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Philadelphia Press Conference on Ira Einhorn Case

Aired July 20, 2001 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: After 20 years on the run, Ira Einhorn has landed center stage in an international drama. Just hours after a European high court refused to shield the convicted murderer from U.S. authorities, Einhorn flew home to Philadelphia this morning. A news conference is expected at any moment.

CNN's Jason Carroll is standing by, in Philadelphia -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, we are standing by, waiting for that news conference to begin. It should begin at just about any minute. We are told that Lynne Abraham, the district attorney, will be speaking, as well as John Timoney, the police commissioner of the city of Philadelphia, as well as representatives of the FBI. Included in that will be one of the detectives who was actually on that flight with Einhorn, that flight from Paris to Philadelphia.

Now U.S. Marshals called that flight somewhat uneventful. We are told that it landed at about 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

Right now, that press conference is just about to begin, so we're going to push it into that and let you listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LYNNE ABRAHAM, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm joined here this morning by various agencies that helped us come to this day. Joining me this morning is Bob Conforti, the special agent in charge of the FBI; Mike Carbonel (ph), the special agent who was head of the fugitive task force when Mr. Einhorn was found in France; Rosanne Russo, the FBI assistant special agent in charge; Bob Writer (ph) cannot be here this morning, but he's the former FBI agent, during the investigation; Police Commissioner John Timoney; Captain Thomas Lipo of the homicide division of the Police Department; Detective Tom Baker (ph) of the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide/Fugitive Squad; State Representative Dennis O'Brien, who helped shepherd the piece of legislation, which I'll be talking about in a moment, through the House.

Special additional thanks to Marshal Al Lewis of the U.S. Marshal Service for their very able and capable handling of the extradition process, of bringing Einhorn back to Philadelphia. And additional special thanks to Steve McNet (ph), counsel to the Senate for the efforts to expedite the piece of legislation through the Pennsylvania Senate; State Senator Stewart Greenleaf, who sponsored the legislation; and, of course, Dennis O'Brien, who really put a yeoman's effort into this.

When Ira Einhorn stepped onto the tarmac in Philadelphia, as I watched it on television, this morning, my thought was one small step for justice, one giant leap for law enforcement and the rule of law. This has been a long, difficult, arduous journey that has taken us from 1977 until this moment, to bring Ira Einhorn to Philadelphia, to face justice.

We could not have done this alone, and this underscores, and should, for all times, put to rest the idea, that any single law enforcement agency can carry off everything that needs to be done by itself. We need and want the operations of every department working together to accomplish this worthy goal of bringing people to justice in an appropriate fashion. I couldn't say enough of a thanks to all those federal and local agencies who joined with us in partnership over this long and tortuous odyssey. I am especially grateful to all of the men and women in this office, who have worked so hard over the 20 years, including -- could somebody turn off that beeper, please?

Who have worked so hard over the past 20 years to make sure that this case was in an appropriate posture so that we could do what was necessary to bring Ira Einhorn back. I must say that until he was put in handcuffs and in the safe hands of the Marshal Service, I wasn't completely convinced that he was actually coming. And I also wasn't convinced, until the plane touched down, at International Airport, that he would ever get here.

And I think that it is a true testament to the great works of law enforcement everywhere he was brought back to Philadelphia to face justice.

I'm going to ask any of the counterparts here to step forward, make any remarks they care to, and then we will take some questions -- commissioner.

JOHN TIMONEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: On behalf of the department, going back well over 20 years ago, from Detective Mike Chitwood up to Tom Baker (ph) today, it's been an effort that our along with our colleagues and federal enforcement -- bringing this kind of justice. So it's just a good day because nobody should ever get away with a crime that heinous that you just flee the scene, flee the jurisdiction.

Some of you might know Mike Chitwood, the former detective that made the arrest, is now the chief of police in Portland, Maine. I talk to him all the time, and I guess he will be coming down for the D.A. when the trial starts.

On behalf of the department, we are thrilled that this was carried out successfully and, really, what Lynne Abraham did, her tenaciousness -- and you all know her as being very tenacious -- she's really largely responsible for the whole thing.

