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Profile: Patrick M. Ryan

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An FBI affidavit filed today in Oklahoma suggests that planning for the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) began as early as September 1994, when accused bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and April 24, 1995) began buying thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and rented the first of several storage sheds in small towns in Kansas (see October 17, 1994). Nichols is accused of accumulating two tons of ammonium nitrate and, just before the bombing, purchasing an unspecified quantity of diesel fuel, another essential ingredient for the bomb. The affidavit, unsealed at a hearing for Nichols at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center outside Oklahoma City and intended to show a judge that sufficient grounds exist to charge Nichols with the bombing, provides the first look at the government’s case against Nichols and accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). The affidavit provides a chronological timeline of events that together portray Nichols and McVeigh as Army buddies turned amateur terrorists, and suggests that Nichols may have actually led the bomb-making effort, though he did not participate in the bombing itself. Nichols’s brother James Nichols has also been indicted on charges of building bombs (see May 11, 1995). However, the indictment shows no direct involvement by James Nichols or anyone else in the bombing conspiracy. The indictment specifically offers no evidence that the as-yet unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), suspected of accompanying McVeigh when he rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), is involved in the bombing, though authorities continue to search for him, believing him to be either a co-conspirator or a valuable witness. The affidavit states that “an explosive device of the magnitude” that wrecked the Murrah Federal Building “would have been constructed over a period of time utilizing a large quantity of bomb paraphernalia and materials.” Building such a bomb, the document says, “would necessarily have involved the efforts of more than one person,” although it does not say how many. The affidavit also reveals that five months before the bombing, Nichols left a letter that instructed McVeigh to clean out two of the storage sheds if Nichols were to unexpectedly die, told McVeigh he would be “on his own,” and said he should “go for it!” (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). It shows that a search of Nichols’s home found numerous materials appearing to be related to the bomb, including explosive and other materials used in the bomb itself. And Nichols has admitted to having the knowledge required to make an ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) bomb such as the one used in Oklahoma City. He said he disposed of ammonium nitrate by spreading it on his yard on April 21 after reading press accounts that the substance was one of the ingredients used in the bomb, and told investigators that the materials they found at his home were “household items.” After the 13-minute hearing, US Magistrate Ronald L. Howland orders Nichols held without bail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 18. Patrick M. Ryan, the interim US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, reads the charges against Nichols, and says the government will seek the death penalty. Nichols is currently represented by two federal public defenders, David Phillips and Steven Gradert, but the judge is expected to appoint another lawyer to represent Nichols on the bombing charges. [New York Times, 5/12/1995]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Phillips, El Reno Federal Corrections Center, James Nichols, Patrick M. Ryan, Steven Gradert, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Ronald L. Howland

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal prosecutors formally notify Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995) that they intend to seek the death penalty against him in his upcoming trial. Prosecutors send a letter to McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, advising that McVeigh will be indicted before August 11 with “one or more crimes potentially punishable by death.” The letter is signed by Patrick M. Ryan, the US Attorney in Oklahoma City. Government officials, including President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, have said they would press for the death penalty against the person or persons responsible for the bombing (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995 and April 22, 1995). The announcement ends speculation that the prosecution might take the death penalty off the table if McVeigh pleads guilty and cooperates with the investigation. While the prosecutors can seek the death penalty, only the trial jury can impose it, if it so chooses. Jones calls the decision to seek the death penalty a “charade,” saying that the decision was made by Clinton and Reno months ago. In a response to Ryan, Jones writes, “For us to reasonably believe that any type of fair review is to be conducted would require us to accept that you, as a nominee of the president for the position you hold, and the attorney general’s Capital Review Committee, appointed by Ms. Reno, would reach a decision and recommendation which overrides the president and the attorney general’s own public commitment.” Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to invoke the death penalty against McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995). Nichols’s attorney Michael Tigar says he is preparing his defense as if it will be a death-penalty case. [New York Times, 7/12/1995] Two days later, defense lawyers for Nichols inform reporters that the federal government will also seek the death penalty against Nichols. [New York Times, 7/14/1995]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Janet Reno, Michael E. Tigar, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Patrick M. Ryan

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Stephen Jones, the lead lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995), says he will attempt to get McVeigh’s trial moved out of Oklahoma. McVeigh faces the death penalty if convicted of crimes related to the bombing (see July 11-13, 1995). Jones says he has in mind sites well away from Oklahoma City, including New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and the city of San Francisco. “These are places where there has been way less than the usual media coverage,” Jones says. “I haven’t been contacted by a single person from any of those states, in terms of the media.” US Attorney Patrick Ryan has said McVeigh and his accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), could get fair trials in Oklahoma, and that to move the trial would “further victimize the victims,” whose family members would likely testify during the sentencing phase of the trials if either or both are convicted. Jones says: “That is not a factor used in measuring where trials are held.… We have three criteria. The contents of what has been carried in the media in those states, the facilities to hold trials, and whether there was a nearby federal prison that could accommodate security concerns.… I definitely think we should not be in Oklahoma.” [New York Times, 7/18/1995]

