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Manning Convicted in L.a., Could Face Life in Prison

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Robert Manning, an American-born immigrant to Israel who was extradited here after extensive legal proceedings, has been convicted in a mail bomb killing dating back to 1980.

A federal jury rendered the guilty verdict on Oct. 14, after less than three hours of deliberation and exactly one month after the trial opened.

The 41-year old Manning, who showed no emotion as the verdict was read, could face a maximum term of life in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian on Jan. 3.

Richard Sherman, Manning’s attorney, vowed to appeal the sentence to a higher court "within seconds after it is pronounced."

Manning was an early member of the Jewish Defense League in Los Angeles and was a resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba following his immigration to Israel in 1973.

Manning fought and lost a protracted two-year legal battle in Israel to prevent his extradition to the United States.

U.S. Attorney Terree Bowers alluded to the extradition after the verdict, observing that a decision by Israeli courts to extradite is "very rare."

Although authorities here have linked Manning to a number of attacks against Arabs and former Nazis in the United States, the charges on which he was convicted had no ideological implications.

LINK TO ATTACK AGAINST ARAB

According to testimony at the trial, Manning and his wife, Rochelle, were hired by a fellow JDL member, William Ross, to mail a boobytrapped device to the owner of a local computer firm with whom Ross had had a drawn-out business dispute.

The package was opened by the firm’s secretary, Patricia Wilkerson, who was killed when the device exploded.

Manning did not take the stand during the trial.

Defense attorney Sherman expressed great disappointment at the verdict, which he claimed was based on circumstantial evidence.

Sherman said he particularly objected to the admission of evidence regarding an earlier misdemeanor conviction of Manning in the 1972 bombing of an Arab activist’s home in Hollywood.

Rochelle Manning, 53, has already been indicted in the 1980 bombing death and remains in Kiryat Arba while appealing an Israeli Supreme Court order for her extradition.

She was tried in the same case in Los Angeles four years ago, but was released after the jury became deadlocked.

Following their immigration to Israel, the Mannings returned frequently to the United States. They hold dual American and Israeli citizenship and are the parents of two daughters.

Supporters of Robert Manning, particularly among Orthodox and nationalist groups, claim that the real reason U.S. authorities kept after him was to link Manning to a 1985 bombing that killed Arab American activist Alex Odeh.

But under the terms of Manning’s extradition, he cannot be put on trial in the Odeh case.

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