VanPac News History

Copyright 1991 The Atlanta Constitution  
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

June 29, 1991


LENGTH: 1056 words

HEADLINE: Moody convicted on all counts; Georgia bomber could face 7 life sentences, plus 415 years

BYLINE: By Bill Montgomery Staff writer


ST. PAUL - Walter Leroy Moody Jr. sat stoically Friday afternoon as he heard the word "guilty" pronounced on him 71 times for the December 1989 Southeastern mail bombings.

The verdict by a Minnesota federal court jury came as little surprise to the 57-year-old Georgian's attorneys or, they said, to Moody himself. "We're lawyers, not magicians," said Athens, Ga., defense attorney Edward D. Tolley.

Convicted on every count in his indictment for the pipe bombings that killed U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert S. Vance and Savannah civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, Moody could be sentenced to a maximum seven life terms, plus 415 years in prison.

Moody, who was being held at Oak Park Heights state prison, will be sentenced in St. Paul by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Devitt in August or September, Mr. Tolley said.

"This is a long time coming," said Helen Vance, who testified early in the trial of how her husband was killed instantly opening a package that exploded and hurled a volley of nails into his abdomen. The first count in the indictment, first-degree murder of a U.S. judge, "was the one that I really wanted," she said. "He was guilty for killing my husband, and the rest was gravy."

Barbara Pulliam, one of Mr. Robinson's two sisters, had attended most of the trial. "When I saw all the evidence, I was positive he would be found guilty," said Mrs. Pulliam, reached at her home in Augusta. "I don't see how it's humanly possible that a juror could see all they had and not find him guilty."

The jury sent word at 3:45 p.m. (CDT) after 13 hours of deliberation over two days they had reached a verdict. The trial was moved to St. Paul because of massive publicity in the Southeast and the fact that all federal judges in the 11th Circuit - covering Georgia, Alabama and Florida - recused themselves from the case.

The defendant, who had folded his hands under his chin as U.S. District Court clerk Deborah Siebrecht began to read the lengthy verdict, dropped them to his lap seconds after the first count of guilty and sat without expression as successive counts of guilty were pronounced for the death of Mr. Robinson, transporting explosives, threatening to kill all 17 judges in the 11th Circuit and mailing threatening letters to television stations.

Besides mailing the pipe bombs that killed Judge Vance and Mr. Robinson, Moody was also convicted of sending pipe bombs that were intercepted in December 1989 at 11th Circuit headquarters in Atlanta and the Jacksonville office of the NAACP and mailing a tear-gas cannister in August 1989 to the NAACP regional office in Atlanta that injured 15 people.

Special prosecutors Louis J. Freeh and Howard M. Shapiro, brought to the Southeast from New York City to prosecute the mail Bomb cases, refused to make any comment, referring reporters to a statement from Washington by U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

The attorney general called Moody's conviction a victory for "one of the most intensive investigations and manhunts ever carried out by the Justice Department. These bombings were horrendous crimes which not only destroyed lives but represented a grave attack on the federal court system as well."

Mr. Thornburgh praised the excellent cooperation among federal, Georgia and Alabama authorities. The FBI, he said, "performed superbly in this case, devoting over 140,000 man hours and 11 months to get their man.' "

The son of a Fort Valley garage mechanic, Moody was portrayed by scores of witnesses as a practiced con man and failed would-be lawyer. He was convicted in 1972 and served nearly four years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for possession of a package Bomb that exploded at his home in Macon, injuring his first wife.

In his closing argument, Mr. Freeh called Moody a "terrorist" who mailed bombs to lash out at the 11th Circuit and a judicial system that would not reverse his 1972 conviction. The defendant sent bombs to Mr. Robinson and two NAACP offices, as well as letters blaming the federal courts for favoritism to blacks largely as a diversion - to make authorities zero in on the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups rather than a single malcontent with a personal grievance with the federal judiciary.

Moody, a self-described literary consultant with a 130 IQ, testified for four days in his own defense against his attorneys' advice. He insisted that he was innocent and blamed the bombings on the Ku Klux Klan and a former attorney of his, Michael C. Ford of Chamblee. He gave little, if any, explanation in his testimony about why Mr. Ford would be involved in the bombings.

Moody "hurt himself tremendously by testifying," said Mr. Tolley, the defense attorney. "We fought a good fight, but, like Louis Freeh said, there was a mountain of evidence."

Moody's testimony confirmed "probably 90 percent of the government's case," Mr. Tolley added. Asked if the defendant had expressed any regret at ignoring his attorneys' entreaties not to testify, Mr. Tolley said, "The average person would probably regret not taking our advice, but then Roy is not average. He's keeping his own council."

Co-defense counsel Don Samuel of Atlanta said Moody quietly thanked his attorneys after the verdict but said nothing more. Asked if he anticipated an appeal, Mr. Tolley said he did.

Moody claimed that Mr. Ford, who once represented him in an unsuccessful appeal, told him the Ku Klux Klan committed the bombings because the 11th Circuit ruled against them in a $ 950,000 damage suit by civil rights marchers in Forsyth County four years ago. Moody said Mr. Ford admitted he was involved in the bombings.

Mr. Ford, who testified as a prosecution rebuttal witness that Moody's claims were fraudulent, issued his own statement Friday in Atlanta expressing delight with the verdict.

"He set about taking advantage of our legal efforts on his behalf while he was planning and carrying out a very sinister plot against the legal system," Mr. Ford said.

"In addition, he insulted all of Atlanta and Georgia by choosing to build a scenario of racism and alleged Ku Klux Klan connections to try to save himself. We are very pleased that the Minnesota jury showed him that the old stereotypes are dead."

GRAPHIC: The last four paragraphs did not appear in the final edition.  Color Photo: Walter Leroy Moody Jr. could still face state murder trials  in Georgia and Alabama, where he could be sentenced to death. Photo: Savannah civil rights lawyer Robert E. Robinson and federal Judge Robert Vance were killed in bombings in December 1989.

Louis Freeh