Entity Tags: Patrick M. Ryan, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A federal grand jury indicts Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. Neither McVeigh nor Nichols are present during the hearing. The grand jury is only empowered to bring federal charges; the eight murder charges are in regards to the eight federal agents slain in the bombing: Secret Service agents Mickey Maroney, Donald Leonard, Alan Whicher, and Cynthia Campbell-Brown; DEA agent Kenneth McCullough; Customs Service agents Paul Ice and Claude Madearis; and Paul Broxterman, an agent in the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both Nichols and McVeigh are expected to face 160 counts of murder brought by the state of Oklahoma; both will plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment (see August 15, 1995). The indictment levels the following charges:
bullet on September 30, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols purchased 40 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate (2,000 pounds in total, or one ton) in McPherson, Kansas, under the alias “Mike Havens” (see September 30, 1994);
bullet on October 1, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols stole explosives from a storage locker in Marion, Kansas (the actual date of the theft is October 3—see October 3, 1994);
bullet on October 3-4, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols transported the stolen explosives to Kingman, Arizona, and stored them in a rented storage unit (see October 4 - Late October, 1994);
bullet on October 18, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols bought another ton of ammonium nitrate in McPherson, Kansas, again using the “Mike Havens” alias (see October 18, 1994);
bullet in October 1994, McVeigh and Nichols planned the robbery of a firearms dealer in Arkansas as a means to finance the bombing, and on November 5 they “caused” firearms, ammunition, coins, cash, precious metals, and other items to be stolen from gun dealer Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994);
bullet on December 16, 1994, McVeigh drove with Michael Fortier to Oklahoma City and identified the Murrah Federal Building as the target of the upcoming bombing (see December 16, 1994 and After);
bullet in March 1995 McVeigh obtained a driver’s license in the name of “Robert Kling,” bearing a date of birth of April 19, 1972 (see Mid-March, 1995);
bullet on April 14, 1995, McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis in Junction City, Kansas, called Nichols in Herington, Kansas, used the “Kling” alias to set up the rental of a Ryder truck capable of transporting 5,000 pounds of cargo, and rented a room in Junction City (see April 13, 1995);
bullet on April 15, 1995, McVeigh put down a deposit on a rental truck under the name of “Robert Kling” (see April 15, 1995);
bullet on April 17, 1995, McVeigh took possession of the rental truck in Junction City (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995);
bullet on April 18, 1995, at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas, McVeigh and Nichols constructed the truck bomb using barrels filled with ammonium nitrate, fuel, and other explosives, and placed the cargo in the compartment of the Ryder truck (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995);
bullet on April 19, 1995, McVeigh parked the truck bomb directly outside the Murrah Building during regular business hours; and
bullet on April 19, 1995, McVeigh “caused the truck bomb to explode” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
The indictment accuses McVeigh and Nichols of plotting the bombing “with others unknown to the Grand Jury.” It does not mention the person identified earlier as “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). The grand jury says it is confident others, as yet unidentified, also participated in the plot. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “The indictment mentions unknown co-conspirators. We will try to determine if there are others who aided and abetted this crime.” After the indictments are handed down, Attorney General Janet Reno says: “We will pursue every lead based on the evidence.… [M]ost of these leads have been pursued and exhausted.… [W]e have charged everyone involved that we have evidence of at this point.” Prosecutors say that while others may well have been involved, the plot was closely held between McVeigh and Nichols. US Attorney Patrick Ryan has already announced he will seek the death penalty against both McVeigh and Nichols (see July 11-13, 1995), a decision supported by Reno (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995). A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, has pled guilty to lesser crimes regarding his involvement; Fortier has testified against McVeigh and Nichols in return for the lesser charges (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), and defense lawyers are expected to assail Fortier’s credibility during the trials (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995). Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “Terry Nichols is not guilty of the allegations of which he is charged,” calls the case against his client “flimsy” and “irresponsible,” and accuses prosecutors of attempting to try his client “in the national media.” Periodically, Tigar holds up hand-lettered signs reading, among other messages, “Terry Nichols Wasn’t There” and “A Fair Trial in a Fair Forum.” Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Nichols’s brother James Nichols, who was indicted on three related explosive charges (see December 22 or 23, 1988, April 25, 1995, and May 11, 1995). US Attorney Saul A. Green says that “additional investigation failed to corroborate some of the important evidence on which the government initially relied.” [Washington Post, 8/11/1995; New York Times, 8/11/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 189-191; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, tells reporters after the hearing that he has been in contact with a man who, he says, told the government early in the fall of 1994 of plans to blow up federal buildings. This man, Jones says, was given a “letter of immunity” by the authorities in exchange for information involving a trip he had taken to Kingman, Arizona, Fortier’s hometown, and for information about his discussions with potential bombers whom, Jones says, the man had described as either “Latin American or Arab.” Jones refuses to identify the person to whom he is referring. [New York Times, 8/11/1995]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Cynthia Campbell-Brown, Alan Whicher, Stephen Jones, Donald Leonard, Claude Madearis, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Saul A. Green, Paul Broxterman, Paul Douglas Ice, Janet Reno, James Nichols, Kenneth McCullough, Joseph H. Hartzler, Michael Joseph Fortier, Patrick M. Ryan, Mickey Maroney, Michael E. Tigar

