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Profile: Lori Fortier
Lori Fortier was a participant or observer in the following events:
Television news footage of the Branch Davidian conflagration of April 19, 1993. [Source: Anu News (.com)]Many white separatists and right-wing militia members are aghast, appalled, and infuriated by the violent end to the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). Two of those are future Oklahoma City bombers Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); when McVeigh watches the flames devour the Davidian compound, he stands in Nichols’s living room and weeps. McVeigh has already visited the compound during the siege (see March 1993); in the following weeks, he revisits the scene, collecting pamphlets from the Davidians, taking photographs, and even taking samples of the charred wood left behind. McVeigh begins wearing, and selling at gun shows, caps that depict the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) logo with bullet holes in them (see August 26 - September 15, 1994). He sells flares that can be used as missiles. Moreover, he and Nichols soon begin practicing with explosives and agitating for violent assaults on government officials with local militia members (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). McVeigh later tells interviewers: “I didn’t define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and children were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992). You put back in [the government’s] faces exactly what they’re giving out.” McVeigh’s favorite magazine, Soldier of Fortune, later publishes articles calling the FBI and BATF “the Gestapo” and accusing the government of funneling illegal drugs into the country through the auspices of the DEA; McVeigh will read these articles, and other more overt anti-government publications that directly accuse the government of plotting to enact “new Wacos” throughout the country, with a new fervor. Another favorite is a videotape, “Waco: The Big Lie,” promoted by militia leader Linda Thompson (see April 3, 1993 and September 19, 1994), who accuses the government of deliberately plotting the deaths of everyone inside the Davidian compound and setting the compound afire by shooting flames at the building through a tank. McVeigh will later claim to have learned the “real truth” about the siege after meeting a former Davidian, Paul Fatta, on the gun show circuit (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994). Nichols’s neighbor Phil Morawski will later recall of McVeigh: “He said he witnessed part of the siege at Waco and was very upset about it; the government overstepped its bounds. Waco is kind of like the battle cry for Tim and many others.” McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) will later recall discussing the Davidian debacle with McVeigh, saying, “We both concluded that the federal government had intentionally attacked those people and may not have intentionally started the fire, but they were certainly the cause of the fire and potentially murdered those people in Waco.” Fortier’s wife Lori will recall McVeigh’s position differently: according to her recollection, McVeigh believes that “the government murdered those people.” After the bombing, Dennis Mahon, the head of the Oklahoma cell of the White Aryan Resistance, will tell federal officials about McVeigh, whom he claims to have known under an alias: “I met Tim Tuttle, but I didn’t know he was alias Tim McVeigh. I met him at gun shows (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994). He sold military stuff, knives, gun parts, camouflage uniforms.… And we talked about Waco. And I said: ‘What comes around goes around. If they keep doing this terrorism on our people, terrorism’s going to happen to them…’ He said: ‘Probably. Probably so.‘… Timothy McVeigh is my hero. Wish we had a thousand more like him. He took action.” Mahon will later be identified by one witness as the person driving the Ryder truck for McVeigh on the day of the Oklahoma City bombing (see April 15, 1995), though the identification is in doubt, and Mahon will not be charged for playing a part in the bombing. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 155, 159; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 76-78; Nicole Nichols, 2003; CNN, 12/17/2007] McVeigh will send videotapes about the Davidian tragedy, such as “Waco: The Big Lie,” to his friends, including his former coworker Carl Lebron (see November 1991 - Summer 1992), his former Army comrade Albert Warnement (see January - March 1991 and After), and his neighbors Richard and Lynn Drzyzga (see October 1990). Lebron considers the videotapes “nonsense,” and the Drzyzgas become concerned that McVeigh may actually believe the “nutty” “paranoia” of the information in them. McVeigh will also write a letter to his childhood friend Steve Hodge, breaking off their friendship because Hodge is not sufficiently enraged by the Davidian tragedy (see July 14, 1994). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 78] McVeigh is not the only one preaching active retribution for Waco. James Nichols, Terry’s older brother (see December 22 or 23, 1988), says they are planning to kill law enforcement officials. Paul Izydorek, a family friend, will later tell a CNN reporter: “Evidently, James had told [Izydorek’s son] one or two times about how they were going to kill cops and judges and, you know, really clean house on all the local government. I didn’t take it serious but I guess maybe that’s what the heck they was really talking about, maybe they was a lot more serious, you know, than I realized.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 156]
Entity Tags: Philip Morawski, Richard Drzyzga, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Timothy James McVeigh, Paul Gordon Fatta, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Steve Hodge, Lori Fortier, Branch Davidians, Lynn Drzyzga, Albert Warnement, Carl Edward Lebron Jr, Paul Izydorek, Dennis Mahon, James Nichols, Linda Thompson, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism, 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) gives a demonstration of how he would set off a fertilizer bomb to destroy a building to his friend Lori Fortier, while he is staying with Lori and her husband Michael (see February - July 1994). His demonstration shows how he would arrange barrels containing an explosive mixture of fertilizer and fuel oil in a truck to create a powerful, targeted explosion. On the Fortier’s kitchen floor, he arranges a number of soup cans in a triangle that would, McVeigh says, direct the force of an explosion at a desired target, with two of the three points of the triangle flush against the side of the truck to maximize the damage. [New York Times, 9/4/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 164; Serrano, 1998, pp. 91]
