Prosecutors say reputed Klansman is flight risk

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

JACKSON (AP)— A reputed Ku Klux Klansman recently acquitted in the abductions of two black teenagers slain in 1964 is a flight risk and should remain in prison while the government considers appealing the ruling, federal prosecutors argued Tuesday.

James Ford Seale, 73, was convicted in June 2007 and sentenced to three life terms on federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges in the abductions of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. He had spent just over a year in a federal prison in Indiana when, on Sept. 9, his conviction was tossed out by a panel of 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges.

Moore and Dee, both 19, were hitchhiking in Franklin County when they were abducted, beaten, weighted down and thrown into a Mississippi River backwater.

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In overturning the conviction, the three-judge panel said the statute of limitations had elapsed in the 43 years between the crime and Seale’s arrest. Seale’s attorneys quickly asked for his immediate release.

Prosecutors argued Tuesday in court papers that Seale should remain behind bars while the government reviews the decision and possibly appeals. The government lawyers said Seale’s trial judge correctly observed that he has few ties to the community, lives in a recreational vehicle and knows how to fly an airplane.

“The defendant has produced no new evidence showing that he is not likely to flee before the appeal is finalized,” prosecutors wrote in the 15-page motion.

One of Seale’s attorneys, federal public defender Kathy Nester, said Tuesday her client has no reason to run.

“We submit that the fact that we now have an opinion saying he was unlawfully prosecuted to begin with weighs heavily in favor of his immediate release,” Nester said. “It also reduces the concern that he’s a flight risk in light of the fact that at this point that he’s won his case.”

Still, federal prosecutors pointed out that Seale has contacts in other states and was even thought to be dead for years. He was indicted in 2007 after Moore’s brother and a documentary filmmaker, who were working on a film about the killings, found him in south Mississippi in 2005.

Seale and fellow reputed Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards faced state murder charges in the case in 1964, but federal prosecutors said they were quickly thrown out because local law enforcement officers were in collusion with the Klan.