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Lawyers for Terry Nichols, accused of conspiring with Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), say that the government’s case against Nichols is built on a series of innocent coincidences, and accuse the FBI of unfairly pressuring Nichols’s family for information. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar and others on the defense team meet with US Attorney Patrick Ryan and Justice Department officials to argue that the government should not seek the death penalty against their client (see July 11-13, 1995). After the closed-door meeting, Tigar tells reporters that the FBI improperly recorded over 20 conversations Nichols had, including telephone conversations with his wife and mother, after his arrest (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). “We’ve already seen the results of the government’s search warrants, the many tape-recorded conversations that were surreptitiously recorded without his knowledge,” Tigar says. “In short, we’ve seen it all. And we didn’t see anything in there that says the government has evidence that Terry Nichols did this.” Nichols, Tigar says, is an innocent victim of circumstance.
'Reasonable' Explanations - Tigar says that Nichols has reasonable explanations for using false names to rent two storage units in Kansas in the months before the bombing. According to these explanations, Nichols left his job as a farm worker in Marion, Kansas, on September 30, 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)), and had nowhere to live. He needed somewhere to store his household goods until he could find another place to live. He stored some of his goods in a storage unit rented under the alias “Shawn Rivers”; though authorities say Nichols rented the storage unit under the alias, Nichols says that McVeigh rented the unit (see September 22, 1994; Nichols may have rented a separate unit for his goods). Nichols kept his furniture and other items in that locker until October, when he rented two units in Council Grove, Kansas, under the names “Joe Kyle” (see October 17, 1994) and “Ted Parker” (see November 7, 1994). Nichols, according to Tigar, used the false names because he had an outstanding civil judgment on his credit card debts and wanted to prevent seizure of his possessions. Tigar also has an alternate explanation for a letter Nichols left behind him when he traveled to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995): the letter, which was to be opened only in the case of Nichols’s death, instructed McVeigh to clean everything out of one unit and liquidate the other. But Nichols’s lawyers now say these instructions contained an additional phrase, not previously disclosed by the government: “or you will have to pay extra months rent.” Nichols, according to Tigar, wanted McVeigh to sell his goods and give the proceeds to his family if for some reason he did not return from the Philippines. Instead, Nichols removed the goods from the unit when he bought a house in Herington, Kansas, in early 1995 (see (February 20, 1995)). Tigar says that Nichols had grown disaffected with McVeigh, and the more he learned of McVeigh’s proclivity towards violence, the less he wanted to have dealings with him. Nichols wanted to go into business as a gun dealer for himself, Tigar says: He had business cards and mailing labels printed in his own name, rented a mailbox under his name, registered with the state of Kansas so he could collect sales tax, and bought a license plate and insurance for his truck (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). Everything found in Nichols’s home and garage, Tigar claims, was for use in Nichols’s business. The fuel meter found in Nichols’s home, described by investigators as a device that “could be used to obtain the proper volume of diesel fuel to ammonium nitrate for a bomb,” did not work, Tigar says, and could not have been used to mix bomb ingredients. The anti-tank rocket found in Nichols’s home was, Tigar claims, an empty throw-away tube that such a rocket is packed in. The bags of fertilizer in the house were to be divided for resale in 8- and 24-ounce bottles at gun shows. The diesel fuel he bought in the days before the bombing (see April 15-16, 1995) was to fuel the diesel pickup truck he used to drive to Oklahoma City and pick up McVeigh (see April 16-17, 1995). The plastic barrels found on Nichols’s property are often used for storage and are thusly unremarkable. [New York Times, 9/7/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Unreasonable Pressure - Tigar says that the pressure brought to bear on Nichols’s family members was improper and unreasonable. “To lie to Terry Nichols’s mother and say he’s not cooperating, and then to take her to the FBI office and record her as she talks to her son, I think is an outrage,” Tigar says. “To hold his wife for 34 days incommunicado and to tell her that the only way out for her husband is if she calls him up and reads to him a script written by FBI agents, I think is an outrage. Then to send his wife a Mother’s Day card signed by FBI agents saying they’re her only friends in the world and saying she should call the Kansas City field office if she ever needs to cry. What in the world are we coming to here?” The FBI also sent a Mother’s Day card to Nichols’s mother, Joyce Wilt of Lapeer, Michigan. Tigar gives reporters a copy of that card, which reads: “Please don’t believe that the government workers are the bad guys no matter what anyone tells you. We are here to help you. We are all here for you. If you are ever lonely, if you ever want to talk. If you ever want to cry, just call us. You are very special to us. You are a young girl caught up in something you don’t deserve to be in. We’re on your side. Think only about yourself and your kids.” [New York Times, 9/7/1995; Associated Press, 7/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marife Torres Nichols, Patrick M. Ryan, US Department of Justice, Timothy James McVeigh, Joyce Wilt, Michael E. Tigar

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

In a letter to US Attorney Patrick Ryan, Attorney General Janet Reno authorizes prosecutors to seek the death penalty against indicted Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995). The prosecutors promptly inform the federal court in Oklahoma City that they will do just that. Reno overrides protests from defense lawyers asking her to disqualify herself from the proceedings; McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, told reporters that Reno and President Clinton both said “they would seek the death penalty before they even knew who the defendants were. We will mount our attack on the obvious prejudgment of the case.” Ryan says the prosecution will seek the death penalty on four of the counts lodged against McVeigh and Nichols: first-degree murder, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction with death resulting, using an explosive to destroy government property with death resulting, and using a weapon of mass destruction with death resulting. He says “aggravating factors” include the maiming, disfigurement, and other injuries inflicted on many individuals and the involvement of both defendants in “acts of burglary, robbery, and theft to finance and otherwise facilitate” the bombing. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) approves of the decision, and recently said in an interview that it was not at all unusual “to see the president and the attorney general express their outrage” when they did. “This was an enormous national tragedy of titanic proportions,” Keating said. “The question is, are these [McVeigh and Nichols] the people who did it? If not, we need to find those who did.… But we want whoever did this to be prosecuted, convicted, and executed.” [New York Times, 8/21/1995; Washington Post, 10/21/1995; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Jones refused to take part in the panel discussions over the use of the death penalty, calling them a fraud and a sham, and saying that the process should not have been conducted by the Justice Department. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 253]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Janet Reno, Frank Keating, Patrick M. Ryan, Terry Lynn Nichols, US Department of Justice, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Richard P. Matsch.Richard P. Matsch. [Source: Washington Post]The Tenth Circuit of Appeals removes Oklahoma District Judge Wayne E. Alley from the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), and assigns US District Judge Richard P. Matsch of Denver to preside over the trial. [New York Times, 12/5/1995; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] “We conclude that a reasonable person could not help but harbor doubts about the impartiality of Judge Alley,” the court rules. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 261] Alley’s offices were damaged in the blast, as was the entire courthouse, which stands less than 1,000 feet from the Murrah Building. Alley had a staff member injured in the bombings, and at least 33 of the victims conducted business regularly in the courthouse. Some judges helped in the rescue efforts; some judges attended as many as seven funerals. An employee in the court clerk’s office lost her child in the blast, and many court employees were injured either in the blast itself or in the aftermath. Fundraising drives for the victims and their families were held in the courthouse, and a popular T-shirt being sold features a law enforcement badge and the inscription, “In Memory, April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City.” The appeals court feels Alley risks having his impartiality questioned, and notes that both prosecuting and defense attorneys have requested his removal. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 254; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] In his request for Alley’s removal, defense lawyer Stephen Jones told reporters: “Judge Alley has a distinguished military, professional, and judicial career. Anyone who appears before him has the highest respect for him personally and professionally. However, our belief is that a victim of a traumatic incident cannot sit as a judge in a trial where the person accused of creating the incident is on trial. No one of us would want to be judged by such an individual.” [New York Times, 8/23/1995] US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan also asked that Alley step aside. In court papers, Ryan noted that there was no legal requirement that he do so, but stated that “[i]t is of paramount importance that the nation have complete confidence in the integrity of the verdict ultimately reached in this case, and that partisan detractors not be permitted—however wrongly—to raise questions about judicial fairness. There is too much at stake here to risk even an erroneous reversal, with all its attendant costs to the people of the United States, and most importantly, to the victims of this terrible crime. Failure to recuse could cause delay, uncertainty, and unwarranted focus on a matter that is collateral to the overriding issue of these defendants’ guilt or innocence.” [New York Times, 9/9/1995] Alley, who unsuccessfully fought to keep the case, wrote in a court filing regarding his removal, “The judge who succeeds to this case will have to bear a dreadful burden, and I wish him or her well.” Matsch has experience in similar trials; in 1987, he presided over the civil rights trial of four members of the white supremacist group The Order, who murdered progressive radio talk show host Alan Berg (see June 18, 1984 and After). He is known as a stickler for punctuality and order in his courtroom, brooking little nonsense from lawyers on either side of the case. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors white supremacist and military groups, calls Matsch’s selection “poetic justice.” Defense lawyers for both Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols say they are comfortable with Matsch presiding over the trials of their clients. [New York Times, 12/5/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 255]