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) returns to Kingman, Arizona, where he moves in again with his Army friend Michael Fortier (see May-September 1993). During this time, McVeigh takes, and loses, a number of jobs, including a security guard position and as a clerk at a Tru-Value hardware store (see February - July 1994). (A chronology of McVeigh’s actions completed by his lawyers will say that shortly after arriving, he leaves Fortier’s home and moves into a house in Golden Valley, Arizona, about 20 miles outside of Kingman, where he lives for six months—see Early 2005. Other evidence disputes this claim.) He turns the house into a bunker, and begins experimenting with bombs and explosives. He renounces his US citizenship on March 16, begins openly speaking of his apocalyptic world views, and continues taking methamphetamines and smoking marijuana (see May-September 1993). In July, McVeigh and Fortier steal items from a National Guard armory. [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] In April, McVeigh spends a brief period of time at the home of Roger Moore, a gun dealer in Arkansas (see March 1993). In June, he goes to upstate New York to visit his ailing grandfather. McVeigh serves as best man in the Fortiers’ July wedding. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Conflicting Stories of Problems at Residence - For a time, McVeigh lives in a Kingman, Arizona, trailer park (see May-September 1993). Residents will later tell some reporters that he was arrogant and standoffish, and full of anger against the US government. “He drank a lot of beer and threw out the cans, and I always had to pick them up,” Bob Ragin, owner of the park, will be quoted as saying. Ragin will remember having frequent quarrels with McVeigh, whom Ragin says played loud music and kept a dog in violation of his lease. “Basically he just had a poor attitude, a chip on the shoulder kind of thing,” Ragin will recall. “He was very cocky. He looked like he was ready to get in a fight pretty easy. I’ll tell you, I was a little afraid of him and I’m not afraid of too many people.… You’d tell him there were beer cans all over the yard and he’d just mumble. When I went to talk to him, I’d tell somebody, ‘If you hear fighting or windows breaking, call the police.‘… [H]e piled up so many violations, I asked him to leave. When he did, the trailer was a disaster. It was trashed.” A neighbor, Danny Bundy, later recalls, “Him and his girlfriend drove like maniacs through here.” Some reports will say McVeigh’s alleged girlfriend was pregnant. Bundy will also recall McVeigh standing at the edge of the trailer park and firing rounds from a semiautomatic weapon into the desert. In 1996, author Brandon M. Stickney will write that the characterizations of McVeigh’s troublesome behavior at the mobile home park are largely wrong. He will quote Ragin as calling McVeigh “the perfect tenant,” and will write: “These stories, published by many top news agencies like the Associated Press and the New York Times, were completely wrong. One of the sources quoted even recanted his statements. Timothy McVeigh may have been unstable, but he was never the type to drink a lot of beer, play loud music (he is known for using headphones unless he was in his car), or have a girlfriend, much less a pregnant one.” Stickney will write that McVeigh spent much of this period, not living in a rented trailer, but with the Fortiers, and later in a small rental house in Golden Valley, a claim that tallies with the chronology later created by McVeigh’s lawyers. The FBI will learn that McVeigh owned a Tec-9 semiautomatic assault weapon, which is illegal to own (see September 13, 1994) but was legal when McVeigh bought it in early 1993. Another Kingman resident, Jeff Arrowood, will recall seeing McVeigh frequent a local shooting range. Arrowood will say that McVeigh fires hundreds of rounds at random targets. “Quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me,” he will say. “He pretty much went crazy, emptying on anything—trees, rocks, anything there. He just went ballistic.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 152, 163-165]
Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist engaged in plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drives to the Murrah Federal Building with his friend, bookkeeper and part-time gun dealer Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994 and October 21 or 22, 1994); McVeigh tells Fortier that he intends to bomb the building (see September 13, 1994). [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano, 1998, pp. 82-83; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Concealing Blasting Caps, Going to Pick Up Stolen Weapons - McVeigh comes to Fortier’s Kingman, Arizona, home from New Mexico, and meets the Fortiers at the local Mohave Inn. Lori Fortier wraps two boxes of blasting caps stolen by McVeigh (see October 4 - Late October, 1994) in Christmas wrapping paper. The plan is for McVeigh and Michael Fortier to drive to Oklahoma City in McVeigh’s car to scout the Murrah location, then drive to Council Grove, Kansas, to pick up weapons McVeigh says his friend and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols stole to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994)—adding that he wishes Nichols had killed the victim of the robbery, Roger Moore, when he stole the weapons. In Council Grove, they will rent a car. Fortier will take the weapons back to Arizona in the rental and sell them. McVeigh will drive north with the blasting caps. Fortier will later say he is more interested in the weapons than he is in any bombing plot, as McVeigh says he can have half of the profits from their sale. Both Fortier and his wife later say that Fortier has no intentions of joining McVeigh in carrying out any violence.
Discussions of Bombing Plans - During the drive to Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier pass a large Ryder storage truck, and McVeigh tells Fortier he wants to use a truck similar to that for the bombing, but a size larger. Nichols has already decided against targeting a federal building in Kansas, and McVeigh and Nichols have determined that no federal building in Dallas would serve as a good target, so the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is the best choice, McVeigh says, in part because he believes (erroneously) that the building “was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). He also confides in Fortier that he believes his attack will mark the first shot in a general anti-government, white supremacist uprising similar to that depicted in his favorite novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978). When they arrive at the Murrah Building, they drive around the building twice. Fortier observes that the elevator shaft in the building might stop it from collapsing entirely. They stop in the parking lot and look at the building from several angles; after about 20 minutes, a nervous Fortier tells McVeigh, “Let’s leave.” McVeigh says that he is considering remaining inside the truck after parking it outside the Murrah Building and setting the fuse. A shaken Fortier says that would amount to “suicide,” but McVeigh, Fortier recalls, replies that he may decide to “stay inside and shoot anyone who tried to stop him.” McVeigh shows Fortier an alley behind the YMCA building across the street in which he can hide a getaway car. He is also mulling over having their mutual friend Terry Nichols “follow and wait” for him, presumably to help him escape the scene of the blast. McVeigh shows Fortier the loading zone for the Murrah Building, a good place, he says, to park the bomb-laden truck. According to Fortier, McVeigh is also considering driving “the truck down the stairs and crash[ing] it through the front doors.” McVeigh complains about Nichols, whom he calls “the old man,” apparently showing signs of backing out of the plot. Nichols’s waffling is part of the reason McVeigh is interested in soliciting Fortier’s involvement.