So Lynne, congratulations.

ABRAHAM: Thank you, John. My pleasure -- Bob.

ROBERT CONFORTI, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Agents, detectives, and prosecutors have given new meeting to the word tenacity. Countless leads, volumes of interviews, investigation, and pure dedication have brought us to this moment today.

Einhorn's return to the United States is not necessarily a law enforcement victory. It's more importantly a mission of justice. It's the culmination of years of commitment. The FBI worked hand in hand with law enforcement agencies in Philadelphia and throughout the world. We shared the ups, we shared the downs. We never lost focus, and we never stopped remembering Holly Maddux and her devoted family.

This is not the final chapter, but a fine start to the road ahead.

ABRAHAM: Also joining me here this morning is Joel Rosen, who is the assistant district attorney who tried Einhorn in absentia previously. He and others of this office, along with other men and women, will be assisting in the other legal proceedings that will follow today.

Anybody like to make a statement? Denny O'Brien? How about Dennis O'Brien, on behalf of our fine general assembly and our governor.

Thank you, Lynne.

Never one has ever atoned for the death of Holly Maddux. That begins today, thanks to the tenacity of Lynne Abraham. Everyone knows that she signed the initial warrant that led to Mike Chitwood discovering Holly Maddux in the trunk in Ira Einhorn's apartment. She's literally followed this case from the bench through the district attorney's office, and I don't know anybody that is more respected in the legislature and in the law enforcement community, for that tenacity. It's not only in this case, but I think it's across the board, and she deserves a lot of credit.

I started in the legislature in 1977, so I can look back at my career and just think of a perspective on how long this case has been with us, and it's time that the Holly Maddux family can finally look to some closure in this sad and tragic event in their lives.

Thank you.

ABRAHAM: Anybody else care to make any statement?

OK, we'll take some questions.

Wait, wait, wait -- wait, wait, one at a time. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Two questions. Your thoughts when you finally saw him arrive -- really -- as someone who has made... ABRAHAM: It was a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Many people flee the United States to attempt to escape justice. And prosecutors all over the country look for these people, and sometimes they find them, and sometimes they don't. This was extremely gratifying, that all of the efforts we have expended, over so many years, finally bore fruit, and that's what made me extremely satisfied.

There's nothing to be happy about. There's nothing happy in this story. But it's a measure of satisfaction, that hard work has paid off.

QUESTION: You have a case that's 25 years old.

ABRAHAM: Yes.

QUESTION: Is it difficult, or do you think any obstacles you see, and challenges, in trying this case (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ABRAHAM: I don't want to anticipate what's going to happen at trial, because we don't know. We don't know yet what lies ahead.

I will say that, obviously, it's difficult enough to get a case to trial of recent vintage, because there are all kinds of issues and problems in trying cases. Obviously, while it's easier to try a fresh case, it is more challenging to try an older case.

However, I will give you an example. The bombing of the church in Birmingham, Alabama, was 33 years in the trying, and men were brought to justice for the murders of those children in the church. If we can try a case in this country that's 30 or 35 years ago, we can certainly try a case that's 24 years old. And we will be doing that. And we believe that we will be in very good shape to try this case again.

QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien, as you know, part of the linchpin opinion for Mr. Einhorn fighting extradition, and even under question now, is the constitutionality of your legislation setting up this retrial. Are you convinced it's legal? People like Jim Fitzpatrick, the former D.A. of Philadelphia, say they don't believe it is.

O'BRIEN: Possession is nine-tenths of the law, Vernon (ph). I'm happy that he's back here. The issue of constitutionality, the way the legislation is written, his immediate conviction stands until he requests a new trial. So I believe it is constitutional.

QUESTION: Can you just tell us a little bit more about what took so long? Why did it take so long to get this man back here in the city of Philadelphia?

O'BRIEN: Well, I think Lynne can speak to that, but I think very simply there was the issue of the death penalty, which, again, was a fictitious issue. The death penalty wasn't in existence when Ira Einhorn was charged with the death of Holly Maddux, so that was off the table. Trials in absentia are the law of the land here is Pennsylvania and in other states, so that, again, meets the constitutional test.

