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Copyright 1991 The Atlanta Constitution  
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

February 1, 1991


LENGTH: 501 words

HEADLINE: Prison tapes show Moody talks to imaginary person

BYLINE: By Richard Whitt Staff writer


Surreptitious recordings of accused mail-bomber Walter Leroy Moody Jr. in his prison cell reveal that he is conducting rambling conversations with himself and sometimes with an imaginary person named Jim.

Attorneys for the 48-year-old prisoner say they may use the recordings to support an insanity defense in his upcoming mail-bombing and murder trial with or without Moody's approval.

"I think talking to himself is significant, and the more significant part is him answering himself," said Edward Tolley of Athens, Moody's lead attorney.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Shapiro got a court order to monitor Moody's conversations last July in connection with the government's mail- Bomb investigation. At the time, Moody was the prime suspect in the mail bombings, but he was being held in the Atlanta federal prison on charges of obstruction of justice and witness tampering in an unrelated case.

Moody since has been charged in a 72-count indictment with mailing four nail-packed pipe bombs, two of which exploded, killing U.S. District Judge Robert Vance and Savannah lawyer Robert Robinson.

Prison officials routinely monitor telephone conversations of prisoners, but they are not allowed to bug cells without a court order. Officials operating the taping equipment were given explicit instructions not to listen in on Moody's conversations about the obstruction of justice case that was pending against him or any defense strategy.

Recordings of the prison-cell conversations, held under court seal, were turned over to Mr. Tolley late last year.

But large portions of the recordings are inaudible, according to a motion Mr. Tolley filed Thursday, and he is seeking a court order for electronically "enhanced" versions of several conversations.

Mr. Tolley said he needs the enhanced recordings to make a decision on a possible insanity defense.

Moody's attorneys laid the groundwork for an insanity defense in his obstruction of justice trial in December in Brunswick, only to have Moody withdraw it against advice of his lawyers. He was found guilty on all charges in connection with that case even though several experts testified that Moody may suffer delusions.

"If these transcripts reveal delusional behavior, then insanity may well be raised as a defense again, even if over the defendant's objections," Mr. Tolley stated in court papers filed Thursday.

Mr. Shapiro, who requested that Moody's cell be monitored, had no comment.

Meanwhile, Moody pleaded innocent Thursday to two new charges: obstruction of justice and possession of a firearm by a felon. Moody attended the brief hearing but did not speak.

Moody's attorney's filed 22 other motions Thursday seeking, among other things, suppression of evidence gained from searches and a change of venue.

Mr. Tolley wants to move the case out of Georgia, Florida or Alabama because publicity about the mail bombs in those states would prevent Moody from having a fair trial, he said.

GRAPHIC: Photo: mug of Walter Leroy Moody Jr.