Viewing the 'Stash' - After leaving Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier drive to the storage shed in Council Grove, Kansas (McVeigh using back roads to avoid the major highways where, he says, the government has set up spy cameras, and staying overnight at a Junction City, Kansas, motel), where McVeigh and Nichols are storing explosive materials for the bomb (see November 7, 1994). McVeigh shows Fortier the “stash,” as Fortier will later call it. They drive to Manhattan, Kansas, where McVeigh rents a gray Chevrolet Caprice; they drive back to Council Grove, eat at a Pizza Hut, and load the Caprice with about 30 guns, also being stored at the shed. Fortier then drives back to Kingman in the Caprice; McVeigh drives back to Michigan in his 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum Turbo, where he is staying with a friend (see December 18, 1994), taking three of the stolen guns, some stolen ammunition, and the Christmas-wrapped blasting caps with him. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 5/13/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 83-85, 90-91, 97, 106] In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will write that Fortier drove back to Kingman in a Ford Crown Victoria, not a Caprice, and that the two chose the Ford because of its generous trunk space, necessary for storing the guns. Serrano will write that Fortier rented the Crown Victoria at a Hertz rental firm in Manhattan. According to Serrano, Fortier drives west towards Kingman, not stopping for sleep until he pulls over at a rest stop on the Arizona-New Mexico border, while McVeigh drives his Chevrolet to Michigan. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 106-107]
Kevin Nicholas, a farmhand in Vassar, Michigan, receives a phone call from his friend Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh is en route to Nicholas’s home to stay with him. From a truck stop in Saginaw, Michigan, McVeigh calls Nicholas and asks him to drive out to a Speedway service station near I-75. He needs a ride to Nicholas’s house because he has had an accident with his car; on his way back from Kansas (see December 16, 1994 and After), he was rear-ended, and just managed to get his damaged car to the truck stop. When Nicholas arrives, he helps McVeigh load belongings into his car, including two Christmas packages. McVeigh tells Nicholas to leave the packages alone. According to later statements by Nicholas: “I was just grabbing stuff, and just throwing it in the back of my truck, and Tim said: ‘Don’t handle them. I’ll take care of them two Christmas-wrapped packages there,’ because I was just tossing his other stuff in, you know, was in a hurry, wanted to get home.” Nicholas asks McVeigh what is in the packages and, according to Nicholas, McVeigh replies, “I’ll tell you later.” The two manage to pry the bumper of McVeigh’s car far enough to allow McVeigh to follow Nicholas to his home. McVeigh stores the packages in a shed near Nicholas’s house, and later takes them to Chicago, on a trip to visit David Paulsen, a gun and military surplus dealer. After the Chicago trip, according to Nicholas, McVeigh will tell him that the packages contained blasting caps that he had gotten “dirt cheap” (see October 3, 1994), though author Richard A. Serrano will later write that McVeigh told Nicholas about the “caps” later that same evening. Multiple sources agree that McVeigh never tells Nicholas that he is planning on using the caps to detonate a bomb in Oklahoma City. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 5/9/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109] The blasting caps in the packages were wrapped by McVeigh’s friend Lori Fortier (see December 16, 1994 and After). McVeigh is thankful that the blasting caps did not explode when his car was hit. He later buys an old blue Pontiac station wagon from James Nichols, the brother of his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and January 1 - January 8, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109]
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) rents a room at the Belle Art Motel in Kingman, Arizona, for two weeks. He registers under his own name, and the car he lists is registered under his name. During this time, McVeigh moves the explosive materials stored in Kingman (see October 4 - Late October, 1994 and December 16, 1994 and After) to the storage shed in Council Grove, Kansas, and later to another storage facility in Herington, Kansas (see September 22, 1994), where fellow conspirator Terry Nichols is buying a house (see (February 20, 1995)). After leaving the motel, McVeigh stays in the desert for approximately a week, living in his station wagon. On February 9, Nichols pays for another three month’s worth of storage at the Council Grove facility, using the alias “Joe Kyle” (see November 7, 1994). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] During his time at the Belle Art, McVeigh invites his friends Michael and Lori Fortier to come over, and pressures Michael Fortier to sell the stolen guns he has given him (see December 16, 1994 and After). The Fortiers will leave after 20 minutes or so, worried that their friend is extremely agitated and almost impossible to talk to. Later, McVeigh and Fortier attend some gun shows and sell some weapons; McVeigh tells Fortier that his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see January 28-29, 1995) needs $2,000 of the gun sale proceeds, so Fortier gives McVeigh that money to send to Nichols (see February 17, 1995 and After). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 118, 122]
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) makes a fake driver’s license using forms his friend Michael Fortier (see February 17, 1995 and After) ordered from an advertisement in Soldier of Fortune magazine. He uses a typewriter belonging to the Fortiers. McVeigh chooses the name “Robert Kling,” picking the last name in honor of the alien race of Klingons in Star Trek. He selects April 19, 1972 as his fake birthday, and lists as his birthplace Redfield, South Dakota. When he asks Lori Fortier if he can use her iron to laminate the fake license, she tells him she will do it herself so as to avoid the possibility of his ruining her iron. She will later recall: “It was white. It had a blue strip across the top, and Tim had put his picture on there. And it was the false name of Robert Kling.” The federal indictment against McVeigh will incorrectly state that McVeigh “obtained” the ID instead of making it for himself. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 122, 133] The issue date of the Kling license is false—April 19, 1993, the date of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). [New York Times, 6/3/1997] The New York Times will later point out that McVeigh may have also chosen the last name of “Kling” because he served with Kerry Kling during his stint in the Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). [New York Times, 4/23/1995]
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) writes a letter to his sister Jennifer in Pendleton, New York, instructing her not to try to contact him after April 1, 1995. He sends her a box of memorabilia, including his high school yearbook and his military records, telling her, “They’re yours now.” He tells her that “something big is going to happen in the month of the bull,” referring to the astrological sign Taurus, which begins on April 20 (see Mid-December 1994). He tells her to burn the letter, which she does. He has sent her letters before, some written in code, and has advised her that if she wants to write him, she should disguise her penmanship so the authorities cannot identify her as their author. He tells her that she can trust his friends Michael and Lori Fortier (see February 17, 1995 and After), and says that sometime soon he may have to go underground and disappear. “In case of ‘alert,’ contact Mike Fortier,” he writes. “Let him know who you are and why you called.… If you must call him, Jenny, this is serious. No being lazy. Use a pay phone, and take a roll of quarters with you! They will, w/out a doubt, be watching you and tapping the phone—use a pay phone!… Note: Read back cover of Turner Diaries (see 1978) before you begin.” The back cover of that book, McVeigh’s favorite novel, reads in part: “What will you do when they come to take your guns? The patriots fight back with a campaign of sabotage and assassination.… Turner and his comrades suffer terribly, but their ingenuity and boldness in devising and executing new methods of guerrilla warfare lead to a victory of cataclysmic intensity and worldwide scope.” McVeigh’s letters continually warn her about being surveilled by government authorities, and not to trust anyone, even her friends. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 117-118, 123]
