After two decades on the run, convicted murderer Ira Einhorn was finally extradited from France early today and put on a plane to Pennsylvania, where he faces a new trial in the gruesome bludgeoning death of his girlfriend.
Einhorn was handed over to U.S. authorities at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport shortly before the flight took off for Philadelphia at 1:25 a.m. today (7:25 p.m. ET).
Linda Vizi, an FBI spokeswoman in Philadelphia, confirmed tonight that the plane carrying Einhorn had taken off from Paris.
"He will be turned over to the Philadelphia police and they will transport him to his new home," Vizi said. The Justice Department in Washington also confirmed the handover.
In Washington, Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney said Einhorn was in the air, accompanied by U.S. marshals. He was expected to arrive after midnight. A SWAT team was to accompany Einhorn to Graterford state prison, a maximum-security prison about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
On Thursday, French police took Einhorn from his home in the southwestern village of Champagne-Mouton and sped him away to Paris.
"He gathered together his belongings," said lawyer Dominique Delthil, standing outside Einhorn's converted-windmill home. "I think in some way he expected it. On the other hand, I think he still had hope."
Einhorn was led outside, one officer holding each arm. Seated in the back of the car, he waved to his tearful wife, Annika, who leaned on a defense lawyer for support.
It was an end to two decades of flight for the former antiwar activist and counter-culture guru, convicted in absentia for the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux, in 1977.
Einhorn's legal arsenal ran dry earlier Thursday, when the European Court of Human Rights dropped a request it made a week earlier for a delay in the extradition.
In what appeared to many as a stall tactic, Einhorn had slit his throat when he lost his last French appeal. But he was not seriously injured, and the European court said Thursday in its decision that Einhorn was fit to travel. It also said U.S. officials had provided sufficient guarantees that he would not face the death penalty.
France quickly decided to go ahead with the extradition.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement shortly before Einhorn's flight left, saying the government decided to extradite him because U.S. authorities had agreed to grant him a second trial. France does not extradite foreign nationals based on trials in absentia.
The European court in Strasbourg, in a move that confused lawyers, said it would consider Einhorn's case in September — but also said that did not affect the extradition.
Einhorn now faces a new trial at home for Maddux's murder. He adamantly denies the killing, and has maintained he was framed by the CIA.
Family Ready to Welcome Einhorn Home
Reaction from the victim's family was swift.
"When we see him in handcuffs in the custody of an American citizen, we will be really happy," said Holly Maddux's sister Meg Wakeman, a Seattle-based nurse who was in Washington, D.C., for the introduction of a proposed extradition enforcement bill.
Moments after the European court's decision, Einhorn emerged from his home. "I'm innocent," he declared. "I will be happy to go to the U.S. if the court gives me a new trial."
He contended that guarantees of a new trial from Philadelphia's district attorney were insufficient, and said he wanted a guarantee from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Einhorn fled the United States in 1981, soon before he was to stand trial for the slaying. Maddux's battered corpse was found stuffed in a trunk inside a closet of the Philadelphia apartment the couple shared.
He lived in England, Ireland and Sweden under pseudonyms before he was arrested in France in 1997.
A 1998 Pennsylvania law provided for a retrial, and U.S. officials promised that Einhorn would not be eligible for the death penalty because capital punishment was not legal in that state at the time of the crime. European Union countries generally refuse to extradite suspects who face the death penalty.