. And they placed a price on that lost film, they awarded him $450,000. But as for what I thought about Scott Enyart's story I didn't believe it. And it turned out for good reason. Months later, as I was packing up my research material on the RFK case, I came across a tape of an older interview with Enyart in which he spoke about the film he had handed over to the LAPD. Remember Enyart said that he had used Kodak, not Ilford bulk loaded film.
DAVID CROSS: And how many reels did you give them, and how many photographs would you estimate are missing?
ENYART: Well the film was hand-rolled, was bulk rolled, so there were probably about 30 shots per roll, they usually run a little short when you roll them yourself.
BILL: So there it was. Scott Enyart admitted that he used bulk loaded film in his camera... and I believe it was same bulk loaded film that the LAPD found in the state archives before his trial, film that contained no shots of the pantry.
I summed this all up in my book Shadow Play: “My best interpretation is that a young man had fallen in love with a story about himself. He married that story and repeated it so often that perhaps to this day he believes it to be true. But it would seem that it’s not. In this particular case, it would appear that it was the Los Angeles police who were telling the truth.”
And one last thing, the city of Los Angeles filed a successful motion for a new trial. Scott Enyard never received that $450,000. If he wanted it, he’d have to sue the city all over again, and he never did.
Crimetown is me, Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling.
The RFK Tapes is made in partnership with Cadence 13.
This episode was produced by Jesse Rudoy, Bill Klaber, and Ula Kulpa.
Our senior producer is Austin Mitchell.
Editing by Marc Smerling.
Production assistance by Kevin Shepherd. This episode was mixed and sound designed by Sam Bair.
Music by Kenny Kusiak. Additional music by John Kusiak.
Our title track is Maria Tambien by Khruangbin. Our credit track this week is Photograph by Elephant Stone.
Music supervision by Josh Kessler and Dylan Bostick at Heavy Duty Projects.
Archival footage courtesy of the California State Archives.
Archival research by Brennan Rees.
Our website is designed by Curt Courtenay.
Thanks to Jean Klaber, Emily Wiedemann, Greencard Pictures, Alessandro Santoro, and the team at Cadence 13.
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