Michael and Lori Fortier, friends of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) who are helping him with his bombing plot (see February 17, 1995 and After and Mid-March, 1995), take part in a gun show in Tucson, Arizona. They sell almost all of the weapons McVeigh had obtained from a robbery in Arkansas (see November 5, 1994). McVeigh has told them they could split the profits with him (see December 16, 1994 and After). The Fortiers keep a .22 Hornet, a Ruger Mini 14, and a shotgun. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Michael and Lori Fortier, close friends of suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who have some involvement in the bombing conspiracy (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After), see the news broadcasts of the bombing on television in their Kingman, Arizona, home (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). They have a house guest, Marion Day Laird. Laird will later recall that the Fortiers exhibit almost no reaction to the news of the bombing. “They acted the same,” she later says. “They didn’t act any differently that I would notice.” Fortier’s recollection of his reaction is quite different. “Right away, I thought Tim did it,” he will say. “I think I thought, ‘Oh my God, he did it.’” Fortier and his wife discuss calling the FBI the day of the bombing, or at least asking advice from Lori’s father, but after seeing President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno promise the death penalty for those responsible (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995), they decide to tell no one. Later, when the FBI tracks them down and begins pressing them for information, Michael Fortier will lie about their involvement. “I felt Tim was like a buffer zone,” Fortier will say. “If people thought he was guilty, then that would bring suspicion down on myself. But if he was innocent, then surely I would have no knowledge.” In the days after the bombing, when FBI investigators first question the Fortiers, as Michael Fortier will recall, “I told them I didn’t think Tim was capable of it.” When asked about the possible involvement of suspected accomplice Terry Nichols, Fortier will say: “I just gave a negative answer that I didn’t know nothing about Terry. I just wanted to push him aside and not even have to think about him.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 239-240] Investigators become more interested in the Fortiers after learning that a local reporter seeking to interview the couple is greeted with a shotgun and the words, “Stay away from here.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184]
Michael and Lori Fortier, close friends of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who took part in the conspiracy to build and detonate the bomb (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After), are closely questioned by FBI agents. Federal agents have combed through their home town of Kingman, Arizona, compiling evidence and questioning friends and neighbors. The Fortiers have pretended to know nothing about the bomb plot (see April 19, 1995 and After) and continue to lie to investigators. Michael Fortier tells agents that his trip to Oklahoma City to “case” the target of the bombing, the Murrah Federal Building (see December 16, 1994 and After), happened in a far different way than the evidence suggests: Fortier says that he hitched a ride to Kansas to buy guns from McVeigh for resale. The agents do not believe his story. He tells agents that he never heard McVeigh discuss anything to do with bombmaking, and says he only discussed guns and government issues with McVeigh, “never, ever” discussing blowing up any buildings. On May 6, perhaps cracking under the stress of the interrogations and the intense, negative media coverage (reporters are camped out in front of his home and filing stories about him being an accomplice in the bombing), he asks agents to stop interrogating him. “I don’t want to cooperate,” he says. “I can’t be of any more help. I don’t know anything.” The agents accuse Fortier of being heavily involved in the bombing conspiracy, and of lying about his involvement. One agent calls Fortier a “baby killer,” the same imprecation leveled at McVeigh after his arraignment (see April 21, 1995). After the agents threaten to “raid” his home, Fortier agrees to cooperate. The agents give him enough time to get his wife, their two-year-old daughter Kayla, and their cats out of their trailer home. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 240-243]
The FBI says that evidence compiled on the Oklahoma City bombing shows that it was planned for months by accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995) and a small number of co-conspirators. The statement by the FBI echoes statements made earlier by Attorney General Janet Reno (see April 22, 1995). Evidence shows that McVeigh was driven in part by his rage at the government’s handling of the Branch Davidian standoff two years earlier (see April 19, 1993). McVeigh has refused to cooperate with investigators, and reportedly has shown no remorse or emotion of any kind, even when confronted with photographs of dead and maimed children being taken from the devasted Murrah Federal Building. The attack was timed to coincide with the Branch Davidian conflagration of April 19, 1993, investigators say, and was executed after months of planning, preparation, and testing. Some investigators believe that McVeigh may lack the leadership skills to plan and execute such a plot, and theorize that the ringleader of the conspiracy may turn out to be someone else (see April 21, 1995 and After). Evidence collected from the Ryder truck, particularly shards of blue plastic from barrels containing the fertilizer and fuel oil that comprised most of the bomb’s elements, point to the involvement of Terry Nichols, a friend of McVeigh’s who is coming under increasing scrutiny as a possible co-conspirator (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Similar barrels were found in Nichols’s garage in his Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)), along with other evidence tying him to the bomb’s construction.
Investigating Possible Involvement of Sister - Investigators are in the process of searching the home of McVeigh’s younger sister Jennifer, who has returned from a vacation in Pensacola, Florida (see April 7, 1995 and April 21-23, 1995). They are also poring over Jennifer McVeigh’s 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck, registered in New York. Investigators say the two siblings are very close, share similar anti-government views (see March 9, 1995), and have had numerous conversations in recent months (see Mid-December 1994). Jennifer McVeigh is taken into federal custody as well, as a witness, not as a suspect, and is released on April 25, after an intensive interrogation session that leaves her frightened and angry. “They told me Tim was guilty,” she will later recall, “and that he was going to fry.” According to her recollections, the agents threaten to charge her as a co-conspirator unless she gives them evidence against her brother, but she refuses to cooperate. She does reveal some information about her brother’s involvement in gun dealing, his strong belief in the US Constitution as he and right-wing white separatist groups interpret it, and his obsession with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978). “He had people he knew around the country,” she tells agents, mentioning three: “Mike and Lori and Terry.” Terry is Terry Nichols. “Mike and Lori” are McVeigh’s close friends Michael and Lori Fortier (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, April 19, 1995 and After, and December 16, 1994 and After). She tells them about watching anti-government videotapes with her brother, in particular one called “Day 51” about the Waco siege. “It depicted the government raiding the compound, and it implied that the government gassed and burned the people inside intentionally and attacked the people,” she tells the agents. “He was very angry. I think he thought the government murdered the people there, basically gassed and burned them down.” The agents ask if by the government, he meant the FBI and the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also abbreviated BATF). “He felt that someone should be held accountable,” she answers, and says her brother believed no one ever had been held responsible. She shows them the “ATF Read” letter he had written on her word processor (see November 1994) that concludes with the exhortation, “Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” She says that McVeigh had told her he had moved out of a “planning” stage into an “action” stage, though he never explained to her exactly what “action” he intended to take. Later, she will sign a statement detailing what her brother had told her. She will always insist that he never spoke to her about ammonium nitrate, anhydrous hydrazine, or any of the chemical components of the bomb, and had never spoken to her about the scene in The Turner Diaries that depicts the FBI building in Washington being obliterated by a truck bomb similar to the one used in Oklahoma City. The FBI seizes a number of her belongings, including samples of her antigovernment “patriot” literature. But, they determine, Jennifer McVeigh was never a part of her brother’s conspiracy.
Interviewing Alleged Co-Conspirator's Ex-Wife - Investigators are also interviewing Nichols’s ex-wife, Lana Padilla, who currently lives in Las Vegas. The press speculates that she is cooperating with the investigation and may have been taken to a undisclosed location for security reasons. Investigators are combing through a large body of writings McVeigh left behind, many of which detail his far-right, anti-government ideological beliefs. From what they have read so far, McVeigh believes that his Second Amendment rights are absolute, and he has the right to live without any restraints from the government. They have not found any documents detailing any operational plan for the bombing, nor have they found evidence that McVeigh directly threatened any government buildings or personnel. The FBI is offering a $2 million reward for information about McVeigh and the bombing. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 237-238]
Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, Janet Reno, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Branch Davidians, Jennifer McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Terry Lynn Nichols, Lana Padilla
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Federal investigators begin searching the Kingman, Arizona, home of Michael Fortier, a known friend and associate of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, December 16, 1994 and After, 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 19, 1995 and After, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995). Agents have been questioning Fortier and his wife Lori for days (see April 23 - May 6, 1995).
