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Murder Suspect Agrees to Extradition

Crime: The man charged with shooting an abortion provider has been held in France.

May 28, 2002|From Associated Press

RENNES, France — An American suspected of killing a New York doctor who performed abortions has decided to return to the United States to prove his innocence, his lawyer said Monday.

James Charles Kopp is charged with the October 1998 sniper killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home near Buffalo, N.Y. He was arrested in the western French city of Dinan in March 2001 after more than two years on the run.

Kopp, 47, has decided not to fight extradition to the U.S., saying he wants to clear his name. He formally waived his right to appeal an extradition ruling Monday.

"I am innocent," Kopp said in a statement released by his French lawyer, Herve Rouzaud-Leboeuf. "I want my innocence recognized as soon as possible."

Then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin signed an order March 22 allowing Kopp to be returned home for trial. No extradition date has been set.

Last June, a French court recommended that Kopp be extradited. The court based its recommendation on assurances that the U.S. government would not seek the death penalty.

However, Kopp still had the possibility of appealing the case to France's Council of State. The 60-day deadline for Kopp to act was extended until June 2 because of a delay in serving the order.

Kopp is being held in Rennes, about 30 miles south of where he was caught.

He has been indicted on a state murder charge and federal charges in connection with the death of Slepian, an obstetrician who provided abortions.

Kopp also is wanted by authorities in Canada for allegedly shooting and wounding three doctors there.

Investigators say Kopp hid behind Slepian's home Oct. 23, 1998, and killed the doctor with a single shot from a high-powered rifle fired through a kitchen window.

Kopp, known as "Atomic Dog" in antiabortion circles, disappeared 11 days later. U.S. investigators believe that he fled first to New York City, then New Jersey, Ireland and France.

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