I think if you know anything about Ira Einhorn and his history of manipulation, that is what this is all about. The people in France were, unfortunately, victimized by that, but the end result is what we hear today, and justice is being served.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAHAM: I don't think he should answer that, Vernon. Don't be asking that kind of question.

QUESTION: Can you describe to us procedurally what's going to happen if and when Ira Einhorn asks for a new trial?

ABRAHAM: I don't know yet. The reason I don't know yet what's going to happen procedurally is we don't know yet who his legal team is. We don't know what they will be discussing with him and what they will bring to us. So I can't tell you procedurally.

QUESTION: Does he have to ask for bail?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAHAM: Let's not get to bail. We're not getting -- let's just say, for right now, bail seems to be off the table. If you think I'm going to spend another 20 years trying to find him. I'll be in a wheelchair, but I will still be looking. I will still be looking.

I think we have to wait and see, and I think this is statement for everybody. Since we don't know what his legal team is going to be presenting to us -- this is just the beginning step, this is not the end of anything -- I don't know what the process is going to be, because the ball is in his legal team's court. We will have to see that mature as it goes along.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anyone who accompanied Mr. Einhorn has been able to give us some sense of what it was like on the plane -- what his mood was, demeanor, anything he might have said?

ABRAHAM: Not really. Not really.

QUESTION: When will he be arraigned on murder charges?

ABRAHAM: Right now, the posture of his case is he's convicted and sentenced for first-degree murder. He is presently serving a life imprisonment sentence. So the answer is it's not going to happen at this juncture. We have to wait and see what his lawyers are going to do.

QUESTION: Lynne, if he does ask for a new trial, what, then, would happen next?

ABRAHAM: I don't know that yet, because, again, the lawyers who will represent him are going to bring legal issues to the court, and I don't know what those issues are going to be right now. So everybody's going to have to wait. I'm not going to anticipate will his lawyers are going to say. I don't even know who his lawyers are. I know who his lawyers have been in the past. I know they have spoken out here quite frequently, but I don't know if that's going to be his present trial team. We're just going to have to wait and see.

QUESTION: Madame district attorney, not to put too fine a point on it, but the question was very simple: What is he asks for a new trial? Will he receive a new trial?

ABRAHAM: As we told you before, and we've told the French government, his return here was conditioned on our ability to say that, under the statute that has been passed and signed into law by Governor Ridge, we will give him a new trial. That's what we're obligated to do under the statute. What happens after that, I don't know.

QUESTION: But he has to ask for new trial?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAHAM: Yes, he does under the -- under the statute, before we can do anything, the first thing is getting a legal team, and then we will see what they ask for and what they say to us. I think that's down the pike a little bit. This is not going to happen tomorrow or next week.

QUESTION: Lynne, why do you think this story has gotten the type of attention that we are seeing here?

ABRAHAM: It's difficult to say. I listened to -- hey, Vern! Yo, Vern. Come on, give everybody a break here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ABRAHAM: I was watching television in the past couple of weeks and thinking about all the thousands of women who go missing in this country, and they don't get so much as a mention in the press. Sometimes it has to do with who they associate with. Sometimes it has to do with all the facts of the case that capture the imagination of either the news media and/or the country. This has all the elements of a thriller. It has sex and love and money and murder and international chases and false identities and false leads and a long history, and it engenders a tremendous amount of interest.

It also bespeaks the extreme devotion of siblings and the mother and father of Holly Maddux not to let this one go unspoken for. In other words, they were so absolutely certain and dedicated to the idea.

KAGAN: We have been listening to prosecutors and other officials from Pennsylvania basically celebrating the return of fugitive Ira Einhorn. He is now, technically, serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of Holly Maddux, which took place 24 years ago. For the last 20 or so years, Einhorn has been on the run in France. Through a series of legal maneuvers, he has now returned to the United States. He does have the right to ask for a new trial, but as you heard Lynne Abraham point out, that might be some amount of time before that does take place.

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