A dozen cars filled with about 20 agents drive onto Fortier’s property; Fortier’s trailer home sports an American flag and a yellow Revolutionary War-era banner showing a coiled snake and a “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan. The agents rope off the area with yellow tape. As the agents approach Fortier’s home, a neighbor and friend, James Rosencrans, emerges from his house and advances on the agents carrying a pistol and a rifle. Rosencrans gets into an argument with sheriff’s deputies, and is arrested for disorderly conduct. [New York Times, 5/1/1995] Rosencrans will not remain in custody. Soon after the altercation, he will tell a reporter that when he heard the news of the bombing, he thought of McVeigh and said at the time, “Our boy’s been busy.” [New York Times, 7/3/1995]
Michael Fortier, a suspected participant in the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After) whom the FBI believes has lied to investigators (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), unsuccessfully attempts to foil investigators by removing a cache of guns and drugs from his home. FBI personnel monitor the activities at the Fortier home, and place Fortier under court-authorized electronic surveillance of his telephone and inside his home. Soon after the wiretaps are placed, Fortier makes a number of belligerent statements to a friend, Lonnie Hubbard, in a phone call, saying if he is called to testify in any trial, he will pick his nose on camera and “flick it” at the lens. “Flick it and then kind of wipe it on the judge’s desk,” he says. He will also invite the lawyers to play a game of “pull my finger” during any such testimony, he says, between bouts of laughter. “I’m the key, I’m the key,” he tells Hubbard. “Cause you’re the key,” Hubbard replies. “The key man,” Fortier says. “That can unlock the whole mystery,” Hubbard says. “The head honcho.… I hold the key to it all.” To his brother John Fortier, he brags about the instant celebrity he will achieve, saying that he will concoct “some asinine story and get my friends to go in on it.… I found my career, ‘cause I can tell a fable.… I could tell stories all day.” To his friend Glynn Bringle, he says: “I want to wait till after the trial and do book and movie rights. I can just make up something juicy. Something that’s worth the Enquirer [a tabloid news publication], you know.” He speculates that he can sell photographs of McVeigh for $50,000, and make up to a million dollars by marketing his life story with McVeigh. “Make one cool mil,” he boasts. He tells some of his lies to a CNN reporter, in a segment that is broadcast nationwide (see May 8, 1995). Fortier’s parents, Paul and Irene Fortier, beg him to tell the truth to the federal investigators; Fortier later says the entire situation drove his father into “a nervous breakdown,” and admits lying to his father about his involvement. The FBI microphones record Fortier screaming at his mother, “Shut the f_ck up!” when she brings up the problems the family is suffering. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 240-243]
An Army friend of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, After May 6, 1995, and May 16, 1995), Michael Fortier, tells federal authorities that he and McVeigh inspected the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as a potential bombing target in the days before the blast (see December 16, 1994 and After). Fortier knew McVeigh from their time together at Fort Riley, Kansas (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), and says he knew of McVeigh’s plans for the bombing while the two lived in Kingman, Arizona (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and February 17, 1995 and After). Fortier and his wife Lori decided to stop lying about their involvement with McVeigh and the bomb plot (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995) and tell the truth after receiving subpoenas for their testimony before a grand jury investigating the bombing; instead of testifying under oath, Fortier opens a discussion with prosecutors about a settlement, and gives his statements about McVeigh in an initial offer of the evidence he says he can provide. They also ask the authorities about retaining a lawyer. Michael Fortier admits that a statement he signed in Kingman, Arizona, is mostly false. Fortier and his wife testify for hours about their involvement with McVeigh and their complicity in the bomb plot. Fortier is negotiating with federal prosecutors for a plea deal, and for immunity for his wife, in return for his cooperation in their prosecution of McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, April 24, 1995, and May 11, 1995). Fortier says he and McVeigh drove from Arizona to the Murrah Federal Building about a week before the bombing in an apparent effort to “case” the building. Fortier denies he had any direct role in the blast, but authorities have been very interested in him since the day of the bombing. Authorities have searched his trailer in Kingman and questioned him thoroughly, though officials say they have no basis to charge him with any direct involvement in the bombing. Fortier may still be charged as an accessory to the bombing, or on other related charges. It is doubtful, people involved in the case say, that the government would give Fortier full immunity from prosecution. Fortier is the first person to directly implicate McVeigh in the bombing; until now, investigators have only a large amount of circumstantial evidence tying McVeigh to the blast. Nichols has denied any direct knowledge of the bombing, and currently is not cooperating with investigators. Some investigators believe that Fortier may be the elusive “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), who is considered either a co-conspirator or a material witness with knowledge of the plot, though Fortier does not clearly match the description of the suspect. [New York Times, 5/19/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 244-245]
Michael Fortier, a friend of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who participated to an extent in the planning of the bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, December 16, 1994 and After, 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 19, 1995 and After, After May 6, 1995, and May 19, 1995), testifies to a grand jury about his involvement in the bombing plot. Fortier’s wife Lori also testifies; her attorney, Mack Martin, says: “Her testimony had nothing to do with Mr. Fortier. Her testimony had to do with other people involved in the bombing.” She has been given given a grant of immunity in return for her testimony. Michael Fortier tells the jury of his visit to the Murrah Federal Building with McVeigh to reconnoiter the building, and admits that McVeigh told him he intended to bomb the building (see December 16, 1994 and After). He has pled guilty to illegal firearms trafficking, knowledge of the bombing, and lying to federal agents (see April 19, 1995 and After and April 23 - May 6, 1995). [New York Times, 8/7/1995; Washington Post, 8/9/1995; Washington Post, 8/11/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says Michael Fortier is anything but a credible witness, and notes that Fortier has previously said in a television interview that he did not think McVeigh had any involvement in the bombing (see May 8, 1995). [Washington Post, 8/9/1995] Instead, Jones says in a court filing that the grand jury should begin looking for evidence of a “broad domestic or foreign conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City Federal building” by demanding intelligence reports on Iran and other avenues of investigation (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). [New York Times, 8/9/1995] Fortier’s lawyer, Michael McGuire, will say his client came forward out of guilt and remorse. “There is no expression of grief or words sufficient to describe his anguish over the responsibility he feels for knowing about the plans to bomb the Murrah building,” McGuire will say. “The defining thing that made him want to cooperate was his conscience.” Jones says, “I think any time the government has to give two [potential] co-defendants a pretty good deal, there are weaknesses in the case.” Fortier faces a maximum of 23 years in prison and fines totaling $1 million. [Washington Post, 8/11/1995] Through his lawyers, Fortier cut a deal to testify if he was assured he would not be charged as a co-conspirator in the plot, though prosecutors refused to grant him full immunity. Some observers have speculated that Fortier may have agreed to cooperate if prosecutors granted his wife immunity [New York Times, 6/21/1995; New York Times, 8/7/1995] , a deal later confirmed by reporters. [New York Times, 8/8/1995] Lori Fortier tells grand jurors about witnessing McVeigh conduct a demonstration using soup cans on her kitchen floor that illustrated the effects of a massive bombing (see (February 1994)). McVeigh, she says, arranged soup cans to simulate the pattern he could make with barrels of explosives. McVeigh placed the soup cans in a triangle, she says, to direct the force of an explosion at a desired target, with two of the three points of the triangle flush against the side of the truck to maximize the damage. Michael Fortier did not witness the demonstration, she testifies. She also says that McVeigh once drew a diagram that showed how to blow up a building. [New York Times, 9/4/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 91] Both the Fortiers will repeat their testimony in McVeigh’s trial (see May 12-13, 1997).
