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KOPP EXTRADITION THIS YEAR IS UNLIKELY

It appears highly unlikely that James C. Kopp will be extradited to Buffalo before the end of this year, the region's chief federal prosecutor predicted Thursday.

"We're still waiting for a court decision in France, and it sounds like it will be at least a couple of months," said acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter. "We have no extradition date at this time."

Kopp, 46, is accused of the October 1998 sniper murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, an Amherst physician who performed abortions. After a worldwide manhunt coordinated by Buffalo FBI agents, Kopp was captured in March by police in France. He is being held in a French jail.

Mehltretter said she received an update on Kopp's status Thursday from the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs, which maintains a liaison with the French government. A French court recommended in June that Kopp be extradited to the United States, but Kopp has appealed that ruling to France's highest court.

"From what the Office of International Affairs tells me, unless he waives extradition, it looks unlikely that we will see him back in the U.S. before the end of this calendar year," Mehltretter said.

Described by police as an anti-abortion zealot who was known by the nickname "Atomic Dog," Kopp is alleged to have used a Russian-made rifle to shoot Slepian through a rear window of the physician's home on Oct. 23, 1998. Kopp denies the allegations.

Paul J. Cambria, a Buffalo attorney known nationally for his criminal defense work, will represent Kopp. Mehltretter and court officials said Thursday that it has still not been decided whether Kopp will face trial in the state or federal courts in Buffalo.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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