A reclusive Georgia businessman with a criminal record was charged Wednesday with mailing package bombs that killed a federal judge and a civil rights lawyer.
Walter L. Moody Jr., 56, long the prime suspect in the case, was accused of mailing bombs last December that exploded when they were opened by their recipients, Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance and Robert E. Robinson, a Savannah alderman and civil rights lawyer.The bombs bore marked similarities to one that Moody was convicted of possessing in 1972, according to federal authorities.
The indictment, announced in Washington by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and FBI Director William Sessions, also accused Moody of mailing similar bombs to the Atlanta court where Vance sat and the Jacksonville, Fla., office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Those bombs were defused without causing any injuries.
The 70-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Atlanta also accused Moody of sending assassination threats to Vance and his colleagues on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and mailing a tear-gas bomb to the NAACP regional office in Atlanta.
Six of the charges, including murder of a federal judge, carry sentences of up to life imprisonment. He also was accused of transporting explosive material with the intent to kill and mailing the bombs with the intention to kill.
Thornburgh called the bombings acts that ``strike at the heart of our American concept of the rule of law.'
The indictment capped a massive investigation conducted by the FBI, postal inspectors and other federal law enforcement agencies that involved a meticulous examination of millions of court documents, bomb fragments and other physical evidence.
Moody has been known to be a prime suspect in the case since February when FBI agents searched his home in Rex, Ga.
The FBI also searched the home and business of Robert Wayne O'Ferrell, an Enterprise, Ala., junk dealer who had written numerous letters to the 11th Circuit.
Thornburgh refused to comment when asked if the indictment meant that O'Ferrell had been cleared as a suspect. But the attorney general noted that the indictment charges that Moody acted alone.
Asked if he expected any more charges, Thornburgh said: ``Not soon.'
Defense attorney Bruce Harvey said he planned for Moody to plead innocent to the charges, ``There's absolutely no question about that.'
O'Ferrell's attorney, Paul Harden of Evergreen, Ala., said FBI and Justice Department authorities told them officially Wednesday that O'Ferrell was ``no longer a suspect and that he is out of the case.'
Vance died Dec. 16, 1989 after opening the parcel at his home in Mountainbrook, Ala. Two days later Robinson, an NAACP leader, was mortally wounded when he opened a package that had been sent to his law offices, the same day a bomb was found at the 11th Circuit courthouse in Atlanta.
Neither Thornburgh nor Sessions would say whether the killings were racially motivated.