One of the prosecution’s star witnesses in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) testifies. Lori Fortier, the wife of McVeigh’s friend and fellow conspirator Michael Fortier, tells the jury that one night in October 1994, McVeigh sat in her Kingman, Arizona, living room and told her and her husband he was going to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. “He drew a diagram, just a box,” she says, “and he filled the box with [soup cans] representing barrels” (see (February 1994)). The box represented the truck he would park in front of the building, and the barrels would be filled with ammonium hydrate and anhydrous hydrazine, a chemical used in rocket fuel. She says she remembers the names of the chemicals because McVeigh borrowed her dictionary the next day to look them up. McVeigh, she says, chose the Murrah Building because it was, in his estimation, “an easy target.” Lori Fortier testifies after being given a grant of immunity (see August 8, 1995); her husband Michael, also cooperating with the investigation and slated to testify, received a plea agreement in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). She also says McVeigh was furious with the federal government over the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995), and thought the Murrah Building was the workplace of some of the law enforcement agents involved in the Davidian standoff. She says that McVeigh’s fellow conspirator, Terry Nichols, helped McVeigh in several robberies that the two used to buy the bomb materials (see November 5, 1994), but at the last minute, McVeigh told her and her husband that “Terry wanted out and Terry did not want to mix the bomb” (see March 1995). Her husband also refused to help McVeigh in his getaway after the bombing. She recalls her husband joining McVeigh in building and exploding pipe bombs in the mountains, and remembers a September 1994 letter to her husband from McVeigh in which McVeigh “said he wanted to take action against the government” (see September 13, 1994). Weeks later, McVeigh told the Fortiers that he wanted to blow up a government building. “I think Michael told him he was crazy,” she testifies. She also remembers laminating a fake driver’s license for McVeigh with the name “Robert D. Kling,” an alias McVeigh used to rent the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see Mid-March, 1995, April 15, 1995, 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995, and February 19, 1997). Asked if she feels any responsibility for the bombing, she admits, “I could have stopped it.” She says she didn’t believe McVeigh was capable of actually executing such an action. “I wish I could have stopped it now. If I could do it all over again, I would have.” Fortier holds up under four hours of harsh cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, who paints her as an unreliable drug addict who had hoped to profit from her and her husband’s knowledge of the bombing and continues to hammer at her over her admission that she could have called authorities and stopped the bombing. Fortier admits to using drugs, and to lying about McVeigh shortly after the attack, explaining that she did so for fear that she and her husband would be implicated. “I never had any interest in selling my story,” she says. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 4/29/1997; New York Times, 4/30/1997; New York Times, 5/1/1997; New York Times, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-286]
The sister of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), Jennifer McVeigh, reluctantly testifies for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. Her brother nods at her when she enters the courtroom. She tells jurors that her brother ranted against federal agents as “fascist tyrants,” and told her he intended to move from “the propaganda stage” to “the action stage” in the months before the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building (see Mid-December 1994). She describes a November 1994 visit from her brother (see November 1994), in which he showed her a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He was very angry,” she testifies. “He thought the government murdered the people there, basically, gassed and burned them.” Her brother held the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the FBI responsible: “I think he felt someone should be held accountable,” she says. During his visit, she says McVeigh told her he felt it necessary to do more than hand out pamphlets attacking the government. “He was not in the propaganda stage,” she says he told her. “He was now in the action stage.” He never explained what he meant by this, she says. She also reads aloud a letter he wrote to the American Legion on her word processor, in which he accused the government of drawing “first blood” in its “war” against its citizens, and said only militia groups could protect the citizenry from the government. And, after being prompted by prosecutors, she recalls driving with her brother when “Tim brought up a time when he was traveling with explosives and nearly got into an accident” (see December 18, 1994). They had been “talking about traffic jokes, accident jokes.” She recalls him talking about driving in another car with “up to 1,000 pounds” of explosives. “They were going down a hill. There was a traffic light. They couldn’t stop in time.” Her brother did not run into another car. Asked why she had not pressed her brother for more details, she replies, “I don’t think I wanted to know.” She did not see her brother again after that visit, but kept in touch with him by letters and telephone calls. He told her he had a network of friends around the country, whom she only knows by their first names: Terry (Nichols), Mike (Michael Fortier—see May 12-13, 1997), and Lori (Fortier—see April 29-30, 1997). Her brother wrote her a letter in early 1995 telling her to get in touch with the Fortiers “in case of alert.… Lori is trustworthy. Let them know who you are and why you called.” He told her not to use their home phone, as it was likely the government would be surveilling it. She testifies that after her brother left, she found another document on her computer entitled “ATF—Read,” which prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says reads as if it were meant for the BATF (see November 1994). Jennifer McVeigh testifies that she called her brother and asked him what to do with the file, and he advised her to “just leave it there.” Prosecution lawyer Beth Wilkinson reads the letter aloud. It told the BATF that its agents “will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous acts against the Constitution and the United States,” and ended: “Remember the Nuremberg trials, war trials.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” In March and April 1995, she says her brother sent her two letters, the first of which she later burned as he instructed her to in the letter. The first letter told her, “Something big is going to happen in the month of the bull,” indicating April, and advised her to stay on her “vacation longer” (Jennifer planned to go to Pensacola, Florida, for a two-week vacation beginning April 8). The second letter, dated March 25, 1995, told her not to write him after April 1, “even if it’s an emergency,” and advised her to “watch what you say.” He then sent her a third mailing with a short note and three short clippings from the racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978 and April 15, 1995). On April 7, the day before she went on vacation, she says she divided her brother’s belongings into two boxes, putting one into her closet and giving the other to a friend for safekeeping. After hearing of his arrest on August 21 (see April 21, 1995), she burned the Turner clippings. “I was scared,” she explains. “I heard Tim’s name announced, and I figured [the FBI would] come around sooner or later.” The FBI searched her truck and the house in Florida where she vacationed, and were waiting for her when she flew into the Buffalo, New York, airport (see April 21-23, 1995). She says she was questioned eight to nine hours a day for “eight days straight.” Agents showed her a timeline of events culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing, and threatened to charge her with an array of crimes related to her brother’s actions and her own in concealing or destroying evidence. She identifies her brother’s handwriting on an order for a book on how to make explosives, and on a business card for Paulsen’s Military Supplies where he apparently had made notations about buying TNT (see April 21, 1995). She also identifies his handwriting on the back of a copy of the Declaration of Independence found in his car after the bombing (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). It read, “Obey the Constitution of the United States, and we won’t shoot you.” Under cross-examination by her brother’s lawyers, she breaks down in tears, explaining that she agreed to testify because FBI agents “told me he was guilty [and] was going to fry.” She admits to destroying papers she thought might incriminate him, lying to FBI investigators in her first sworn statement, and resisting her parents’ claims to cooperate with the government. She says she began cooperating truthfully after FBI agents threatened to charge her with treason and other crimes that carry the death penalty. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/5/1997; New York Times, 5/6/1997; New York Times, 5/7/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-]
