Robert Manning Sentenced to Life in Prison for 1980 Mail Bomb Killing

Robert Manning, the California-born Israeli found guilty of complicity in the 1980 mail bomb death of a Los Angeles secretary, has been sentenced to life imprisonment, without possibility of parole for 30 years.

U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian rejected the request by Manning’s lawyer for parole eligibility in 10 years, citing the “callous” and “hideous” nature of Manning’s crime.

Before his sentencing in federal court, Manning denied involvement in what he called “this horrible crime,” and asked the judge to recommend that he be allowed to serve his sentence in an Israeli prison.

“This whole thing is sickening to me,” said Manning, who never took the stand. “I wouldn’t have anything to do with this sort of thing.”

An early Los Angeles member of the Jewish Defense League and a resident of Kiryat Arba since his emigration to Israel 10 years ago, Manning fought and lost a two-year battle in Israel to prevent his extradition to the United States.

Authorities here have cited Manning as a suspect in a number of attacks against Arab-Americans and neo-Nazis here, some of these acts allegedly linked to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

But the charges on which he was convicted had no ideological implications.

According to testimony given at his trial, Manning, 42, and his wife Rochelle, 53, were hired by a fellow JDL member, William Ross, 57, to construct and mail a booby-trapped device to the owner of a local computer firm, with whom Ross had a drawn-out business dispute.

The package was opened by the firm’s secretary, Patricia Wilkerson, who was killed instantly when she followed enclosed instructions to plug the device into an electrical outlet.

Both Rochelle Manning and Ross stood trial on the same charge five years ago but were freed when the jury could not reach a verdict.

CLAIM PRISON DIDN’T HONOR KOSHER ORDER

Rochelle Manning returned to Israel but has been re-indicted, and her extradition to the United States has been ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court and signed by Justice Minister David Libai. She is appealing the order on the grounds that her religious, eating and dress requirements as an Orthodox woman would not be met in an American prison. Both Mananings hold dual American and Israeli citizenship.

In her appeals petition, Rochelle Manning cited an affidavit by Rabbi Zvi Block, Robert Manning’s spiritual adviser here, stating that despite a court order, her husband has not been given kosher food or allowed to wear tefillin in prison when he says his morning prayers.

Ross fled the United States in August after his re-indictment but recently surrendered to Canadian authorities and is back in Los Angeles.

It is expected that he and Rochelle Manning will stand trial together in July, if she is extradited from Israel.

The case has aroused strong emotions in Israel among Orthodox and nationalist groups. Robert Manning’s supporters in Israel and here claim that the real reason American authorities kept after him was to link him to a 1985 bombing that killed Southern California Arab-American activist Alex Odeh.

But according to the U.S.-Israel extradition treaty, he cannot be additionally prosecuted.

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