Prosecutors: Georgia Courthouse Shooting Suspect Tried to Intimidate Witness, Plot Escape

A man charged with killing four people in a courthouse rampage has plotted an escape from jail and recently tried to intimidate a woman he is accused of raping, prosecutors said in papers filed Friday.

Prosecutors allege Brian Nichols had access to a cell phone from his jail cell and asked that he be barred from contact with other inmates. The emergency motion also asked for Nichols to be ordered not to intimidate witnesses.

The prosecution's filing does not elaborate on the escape plot, but a defense motion filed almost simultaneously seeks to bar a fellow inmate whose cell was next to Nichols' from testifying about it.

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Prosecutors asked a judge to order the Fulton County sheriff to explain at an emergency hearing Saturday or at the first available opportunity how Nichols' security at the jail is handled.

One of Nichols' attorneys, Gary Parker, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press he preferred not to comment until a hearing on the new motions, which he expects to be Monday. Two other Nichols attorneys did not return messages Friday.

Sgt. Nikita Hightower, a sheriff's department spokeswoman, said she could not comment.

Nichols is accused of grabbing a deputy's gun at the courthouse, where he was being tried on rape charges, and killing a judge, court reporter and a sheriff's deputy in March 2005. He is also accused of killing a federal agent he encountered at a home a few miles from the courthouse.

Police said Nichols also took a woman hostage in her suburban Atlanta apartment but surrendered the next day.

Prosecutors say that on Thursday night, Nichols called the woman he is accused of raping. She told prosecutors she hung up after hearing the call was from Nichols, the papers say.

"I felt that the phone call was inappropriate and was shocked that I received it," the woman said, according to the motion. "It made me feel uneasy."

The woman told authorities Nichols had made threats to her in the past, the document says.

"Brian Nichols indicated to me on the date he raped me ... that if I turned him in that he would haunt me and my family," the woman told authorities, according to the motion. "I felt the phone call was a continuation of this type of threatening mentality."

In the defense motion, Nichols' lawyers said prosecutors have produced letters written by inmate Steven Marshall and Nichols in which the two discuss an escape.

In October 2005, a relative of Marshall's contacted lawyers to see whether they could use information about Nichols in exchange for assistance in Marshall's pending criminal case, Nichols' lawyers said. Marshall later provided four alleged "escape plan letters" to authorities.

The prosecutors' motion says Nichols discussed plans with other inmates, but the defense motion mentions only Marshall.

In addition to correspondence about escaping, Marshall asked Nichols specific questions about the rampage, the defense says. It's curious that Marshall's cell ended up next to Nichols, the lawyers say, and they want law enforcement officials to explain.

"Marshall apparently went to work doing what he does best," the defense says in its motion.

The defense says Marshall, who has a criminal record that includes charges of armed robbery and murder, is an unreliable witness and should not be able to testify against Nichols.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the courthouse shooting case. Nichols' murder trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 11.