Woman Testifies Mail-Bomb Suspect Carefully Plotted Deception
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A man on trial in the mail-bomb deaths of a federal judge and civil rights leader paid a woman to lie on the witness stand in his appeal of an earlier pipe-bomb conviction, the woman testified Wednesday.
Julie Linn West, a 34-year-old paraplegic, said Walter Leroy Moody Jr. terrified her with a letter that said her mother could be killed by the Mafia. She wept at the mail-bomb trial as the prosecutor re-enacted the scene in which she received the written threat.
″The word ‘murder’ was underlined,″ West said.
The Des Moines, Iowa, native said Moody hired her and her mother to lie for him in his attempt to overturn a 1972 conviction for possessing a pipe bomb.
She said Moody, 57, of Rex, Ga., issued the threat against her mother in March 1990, shortly before a grand jury was called to investigate the December 1989 mail-bomb deaths of 11th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals Judge Robert S. Vance in Mountain Brook, Ala., and Robert E. Robinson, a Savannah, Ga., alderman and civil rights lawyer.
Moody feared that investigators and prosecutors would persuade West’s mother to destroy the facade he erected for his defense against the 1972 conviction, according to testimony.
He was indicted Nov. 7 after similarities between that case and the bombs used in the 1989 attacks alerted investigators in the later cases.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Freeh has said Moody blamed the court system for ruining his life with the 1972 conviction - which stood despite his appeals - and that he wrought revenge by bombing Vance and Robinson.
West had already agreed to cooperate with federal investigators by the time Moody delivered the threatening letter. She was wearing a hidden microphone when the letter was given to her in a parking lot near her apartment in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna by Susan McBride Moody, his then-wife.
On the tape, which Freeh played for the jury, West was weeping. She wept again Wednesday as she listened to it.
West said in court that the letter made a reference to the Mafia and that her mother would be murdered if she talked to investigators.
Under cross-examination she said she realizes the Mafia allusion was a ″fantasy.″ She said Moody had told her the Mafia would also kill him if her mother, Joanne Ekstrom, failed to uphold a part she was playing in the ruse. West, who is living at an undisclosed residence, also said Moody never hit her or threatened her.
Freeh showed jurors a videotape of a meeting between Moody and West at her apartment on March 27, 1990. West permitted investigators to secretly film the meeting, at which Moody urged West to plead the Fifth Amendment and not answer questions if she were to be called by the grand jury.
″Be careful,″ Moody told West at the meeting. ″They’ll pat you on the back right before they shoot you.″
West, paralyzed in a 1974 auto accident, said she was introduced to Moody by a friend in 1986. She was poor and she was told Moody had a job for her.
″He would pay me to lie for him in court,″ West said.
She accepted $2,000 for the assignment and memorized her version of a script given to her by Moody. She did so well on the witness stand at Moody’s first appeal that he gave her a $500 bonus, she said.
Her mother posed as a private investigator for Moody to get information from a law enforcement official, West said. Her mother has not been charged.
West said she was an attractive witness to Moody because of her handicap.
″He thought it would make a difference as far as them (the jury) having sympathy for me because I was in a wheelchair,″ she said.