Entity Tags: Lori Fortier, Beth Wilkinson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph H. Hartzler, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
One of the star witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), McVeigh’s close friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), testifies. Fortier’s wife Lori has testified previously (see April 29-30, 1997). She received a grant of immunity, and Fortier himself pled guilty to reduced charges in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). Far from being boisterous and disrespectful during the trial as he once claimed he would be (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), Fortier is somber and repentant. Fortier testifies that he and McVeigh “cased” the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City several months before McVeigh bombed it (see December 16, 1994 and After), and says that McVeigh bombed the building “to cause a general uprising in America.” McVeigh originally planned to bomb the building around 11 a.m. because, Fortier testifies, “everybody would be getting ready for lunch.” Fortier says he expressed his concern that the bombing would kill many people, and McVeigh replied that he “considered all those people to be as if they were storm troopers in the movie Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but because they are part of the evil empire they were guilty by association.” Fortier says that he sent off for a mail-order identification kit that McVeigh used to make a false driver’s license for himself. Fortier admits that he knew for months of McVeigh’s plans (see September 13, 1994 and After and September 13, 1994), and that he could have prevented the bombing with a single telephone call to law enforcement authorities: “I live with that knowledge every day,” he says. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler asks Fortier why he did not make the call. Fortier replies that he has no excuse except his friendship with McVeigh, saying: “I’d known Tim for quite a while. If you don’t consider what happened in Oklahoma, Tim is a good person.” Fortier recalls going with McVeigh to Oklahoma City, where they examined the Murrah Building, and McVeigh considered a number of alternatives for delivering the bomb (see December 16, 1994 and After). Fortier testifies as to the location of the alley that McVeigh said he would use to stash his getaway car; investigators found the key to McVeigh’s rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) in that alley. The trip also involved going to Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh sold a number of stolen weapons (see November 5, 1994) in what prosecutors say was an effort to finance the bombing. Fortier testifies, “He told me they picked that building because that was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from,” referring to the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me—he also told me that he was wanting to blow up a building to cause a general uprising in America hopefully that would knock some people off the fence into—and urge them into taking action against the federal government.” At one point, testifying about his involvement in the case driving his father into having a nervous breakdown, Fortier weeps on the stand. McVeigh lived with the Fortiers several times in the years leading up to the bombing (see May-September 1993 and February - July 1994), he testifies. He recalls receiving a letter from McVeigh (see September 13, 1994) in which, he says: “Tim told me that him and Terry Nichols had decided to take some type of positive offensive action. He wanted to know if I wanted to partake of it.” A week later, McVeigh came back to Kingman and, Fortier recalls, “we had a conversation near my fence in my front yard. Tim was telling me what he meant by taking action. He told me that he—him and Terry were thinking of blowing up a building. He asked me to help them. I turned him down.” Later in 1994, Fortier testifies, McVeigh asked him to rent a storage locker for him somewhere outside Kingman, but Fortier told McVeigh he could not find one. A few days after that, Fortier testifies, McVeigh and Nichols came to Kingman and rented a storage locker themselves (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Soon after, McVeigh and Nichols showed Fortier the contents of the locker—about a dozen boxes of explosives that McVeigh said they had stolen from a quarry in Kansas (see October 3, 1994). Just before October 31, 1994, Fortier testifies, “Tim said that him and Terry had chosen a federal building in Oklahoma City” and showed him how he could “make a truck into a bomb.” Under cross-examination, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, lambasts Fortier as a liar, a thief, a drug addict, and an opportunist who had initially tried to profit from his knowledge of the bombing, playing the audiotapes of Fortier’s bluster and bragging as captured on government wiretaps (see After May 6, 1995). Fortier admits to lying to the FBI in his initial interviews. Jones does not shake Fortier from his statements about McVeigh, though he does elicit a statement from Fortier that Nichols had withdrawn from the bomb plot in the final days of preparation (see March 1995). [New York Times, 5/13/1997; New York Times, 5/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 286-287]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) rests after having presented 25 witnesses over less than four days of testimony. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh does not testify in his own defense. [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Defense lawyers, led by Stephen Jones, found it difficult to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997). Their story was that McVeigh was the unwitting victim of an overzealous federal investigation and the treachery of his friends. Today, they try to cast doubt on some of the witness testimony, with little apparent success, focusing on critical testimony by two friends of McVeigh’s, Michael and Lori Fortier (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, After May 6, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), calling them drug addicts who were lying in order to profit from their story and to avoid jail time. The last witness, Deborah Brown, who employed Lori Fortier at her tanning salon in Kingman, Arizona, testifies that she had bought amphetamines from the Fortiers, and tells the jury the Fortiers were so poor that “their baby was on some kind of state assistance to get formula and diapers.” Jones plays an audiotape for the jury of Michael Fortier’s telephone conversations that were wiretapped by federal agents in the weeks after the bombing, when Fortier was considered a suspect. In those recordings, Fortier boasted to his brother John that he could mislead federal agents and make a million dollars through book rights from his connection to McVeigh, saying: “I can tell a fable, I can tell stories all day long. The less I say now, the bigger the price will be later.” On another audiotape, Fortier, his voice slurred from apparent drug use, is heard telling a friend: “The less I say right now, the bigger the price later—there will be books, book rights. I’m the key, the head honcho, General Crank. I hold the key to it all.… I could pick my nose and wipe it on the judge’s desk.” Jones also plays excerpts from an interview Fortier gave CNN, where he said: “My friend Tim McVeigh is not the face of terror that is reported on the cover of Time magazine. I do not believe that Tim blew up any building in Oklahoma.” Fortier has already admitted that he lied to the press and the FBI during the early phases of the investigation. However, the defense has no alibi for McVeigh, nor does it offer an alternative theory to the prosecution’s version of events.