Entity Tags: Richard P. Matsch, Morris Dees, Terry Lynn Nichols, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Wayne E. Alley, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Richard Matsch (see December 1, 1995), citing the defendants’ right to an impartial jury in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and November 21, 1995), moves the trial from Oklahoma City to Denver, Colorado. Matsch is the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Colorado, and is essentially moving the case to his “home” courtroom. Matsch rules that because of intensive negative media coverage of the bombing, neither Timothy McVeigh nor Terry Nichols can receive fair trials in Oklahoma City. “This court… concludes that there is so great a prejudice against these two defendants in the State of Oklahoma that they cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial at any place… in that state,” Matsch writes. McVeigh and Nichols have been “demonized” in the press, he continues. “The intensity of the humanization of the victims in the public mind is in sharp contrast with the prevalent portrayals of the defendants.… [T]he interests of the victims in being able to attend this trial in Oklahoma are outweighed by the court’s obligation to assure that the trial be conducted with fundamental fairness and with due regard for all constitutional requirements.” McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, says, “The judge examined all the evidence and saw that Oklahoma sees itself as the victims and that makes it difficult to get a fair trial here.” Prosecutors agreed that Oklahoma City was not the proper venue for the trial, but had asked that the trial be moved to Tulsa, only two hours from Oklahoma City; US Attorney Patrick Ryan, newly appointed by President Clinton to represent the Oklahoma City district, argued that moving the trial would present an undue hardship on the families of the victims who want to observe the trial. Attorney General Janet Reno says the government “does not have the right” to appeal Matsch’s decision and therefore is ready to move to trial “expeditiously.” Reno says the Justice Department would “pursue every means available to provide survivors and loved ones with an opportunity to observe and follow events in the courtroom.” Kathleen Treanor, who lost her daughter and her in-laws in the bombing, is angry with the decision, saying she had intended to go to the trials: “It stinks. Judge Matsch will not have to give up his bed or leave his home. He is inconvenienced in no way. I lost my only daughter and I won’t be able to afford to go.” But Toby Thompson, who lost his brother in the bombing, says: “It is very important that the trial be squeaky clean. If moving it to Nova Scotia would ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through it twice, that would be fine with me.” Legal experts say Matsch made the decision in order to obviate any possibility that the defense would use the venue of the trial as the basis for a possible appeal. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) criticizes the decision, saying Matsch moved the trial to Denver “for his personal comfort.… It is easier for him to go home and sleep in his own bed. That’s what his decision says to the hundreds and thousands of people impacted in this bombing. Its wrong on the facts and it’s wrong on the law.” Keating says he will coordinate with Governor Roy Romer (D-CO) and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, as well as the federal government, to fund transport and housing for relatives and friends of the victims who wish to attend the trials. [Washington Post, 2/21/1996; New York Times, 2/21/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 256; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Chicago jury consultant Joe Guaftaferro says of the venue change: “Colorado, from a jury perspective, could be risky. There’s a lot of white supremacists in those hills.” Public affairs law professor Rita Simon, an expert on the effects of publicity on a jury, says she agrees with Matsch’s decision, and adds, “With proper instruction, jurors could put aside any pretrial prejudice they may have picked up as a result of publicity about the case.” [New York Times, 2/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Patrick M. Ryan, Kathleen Treanor, Janet Reno, Frank Keating, Wellington Webb, Toby Thompson, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Roy Romer, Joe Guaftaferro, Rita J. Simon, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Jury selection begins in the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). Judge Richard Matsch has denied defense attempts to delay the trial after a brief controversy erupted over media reports using defense documents (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). “I have full confidence that a fair-minded jury can and will be impaneled and that those selected will return a just verdict based on the law and evidence presented to them,” Matsch wrote on March 17. Jurors’ identities are kept hidden from the press. One potential juror, asked by US Attorney Patrick Ryan, “Did you watch a lot of the coverage?” answers: “It was unavoidable. In Oklahoma, it was wall to wall and floor to ceiling.” Another potential juror says he worries about his safety in regards to what he will learn in the course of the trial: “It would seem this case goes further, wider, and deeper in many ways. A juror is going to be an insider on information he might just as soon not know.” [Washington Post, 3/18/1997; New York Times, 4/1/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The pressure of this being a death-penalty trial, and the prospect of potentially confusing forensic evidence countered by the raw emotions of the bombing itself and of the conspiracy theories surrounding the proceedings, raises oft-asked questions about the competence of 12 jurors to find the truth in such a complex situation. The difference between an open-minded juror and one who is ignorant or intellectually challenged is difficult for lawyers and observers to assess. New York Times reporter Laura Mansnerus reflects on the trial of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, charged with crimes relating to the Iran-Contra scandal (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989), in which, she writes: “When the jury was selected for the 1989 trial of Oliver North, a search went out for 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North, which produced, well, 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North. One person who qualified for service said she had seen him on television, but added, ‘It was just like I was focusing on the Three Stooges or something.’” That ill-informed jury proved remarkably pliable to North’s theatrics, Mansnerus writes, and many believe McVeigh’s defense team hopes for a similar jury pool that may be willing to set aside scientific evidence in favor of conspiracy theories and emotional pleas. Jury expert Jeffrey Abramson of Brandeis University tells Mansnerus: “In a case that’s heavy on scientific, forensic evidence, the defense is going to favor people who are less sophisticated about scientific matters and who are prone to conspiracy theories. That’s the classic defense approach.” Philadelphia prosecutor Jack McMahon warned in a well-known 1986 instructional video of the pitfalls that can result in letting “smart people” on the jury, saying: “Smart people will analyze the hell out of your case. They have a higher standard. They take those words ‘reasonable doubt’ and they actually try to think about them. You don’t want those people.” Moreover, people with jobs requiring any real level of responsibility are routinely excused from jury service; this case is no exception, leaving a pool of jurors with little or no steady employment, spotty educational status, and somtimes limited intellectual capabilities to judge McVeigh’s innocence or guilt. [New York Times, 4/6/1997]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Abramson, Timothy James McVeigh, Jack McMahon, Patrick M. Ryan, Laura Mansnerus, Richard P. Matsch

