LOS ANGELES (Dec. 21)
A jury was selected Tuesday in the trial of an American-Israeli couple and a wealthy Los Angeles real estate broker, who stand accused of mailing a disguised bomb device to a local computer firm eight years ago that killed a secretary at the firm.
The three defendants, all former members of the Jewish Defense League, are:
Robert Manning, 36, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, who is still in Israel.
According to U.S. government sources, Manning is closely linked to Rabbi Meir Kahane and his anti-Arab Kach party.
He is a prime suspect in the 1985 bomb slayings of Alex Odeh, an Arab-American activist, in Santa Ana, Calif., and Tscherim Soobzokov, an alleged Nazi war criminal, in Patterson, N.J.
Efforts by the U.S. Justice Department to have Israel extradite Manning have so far been unsuccessful.
Rochelle Manning, 48, Robert Manning’s wife. She was arrested in June at the Los Angeles international airport as she and her two children arrived by plane from Tel Aviv. Both Mannings hold dual American-Israeli citizenship.
William Ross, a 51-year-old real estate broker, who allegedly was engaged in a bitter real estate dispute in 1980 with the owner of the computer firm to whom the mail bomb was addressed.
On arrival, the package was opened by secretary Patricia Wilkerson, a 35-year-old mother of two, who was killed instantly.
The prosecution charges that Ross had hired the Mannings, both fellow JDL members, to prepare and send the explosive device.
In a pre-trial hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian ruled that the defendants’ JDL membership could not be introduced in the trial.
Despite strong objections from the U.S. attorney, Tevrizian determined that no political motive had been shown in the present case and that mention of the JDL would be “highly prejudicial.”
For the same reason, the judge decided that an alleged statement by Ross, describing the intended target of the mail bomb as a “Nazi,” could not be admitted.
Tevrizian also barred any mention of Robert Manning’s prior criminal conviction for placing an incendiary device at the Los Angeles home of two Arabs in 1972.
The trial is expected to last for about three weeks.