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LAWYER HINTS CITY COVERED UP RFK ASSASSINATION FILM.

Byline: Janet Gilmore Daily News Staff Writer

The lawyer for photographer Scott Enyart, who claims to have snapped pictures of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, suggested to jurors Tuesday the city of Los Angeles hid or perhaps destroyed the film in an elaborate cover-up.

``You will see that 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 of one of three political assassinations of the century,'' attorney Christine Harwell said.

But the city's attorney, Skip Miller, told the Superior Court jury in Enyart's civil lawsuit against the city that the film was mislabeled in the aftermath of the 1968 assassination, then misplaced for more than 20 years.

Miller mocked Harwell's conspiracy claim, at one point referring to the city as part of an ``Evil Empire'' involved in a 28-year plot to conceal information.

He told jurors that the case merely involved the simple mystery of what happened to Enyart's film.

The mystery was solved last fall, he said, when investigators learned that photographs held by California State Archives officials in Sacramento were indeed Enyart's, filed under someone else's name for all these years.

``A clerical error,'' Miller called it. ``It was a simple mistake. It was not intentional. . . . It wasn't even gross negligence. It was an honest mistake.''

But Enyart, who shot the roll as a 15-year-old amateur photographer for his Fairfax High School newspaper, doubts that the film found in state archives is his.

And one possible wrinkle in the city's defense is that the original negatives from that state archives' film were stolen in Los Angeles when a courier attempted to deliver them to the courthouse in January.

Enyart is seeking about $2 million in damages.

As his case moved to trial in Superior Court downtown, Harwell told jurors his client was thwarted from the beginning in his bid to have returned film seized as evidence in a police probe into the assassination of Kennedy that ultimately netted Sirhan B. Sirhan.

After Sirhan's trial, Harwell said his client was told his photographs and other evidence would be sealed for 20 years.

Twenty years later, in 1988, he was told the film was nowhere to be found - that it was perhaps among the 2,400 other photographs that LAPD destroyed over the course of the Kennedy investigation.

The following year, Enyart sued.

Harwell told jurors Enyart was the only photographer near Kennedy as the popping sound of gunfire erupted. Enyart jumped on a nearby table and snapped away, capturing images that she contends are worth ``substantial damages.''

But Miller contends Enyart was not in the pantry area where the shooting took place, that the only images he shot that night were crowd shots from inside the ballroom area and pictures of Kennedy's speech.

The photos are not rare, Miller told jurors, and are worth nothing more than perhaps sentimental value for Enyart.

Indeed, Miller contends that the only issue for jurors to decide are whether Enyart was in the pantry at the time of the shooting and whether he shot one roll of film or three.

``We are going to present irrefutable, absolutely concrete evidence that it was a roll,'' of film, he said.

Miller contends that Enyart only shot one roll, that same roll of film that city investigators found mislabeled at the state archives last fall.

By the end of the court day, Enyart began testifying about his teen-ager years of developing his photography skills at school, learning from professional photographers who worked with his father's advertising business and, finally, standing in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel, preparing to put in a fresh, second roll of film to capture Sen. Kennedy's speech.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 3, 1996
Words:621
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