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The emotional testimony of a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) brings a prosecution lawyer to tears in the trial of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. The testimony takes place after a morning of tedious legal jousting over telephone records and arguments over McVeigh’s telephone card (see August 1994). Retired Army Captain Lawrence Martin, who worked in the Army recruiting station in the Murrah Federal Building on the day of the blast, tells of the seven colleagues who died that day. Martin’s testimony is handled by US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, who begins to well tears as he elicits Martin’s testimony about Sergeant Bill Titsworth from Fort Riley, who brought his wife and two young daughters to the recruiting station. Titsworth was slated to join Martin and his colleagues in working at the station, and wanted to show his family around his new workplace. Martin says he survived being blown through the wall of his office, though his injuries were so severe that he was forced to retire from service. Ryan asks about Titsworth’s youngest daughter, three-year-old Kayla. “She died that morning on the floor?” he asks. Martin replies, “Yes, sir.” By this point, Ryan is openly weeping; others at the prosecutors’ table are shedding tears, as are some reporters and jurors. In the back of the courtroom, victims and family members are openly crying. According to author Richard A. Serrano, “McVeigh did not flinch.” Ryan concludes his questioning, and says to Judge Richard P. Matsch, “I’m sorry, your honor.” Then he walks back to the prosecutors’ table and buries his head in his hands. [Associated Press, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 281-283]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Serrano, Bill Titsworth, Kayla Titsworth, Patrick M. Ryan, Richard P. Matsch, Lawrence Martin, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Security camera footage of the Ryder truck used by Timothy McVeigh to deliver the bomb as it is parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building just minutes before detonation. The truck is barely visible in the upper left of the frame.Security camera footage of the Ryder truck used by Timothy McVeigh to deliver the bomb as it is parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building just minutes before detonation. The truck is barely visible in the upper left of the frame. [Source: Associated Press]The defense in the trial 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) suffers a setback when a witness brought on to show that someone else could have bombed the Murrah Federal Building admits that one of the men she saw fleeing the scene might have been McVeigh. Daina Bradley, visiting the building on April 19 to get a Social Security number for her four-year-old son, lost her leg in the blast, and the family members accompanying her, including her mother, her son and her three-year-old daughter, died; her sister was also injured. Her rescuers had to amputate her leg to free her from the rubble. She has said in previous statements that she saw a dark-complexioned man not resembling the tall, pale McVeigh leave the passenger side of the Ryder truck and walk quickly away in the moments before the blast; some suspect Bradley is referring to the infamous, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). “It was a olive-complexion man with short hair, curly, clean-cut,” she testifies. “He had on a blue Starter jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes and a white [baseball cap] with purple flames.” But she now remembers a second man getting out of the driver’s seat of the truck, and says the man she saw resembled McVeigh. Prosecutors elicit the fact that Bradley suffers from serious memory problems and has been treated for mental illness. Her previous testimony had been taken in May 1995 by federal investigators who spoke with her while she was in the hospital recovering from her wounds. She says she has not told anyone about the second man she saw exit the truck until last week, when she spoke with prosecuting attorney Cheryl A. Ramsey. She then told US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, another prosecutor, of her memory of the second man. On the stand, Ryan asks her: “You told me that there was nothing that you saw about the man that ran across the street that was different than what you could see when you looked at Mr. McVeigh. There weren’t any differences that you could see.” She agrees. She also admits that she cannot remember the size of the truck or its orientation to the Murrah Building. [New York Times, 5/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 288-290]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Cheryl A. Ramsey, Murrah Federal Building, Daina Bradley, Patrick M. Ryan