Prosecution's Case Not Challenged, Analysts Say - Legal analysts say Jones did little to challenge the prosecution, and note that Judge Richard Matsch prohibited Jones from presenting his theory of a foreign terrorist conspiracy behind the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Neither did Matsch allow Jones to put FBI laboratory technicians on the stand to explain their alleged mishandling of evidence in the case (see January 27, 1997), though Jones did present FBI lab technician Frederic Whitehurst, whose whistleblowing led to a Justice Department investigation that revealed the mishandlings (see May 27, 1997). Jones also suffered a setback when his star witness, Daina Bradley, abruptly changed the story she had told for almost two years. Bradley, a victim of the bombing who lost her two children and her mother along with her right leg, had said that she saw a “swarthy” man get out of the Ryder truck that carried the fertilizer bomb. On the witness stand, Bradley added a new detail: a second, light-complexioned man also in the truck. She was also forced to admit that she had been treated for mental illness and had a poor memory (see May 23, 1997). Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that the jury is most likely to focus on Jones’s inability to prove McVeigh’s innocence. “The message you get as a juror,” Cohen says, “is [that] this is the worst mass murder in American history. There’s 168 dead, and you can only come up with four days of testimony? What about the alibi? If you’re going to call a guy innocent, you’d better make your case.” [Washington Post, 5/29/1997; New York Times, 5/29/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] After the final presentation, law professor Mimi Wesson, a former assistant US attorney and death penalty expert, says she is “puzzled” by the defense’s “truncated” presentation. “The main thing they tried to suggest was that McVeigh was not alone. They elicited that through witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with someone else, or that they saw someone else at places connected to the bombing. But I must say that rather puzzled me, since it is no defense for McVeigh that he acted with a confederate even if that confederate cannot be identified and has not been apprehended and cannot be prosecuted.” Wesson believes that the defense may be conceding guilt, and may be attempting to build a case for “mitigating circumstances” that would spare McVeigh the death penalty. Wesson says that the testimony of Bradley was very damaging for the defense’s case, and doubly so because Bradley was a defense witness. The lawyer who handled the defense’s attack on the forensic evidence (see May 27, 1997), Christopher Tritico, did a “skilled” job in going after the forensics, but Wesson is not convinced Tritico’s assault swayed many jurors. She calls Whitehurst a “prig, a person who has his own fastidious, rather fussy idea about how things ought to be done, who is extremely inflexible and intolerant about things being done any other way” who did not make a good impression on the jury. Jones’s final attack on the Fortiers (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997) was “predictable,” Wesson says, and nothing the jury had not already heard: “The thing about the Fortiers is not so much that we believe them because they’re truthful—we know they were liars about many things—but in the end I think you believe them because their testimony about McVeigh is corroborated at almost every point by other testimony.” The “parade of victims” put on by the government was tremendously effective, Wesson says: “They did such a tremendously effective case of arousing people’s emotions during the main part of the case.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
Defense Had 'All but Impossible' Task - In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write: “The task of the defense team was all but impossible. They could not come up with a single alibi witness. They faced the reality that McVeigh had told dozens of people of his hatred of the government, and had told a friend that he planned to take violent action on April 19. Rental agreements and a drawing of downtown Oklahoma City linked him to the blast. He carried earplugs in his car driving north from Oklahoma City 40 minutes after the explosion. How could it all be explained away?” [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Christopher L. Tritico, Deborah Brown, Daina Bradley, Douglas O. Linder, Timothy James McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Michael Joseph Fortier, Mimi Wesson, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Frederic Whitehurst
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The New York Times reports on previously undisclosed letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), as well as similarly undisclosed suspicions among McVeigh’s family members that he carried out the bombing—suspicions that they later shared with FBI investigators. According to the letters, all written to his younger sister and confidant Jennifer McVeigh, McVeigh was despondent over not being able to confide the extent of his anti-government activities to his family, even Jennifer, and at at least one point contemplated suicide. The Times obtained copies of the letters and summaries of the interviews, which were not presented at McVeigh’s trial last year.
Letters - An October 1993 letter to Jennifer (see October 20, 1993) expresses his distress over not being able to fully discuss his anti-government feelings and “lawless behavior,” and alleges that he left Special Forces training, not because he could not meet the physical requirements (see January - March 1991 and After), but because he learned that if he became a Green Beret, he could be required to take part in government-sanctioned assassinations and drug trafficking. A Christmas 1993 letter to Jennifer hints that he might be involved in bank robberies and/or other illegal activities (see December 24, 1993). And another letter, written four months before the bombing, warns her that he may “disappear” or go “underground” (see January 1995).
Family Suspicions - Jennifer told FBI investigators (see April 21-23, 1995) that she had an “eerie feeling” her brother was involved with the bombing. His father, William McVeigh, told investigators he was worried that McVeigh would do something to get in trouble; he also told investigators that his mother, Mildred Frazer, thought her son “did the bombing.” William McVeigh was not convinced of the government’s theory that his son’s anger over the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was the trigger that set him on a path of destruction, a stance other family members emulated. William McVeigh told investigators that his son’s real problems may have begun over money, starting with the Army’s demand that he repay an “overpayment” (see March 1992 - February 1993), a demand that infuriated McVeigh. William McVeigh acknowledged that his son was obsessed with the deaths of the Branch Davidians, and told investigators that he and his son were at “opposite ends politically.” He said his son was bright but never really succeeded in life because he did not handle pressure well, did not take orders well, and had trouble handling the responsibilities of day-to-day work. But Jennifer thought that her brother’s breaking point came earlier, when he withdrew as a candidate for the Army’s Special Forces, as he wrote to her in an October 1993 letter (see October 20, 1993).
Undisclosed Evidence Suggesting Militia Ties - The Times also reports on previously undisclosed witness statements that indicate Timothy McVeigh may have had militia ties, something long suspected (see November 1992, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, March 1994, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, and December 1994), but never made a large factor in McVeigh’s trial. One witness, a corrections officer who worked as a security guard in Kingman, Arizona, around the time McVeigh worked as a guard (see May-September 1993), told FBI investigators that he and his father once saw McVeigh with 10 or 15 other people dressed in camouflage in the desert north of Kingman in the fall of 1994. The group had firearms spread over the hood of an old yellow or tan station wagon, he said. The officer also said that he saw McVeigh’s friends Michael and Lori Fortier, whom he knew from high school, arrive—presumably at the desert meeting—in a small blue pickup truck with a white camper shell, a description that fits the truck owned at the time by McVeigh’s accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). The Fortiers have testified that Nichols came to their Kingman home in his blue pickup in October 1994, shortly after McVeigh had them rent a storage locker for him in which he stored stolen detonators and other explosives (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). [New York Times, 7/1/1998]
Michael Fortier, a friend of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) who cooperated with the prosecution of McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) in order to escape prosecution for his own participation in the bomb plot, says through his attorneys that federal prosecutors lied in order to get a harsher sentence for him. Fortier was given 12 years in prison for his actions (see May 27, 1998). During his sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued that Fortier’s sentence should exceed standard guidelines because of the magnitude of the crime. They argued that Fortier knew profits from the sale of stolen guns would be used to help finance the bombing because he was present when his wife, Lori, and McVeigh discussed it (see April 3-4, 1995). Recently, prosecutor Sean Connelly conceded there was no evidence Fortier was present during the conversation between his wife and McVeigh or was told by either one of them what had been said. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
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