When extraditing a suspect in a quadruple-homicide that’s captivated the nation, law enforcement officials don’t simply book a commercial airline ticket.
Sharing his lifelong experience about how to safely transport accused killers in high-profile cases, a man who formerly led investigations for the U.S. Marshals told Law&Crime how he would ensure that accused murderer Bryan Kohberger’s trip from Pennsylvania back to Idaho was a flawless one.
Art Roderick, the former assistant director of investigations for the U.S. Marshals Service, spent a quarter of a century with the agency that tracks down fugitives. He spent part of that time as the agency’s chief of investigations and has worked storied investigations, including the escape from Alcatraz, Ruby Ridge, and the D.C. Sniper.
In an extended interview with Law&Crime’s Sidebar podcast, Roderick explained that officials do not plan a criminal defendant’s movements carelessly.
“I can’t imagine they would fly this particular individual commercially, both because of the security issue from the public, but also, he’s such a high profile individual,” Roderick said. “We would put him on a small aircraft by himself with three or four marshals or law enforcement and go ahead and move him across the country just like that.”
Kohberger is facing four counts of murder for the Nov. 13 stabbing deaths of University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20.
A request “might” have been made to the Marshals Service in advance of his extradition hearing, which was due Tuesday, Roderick explained. But last week, Kohberger waived his extradition hearing to arrive sooner in Idaho.
“Mr. Kohberger intends to waive his extradition hearing to expedite his transport to Idaho,” Jason Allen LaBar, the Chief Public Defender for Monroe County who was appointed to represent Kohberger in Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Mr. Kohberger has been accused of very serious crimes, but the American justice system cloaks him in a veil of innocence. He should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise — not tried in the court of public opinion. One should not pass judgment about the facts of the case unless and until a fair trial in court at which time all sides may be heard and inferences challenged.”
The U.S. Marshals Service helms the transportation of prisoners within the United States, handling “about 260,000 by aircraft,” Roderick explained. “We have our own airlines, this prisoner alien transportation system, or as people like to call it, con air,” Roderick continued.
The larger state and local law enforcement agencies usually have extradition units of their own, and they either drive prisoners from one spot to another or fly them commercially. However, the marshals, who do this for the federal court system, are also able to assist in moves across the country.
“And they do this every single day, and they’re very good at it,” Roderick said. “That’s the only government-run airline in the country. And amazingly, even though it’s government run, it works very, very well.”
This cross-country transportation of prisoners must be done “very quietly, secretively,” Roderick said.
“Marshals Service or any other entity does not talk about transportation issues or security issues or when an individual’s being moved,” Roderick explained. “So it could happen very quickly or they might take some time or wait a little while. … But that’s something that’s kept very close to the chest. … And I can tell you in the past, from the Marshals Service perspective, sometimes we send decoy convoys around so that we can ensure the security and safety of a particular individual being moved.”
Sgt. Christopher Paris of the Pennsylvania State Police said in Tuesday’s press conference that Kohberger is being held in the Monroe County jail until he’s extradited. It’s not confirmed if the marshals will be transporting him. “Those arrangements are being discussed right now, as well as the logistics the court order says,” Paris explained. “Those of you who heard it today, it’s within the next 10 days, so we’re currently working on that.”
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