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Richard P. Matsch denies a bid by lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) to disqualify US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan from serving in the trial. Ryan, the US Attorney from Oklahoma City, might cry during Nichols’s trial, Nichols’s lawyers argue, as he did during the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and thus unduly influence the jury. Ryan wept during his questioning of a witness who was testifying about the death of a little girl in the bombing (see May 3, 1997). Ryan says of the questioning: “I recognize my voice quivered. I stopped for about 10 seconds to try to regain control.” Matsch asks Ryan, “Do you believe you can participate in the trial of Terry Nichols with the necessary detachment required of a trial advocate?” Ryan says that he can, and pledges “proper decorum” during the trial; Matsch then denies the request. Matsch does grant a defense request to hold a hearing about what use the FBI made of correspondence it had seized belonging to Nichols. Defense attorney Michael Tigar presents testimony that shows officials of the Bureau of Prisons made copies of Nichols’s correspondence with his son, Josh, his wife, Marife, his mother, and some close friends in Michigan. Tigar says he protested the handing over of that correspondence to the FBI. Prosecutor James Orenstein tells Matsch that prison officials had the authority to give copies of the correspondence to the FBI, but admits the correspondence gave them nothing useful. Matsch rules: “We’re entitled to find that out. We’re going to hold a hearing and find out what was done with the mail.” [New York Times, 8/14/1997]

Entity Tags: Patrick M. Ryan, James Orenstein, Joshua Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, Richard P. Matsch, Timothy James McVeigh, Marife Torres Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), is officially sentenced to death by Judge Richard P. Matsch. The hearing is a formality, as a jury sentenced McVeigh to death the day before; the entire proceeding takes nine minutes. Before Matsch pronounces sentence, he allows McVeigh to speak on his own behalf. McVeigh does so—briefly and cryptically. McVeigh says: “If the court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote: ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’ That’s all I have.” McVeigh is referring to a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1928 decision, Olmstead v. United States, which upheld the use of wiretap evidence. Brandeis’s dissent said that the government may not commit crimes to enforce the law, and warned of “terrible retribution” if it did. Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, refuses to speculate as to why McVeigh chose to use that quote, though Jones says it is a favorite of his client. McVeigh believes the government broke the law in the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Jones’s defense partner, Christopher Tritico, tells reporters he is unfamiliar with the quote and will have to look it up. US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, part of the prosecution team, later says that McVeigh’s remarks were so fleeting that “I didn’t catch it all.” Many families of the bombing victims find McVeigh’s quote cryptic and unclear. Roy Sells, who lost his wife in the bombing, says: “I don’t know if he was referring to the Waco deal or what. I wish he would’ve quoted something from his own heart instead of out of somebody else’s book. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.” A survivor of the bombing, Paul Heath, says McVeigh’s statement makes it clear he remains unrepentant and still considers himself a revolutionary. During the proceeding, Matsch asks McVeigh for permission to release a letter McVeigh wrote to him on June 22, which asked that Jones be replaced by other lawyers from the defense team for his appeals: Richard Burr, Robert Nigh Jr., and Randall Coyne. The letter was not specific about McVeigh’s reason for requesting Jones’s removal, but cited “problems and difficulties I have had with my appointed counsel in the past.” McVeigh will publicly blame Jones for “screwing up” his trial, and has reportedly told a Buffalo News reporter that he believes Jones repeatedly lied to him about unnamed aspects of the trial (see August 14-27, 1997). Jones merely reminds reporters: “I did not seek this appointment. I am, as I said, a draftee” (see May 8, 1995). [New York Times, 8/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 320; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh will later explain his choice of quote to Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel. “I want people to think about the statement,” McVeigh will say. “What [lead prosecutor Joseph] Hartzler is trying to do is not have people learn. He wants to have them put their heads in the sand.” The Brandeis quote, McVeigh will say, reflects on the death penalty: the government says it is wrong for McVeigh to have killed, and yet “now they’re going to kill me. They’re saying that’s an appropriate way to right a wrong?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 321]

Entity Tags: Paul Heath, Lou Michel, Joseph H. Hartzler, Christopher L. Tritico, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Roy Sells, Richard Burr, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr, Randall Coyne, Louis Brandeis

