Extradition OKd in Fatal Mail Bombing


Israel on Tuesday ordered the extradition of a woman suspected in the 1980 letter bomb killing of a secretary at a Manhattan Beach computer company. Israeli officials acted after receiving U.S. assurances that the woman will not be executed if she is convicted.

Justice Minister David Libai signed an order to send Rochelle Ida Manning, 53, to California for trial in the death of Patricia Wilkerson, a ministry spokeswoman said, but a date for her extradition was not set immediately.

Manning's husband Robert, 41, who was extradited in July after a two-year fight to remain in Israel, was convicted last month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. He faces a maximum term of life imprisonment when he is sentenced Jan. 3.

Rochelle Manning faces the same charges as her husband: mailing a booby-trapped electrical appliance to the Prowest Computer Corp. during a business dispute. The device exploded when Wilkerson plugged it into an electrical outlet.

Arrested during a 1988 visit to the United States, Rochelle Manning was tried on the charges in 1989 in Los Angeles, but the jury deadlocked on whether she was guilty.

An Israeli court ordered the Mannings detained in March, 1991, seven months after the United States asked that they be extradited to California. Rochelle Manning has been in Israeli prisons since, seeing her two daughters, 19 and 7, about twice a week.

Libai said he had reviewed an appeal by Rochelle Manning against her extradition on the grounds that she had already been tried once on the charges, that the evidence then had been insufficient to persuade a jury, and that a further trial was not justified by new evidence and would impose unreasonable suffering on her family.

But Israel was bound by terms of its extradition agreement with the United States, officials said, and Rochelle Manning's arguments had been heard fully by the Israeli Supreme Court, where a five-judge panel ruled unanimously in August that she be returned to Los Angeles.

The Mannings' case has been a cause among right-wing groups here, especially the ultra-Zionist settlers movement on the West Bank, where they had lived for a decade after taking Israeli citizenship. For them, the extradition order runs directly counter to the main thrust of Israeli nationalism--the defense of Jews from foreign threats.

Robert Manning was a longtime activist of the militant Jewish Defense League, founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, in the United States and of Kach, its offshoot here. He met his wife while participating in the Jewish Defense League activities in California. He is also a suspect in the 1985 bombing death of Alex M. Odeh, a top official of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in Southern California. But under the terms of his extradition from Israel he cannot be tried on those charges.

Last month, a federal jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Robert Manning guilty of mailing the explosive device that killed Wilkerson.

Investigators in Los Angeles County said the bomb that killed Wilkerson the womanwas mailed to her boss, Brenda Crouthamel Adams, in reprisal for a business deal that went awry.

Another defendant in the case, West Los Angeles real estate broker William Ross, 57, allegedly was embroiled in a business dispute with Adams over her negotiations to buy his house. Prosecutors said Ross hired the Mannings, old associates from the Jewish Defense League, to mail the bomb to Adams.

Ross, who is a fugitive, still faces charges in connection with Wilkerson's death.

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