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990), the wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), gives what analysts call a powerful defense of her husband during trial testimony. Her testimony is combined with that of three others to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertions that Nichols conspired with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to build and detonate the bomb that killed 168 people. The defense, already having attempted to establish that an unidentified person and not Nichols conspired with McVeigh (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), now tries to allege that McVeigh was a member of a much larger conspiracy that federal law-enforcement officials never seriously explored. The indictments against both McVeigh and Nichols say that “persons unknown” may have assisted McVeigh and Nichols in the bomb plot. The Washington Post observes that while the others’ testimonies may have helped Nichols, Nichols’s wife’s testimony may have “done more harm than good.” The New York Times agrees, saying that her testimony “seemed to confirm some of the strongest evidence against him.” [New York Times, 12/11/1997; Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Mechanic Testifies to Seeing Five Men at Bomb Building Site - Charles Farley, a mechanic from Wakefield, Kansas, testifies that on April 18, 1995, around 6:00 p.m., he came across five men and four vehicles, including a large Ryder truck and a farm truck laden with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, at Geary State Fishing Lake, near Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe that McVeigh and Nichols alone built the bomb at the state park sometime on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Farley says he later saw one of the men, an older man with gray hair and a beard, on television. A photo of the man is shown to the jury, but the man is not identified. Sources say the man is the leader of a Kansas paramilitary group.
BATF Informant Testifies - Carol Howe, a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995), then testifies, linking McVeigh to white supremacist Dennis Mahon and a group of Christian Identity supremacists living at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Howe says in the spring of 1994, Mahon took a call from a man he identified as “Tim Tuttle,” a known alias of McVeigh’s (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). Howe says she never told BATF or any other federal agents about the conversation because she did not know “Tuttle” was McVeigh. Howe also says she saw McVeigh at Elohim City in July 1994, in the company of two Elohim City residents, Peter Ward and Andreas Strassmeir. She says at the time she did not know McVeigh. After the bombing, Howe testifies, she told FBI investigators that Ward and his brother might be “John Doe No. 1 and No. 2,” the suspects portrayed in composite sketches circulated in the days after the bombing (see April 20, 1995). She testifies that in the days following the bombing, BATF agents showed her a videotape of McVeigh, and she told the agents she had seen McVeigh at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
White Supremacist Settlement Resident Testifies about Phone Call - Joan Millar, the daughter-in-law of Elohim City religious leader Robert Millar, testifies that on April 5, 1995, she believes she spoke to McVeigh on the telephone. Phone records show that McVeigh called a number in Elohim City on that date (see April 5, 1995). “When I answered the phone, it was a male voice,” she says. “He gave a name, but it wasn’t ‘McVeigh.’ He said that he had—he would be in the area within the next couple weeks and he wanted to know if he could come and visit Elohim City.” She says the caller was reluctant to explain how he knew of the settlement, then says he met some residents at a gun show. A man with “a very broad foreign accent” had given him a card with a telephone number on it, she says he told her. She asked if he had spoken to “Andy,” meaning Strassmeir, and the caller said that may be correct. Millar says the caller told her he would call again for directions, but never called back and never came to the settlement. Millar says that while Elohim City residents were angry and worried about the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), they planned no retaliation. Howe, however, testifies that she heard Strassmeir, Mahon, and Robert Millar advocate some sort of direct action against the federal government. Prosecutors have always maintained that Nichols and McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge the people who died at the Branch Davidian compound.
Testimony of Wife - Marife Nichols testifies that she heard her husband talk about the Davidian tragedy with McVeigh and his brother James Nichols, but says she “did not see Terry being so mad about Waco.” Marife Nichols walks the jury through the events of April 21, when she accompanied her husband to the Herington, Kansas, police station to give voluntary statements about the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She describes her husband as “pale and scared,” and says, “He told me his name was in the news and James Nichols was in the news, and they’re supposed to be armed and dangerous.” Her husband worried that they were being followed by “a black car” on their way to the police station. When he said that, she testifies, “I asked him right then, ‘Are you involved in this?’ and he said, ‘No.’” She testifies that before he returned from a November 1994 trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) he had told her that he was no longer having dealings with McVeigh (see March 1995). “I didn’t want Tim McVeigh in our life,” she says. [New York Times, 12/11/1997]
Cross-Examination Damaging to Defense Portrayal - Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar asserts that Marife Nichols’s testimony shows that “Terry Nichols was building a life, not a bomb.” However, under cross-examination, prosecutors quickly elicit details about the Nichols’s marriage that shows the two as distant and estranged, casting a new light on Marife Nichols’s attempt to portray their relationship as close and loving. She admits that for much of their seven-year marriage, they lived apart from one another, with her returning frequently to her home in the Philippines. She also admits that Nichols lied to her about breaking off his relationship with McVeigh, and that she suspected her husband was living a “secret life” that included numerous aliases and secret storage lockers, though she says as far as she knows, McVeigh was never in their home. She responds to questions about her husband’s shadowy activities by saying: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” She recalls finding a letter to Nichols from McVeigh the week before the bombing, and though she says she did not understand the letter entirely, she remembers some phrases, including “shake and bake” and “needed an excuse for your second half.” US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan shows her a pink receipt found in the Nichols home for a ton of ammonium nitrate that prosecutors say was used to make the bomb, a receipt made out to “Mike Havens,” an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). The receipt was wrapped around gold coins found at the back of her kitchen drawer; federal analysts found McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt. Ryan places two gold coins on the receipt, fitting them precisely into two dark impressions left on the receipt, presumably by the coins. The coins belong to Nichols, and may have come from a robbery Nichols perpetrated to help finance the bombing (see November 17-18, 1997). On April 16, she says, Nichols told her he was going to Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up McVeigh, when in reality he went to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have said that Nichols helped McVeigh stash the getaway car to be used on April 19 after the bomb was detonated (see April 13, 1995). He admitted lying to her about the April 16 trip just seconds before turning himself in on April 21, she says. She admits that Nichols had used a mail-order bride service to find her, and says he once told her, “Young ones were easier to train.” Marife Nichols was 17 when she married Nichols in November 1990; after they married in Cebu City, Philippines, he left her there and returned to the US without her, only bringing her to America months later. She says that she could not remember the exact date of their wedding. She also admits that when she joined Nichols in July 1991, she was pregnant with another man’s child. That child was found in 1993 dead with a plastic bag wrapped around his head; his death was ruled an accident. The two have two more children together. She is unable to offer an alibi for Nichols’s whereabouts on the morning of April 18, when prosecutors say he helped McVeigh construct the bomb. In saying she knew nothing about the storage lockers rented under aliases, she seems to contradict Tigar’s previous assertions that the storage lockers were used for storing innocent items and Nichols chose to use aliases merely to avoid creditors (see November 3, 1997). She also contradicts Nichols’s statements to the FBI that he had not seen McVeigh for months before the bombing.
Defense Rests - After Marife Nichols’s testimony concludes, the defense rests. The Post observes: “The defense’s eight-day case was aimed at generating confusion among jurors by poking holes in the government’s scenario, with the specter of additional accomplices and a second Ryder truck. At times, it seemed like the defense was trying to put the mysterious suspect John Doe No. 2—who was never identified and never found—on trial, instead of Nichols.” Nichols does not testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors Rebut Testimonies - The prosecution offers a brief rebuttal to the testimonies of witnesses who say they saw the Ryder truck at Geary Park earlier than April 17. State park employee Kerry L. Kitchener testifies that in April 1995, he was conducting a fishing survey at the park, and he saw no Ryder truck on April 10, 11, 13, 16, or 17, dates when defense witnesses said they had seen such a truck there. He testifies that he was not at the park on April 18, when prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh built the bomb there in a Ryder truck. [Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]

Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Charles Farley, Washington Post, Elohim City, Carole Howe, Andreas Strassmeir, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Millar, Timothy James McVeigh, Patrick M. Ryan, Kerry L. Kitchener, Joan Millar, Marife Torres Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, James Nichols, New York Times, Peter Ward

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Michael Fortier, a co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After) who cooperated with authorities in testifying against bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, May 12-13, 1997, and November 12-13, 1997), is sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the bomb plot, fined $200,000, and ordered to pay $4,300 in restitution. Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber’s decision seeks a middle ground between the relatives of bombing victims, who have demanded a harsh sentence for Fortier, and federal prosecutors, who recommend leniency for Fortier’s cooperation. Fortier’s lawyer Michael McGuire tells Van Bebber: “Michael Fortier did not believe Timothy McVeigh was going to carry out the bombing. For his negligence, he will always be the unforgiven man.” Fortier also receives credit for the 34 months he has already served in detention. In the sentencing hearing, Fortier apologizes to the victims for not turning in McVeigh and Nichols ahead of the bombing. “I deeply regret not taking the information I had to the police,” he says through tears. “I sometimes daydream that I did do this and became a hero, but [the] reality is that I am not.… I have paid close attention to the testimony given by the bombing survivors. The stories are so horrifying, so heartbreaking, and so full of human suffering that I cannot bear them. I am too weak to contemplate them for long. I feel as if my mind will break and I’ll cry and cry and never stop. Dear people, please, I offer my apology and I ask you to forgive me.… Please, please don’t let thoughts of me continue to hurt you.” Many survivors and victims’ relatives testify at the sentencing, telling of the grief and despair they and their families have suffered. Constance Favorite, who lost a daughter in the bombing, tells the judge: “All he needed to do was take responsibility and call. One phone call would have done it.” Marsha Kight, who also lost a daughter in the bombing, says Fortier’s sentence is too light. “Life in prison is what I would have considered enough,” she says. “I think he conspired. I think he helped buy components for the bomb. What do you call that?” Prosecutors call the sentence “appropriate” and say they are unmoved by Fortier’s declarations of remorse. “I think everyone in the courtroom had to think that it’s a little too late and a little too little,” says US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan. Van Bebber, chief judge of the US District Court for Kansas, was appointed to handle the sentencing because an appeals court ruled in 1995 that Oklahoma City federal judges had a potential conflict of interest in the case. The Oklahoma City federal courthouse sits across the street from where the Murrah building once stood, and itself was damaged by the bombing. [Washington Post, 5/28/1998; New York Times, 5/28/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Van Bebber rejected pleas for leniency from Fortier’s lawyers, who asked that Fortier be sentenced to serve the 33 months he has already been incarcerated—essentially setting him free immediately. He followed prosecutors’ recommendations that Fortier serve between 11 and 14 years, after saying that he was considering sentencing Fortier to over 17 years in prison. [New York Times, 5/13/1998] Fortier’s lawyers say they will appeal the sentence, and accuse prosecutors of misrepresenting the amount of jail time they would seek if Fortier cooperated with the investigation and testified in the McVeigh and Nichols trials. [Indianapolis Star, 2003] Fortier will win an appeal of his sentencing; the appellate court will find that Van Bebber used sentencing guidelines that were too strict. Fortier’s jail sentence will remain the same, but his fine will be reduced to $75,000. [The Oklahoman, 4/2009] He serves his sentence in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). He will be released in January 2006, after serving 10 years and six months of his sentence. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]

Entity Tags: Marsha Kight, G. Thomas Van Bebber, Michael Joseph Fortier, Michael McGuire, Constance Favorite, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Timothy James McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef, Patrick M. Ryan, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

One of the documents turned over to the lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) is a report about a purported eyewitness to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) whose statements were attacked during McVeigh’s trial. Eyewitness Morris John Kuper Jr. called the FBI two days after the bombing to say that an hour before the bombing, he saw a man resembling McVeigh walking in the company of another man near the Murrah Federal Building. He told agents that he saw both men get into an old, light-colored car similar to the Mercury Marquis McVeigh was arrested in later that morning (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). In court, Kuper described the other man as being similar to a sketch of the suspected, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Kuper also testified that he told agents they should check security cameras at two nearby buildings to see if they caught anything, but, Kuper told the court, “they took my name and phone number and never contacted me again.” FBI documents show that he contacted the FBI via email in October 1995, not on April 21 as he claimed; US Attorney Patrick Ryan challenged Kuper’s credibility in court over the discrepancy in dates. The newly discovered document details Kuper’s conversation with agents on April 21. Ryan says now that he never knew the document existed: “I certainly would never intentionally tell the jury someone had not come forward for six months if I knew they had come forward a couple of days after the bombing.” Ryan says that he still believes Kuper and other defense witnesses who claimed to have seen others accompanying McVeigh before the bombing were “fairly unreliable. The problem with any of these witnesses, even if some were right, you didn’t know which were the right ones and which were the wrong ones.” At the time, fellow prosecutor Beth Wilkinson compared the “John Doe No. 2” accounts to “Elvis sightings.” McVeigh has also said that “John Doe No. 2” does not exist. [New York Times, 5/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Morris John Kuper, Jr, Beth Wilkinson, Patrick M. Ryan, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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