1280px-Oklahoma_City_memorial

[Above:  The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The memorial is located in downtown Oklahoma City on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in the 1995 bombing with the remaining structure being demolished.]

A federal judge overseeing a trial in which a Utah lawyer claims that the FBI withheld evidence in the Oklahoma Bombing case, wants an investigation into whether the FBI tampered with witnesses in the civil trial.  Jesse Trentadue claims his brother, Kenneth, was killed in an interrogation room by federal agents when he was mistaken for an OKC bombing co-conspirator.  Trentadue wants records to prove his allegations, including a video.  The 1995 bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people.  Trentadue says that his FOIA requests (Freedom of Information Act) for surveillance videos from around the bombing site have not been fulfilled.  The FBI claims that they have provided Trentadue with everything they have.  Trentadue says that he has not received a video which recorded a Ryder truck pull up in front of the federal building that April 19th, which allegedly shows two people walking away before the bomb goes off.

The FBI has contended that they have spent more than 85 hours searching for the video and that it does not exist.  But, the FBI has admitted that they have given Trentadue incomplete records at times and that they have failed to ask other FBI locations for requested items.  In addition, the FBI admitted that their files on the case, which take up a warehouse by themselves, are not complete and that some documents and videos, including one of Timothy McVeigh after he was arrested were in the custody of others.

Trentadue’s brother, Kenneth, was arrested in 1995 for a parole violation, he died in custody.  Trentadue says his brother was beaten to death.  The Justice Department says his brother committed suicide by hanging.  His death was officially ruled a suicide, but his body has 41 wounds and bruises that are unexplained, according to Trentadue.   U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups indicated that he will now appoint a federal magistrate judge to oversee further investigation.

Trentadue wants the video because he believes that McVeigh was not alone in the truck that a second suspect was there.  He believes that his brother was picked up because he resembled a sketch of suspect John Doe No. 2, who was never identified.

Kenneth Trentadue, a convicted bank robber, was arrested for probation violations after coming back to the U.S. from Mexico.  He was taken to Oklahoma.  In 2008, the family was awarded $1.1 million for extreme emotional distress as the result of the government’s handling of the death.  That amount was reduced to $900,000 during appeal.

The witness tampering allegations are over the testimony of John Matthews.  Matthews is an undercover government agent, who Trentadue says knew McVeigh.  He refused to testify in the case.  Trentadue is accusing the FBI of intimidating Matthews, claiming FBI Special Agent Adam Quirk told him he didn’t have to testify without a subpoena.  An official report of the conversation between Matthews and the investigator chastised the FBI for failing to notify the Justice Department that Quirk had contact with a potential witness and stated that Quirk told Matthews things that “could be mistaken…as legal advice.”

The FBI contends that Matthews did not want to testify because he does not trust Trentadue.  The testimony was to contain the fact that Matthews allegedly told the FBI that he saw McVeigh and another man at a militia training camp in Texas before the bombing and was told to “stand down”.  This unidentified man is allegedly John Doe No. 2.

“There’s no doubt in my mind and it’s proven beyond any doubt that the FBI knew the bombing was going to take place months before it happened,” he told the media outside of court last week, “They didn’t stop it, and then the question becomes…why didn’t you stop it?”

Jesse Trentadue said FBI doesn’t want to find the video tapes he has sought since 2008 because they would show that there were others involved in the bombing that were never arrested and that the FBI knew beforehand about the bombing, but failed to take it seriously.  The FBI contends that McVeigh alone dropped off the bomb outside the building and that they had no knowledge beforehand. In addition, the FBI’s Office of Inspections did not timely file their investigation into the allegations until the judge threatened them with contempt.

“This illustrates why the FBI cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” Jesse Trentadue said.

“It’s too important of an issue to leave with ambiguities,” the judge said.

Linda Vernon, a longtime FBI employee who became the point person for the collection of evidence after the bombing, said she is “completely confident” that all videos that exist today have been found.  The judge is not satisfied though that the FBI can’t find the video, which is noted in evidence logs.

Secret Service evidence logs describe a security video that shows suspects, in plural form, exiting a vehicle three minutes before the bomb went off.  The log was authenticated by a Secret Service agent in 2004.  However, the details of the video were pulled from various reports that were never verified.  Investigators and prosecutors on the case told the media a decade ago that they never saw a video like the one described.

The civil case is to decide whether the FBI did their best to locate evidence in compliance with FOIA.

Timothy McVeigh was arrested within 90 minutes of the explosion for driving without a license plate and possessing a weapon.  McVeigh was motivated by his hatred of the federal government after the controversial Waco Siege and Ruby Ridge incidents.  The attack coincided with the 2nd anniversary of the end of the Waco Siege.  76 people died in the Waco Siege including 22 children and one pregnant woman.  Texas law enforcement and the military were raiding the commune to execute a search warrant.  Four ATF agents were also killed.

Ruby Ridge resulted in the deaths of Vicki and Sammy Weaver, and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Francis Degan.  In the aftermath, a congressional investigation as well as a Department of Justice review found that the conduct of the officials, many of which were also involved in the Waco Siege, and the agencies’ policies needed changing.  Randy Weaver was convicted only on the counts that were related to the initial cause of the raid and was sentenced to 18 months.  His family received $3 million in compensation for the deaths of his wife and 14-year-old son.  They were killed while standing unarmed behind a door.

The exact events in both civil disturbances remain controversial and contentious.

Timothy McVeigh was convicted of 11 counts of murder and conspiracy after the jury deliberated for 23 hours.  He was sentenced to death and was executed in 2001.

Terry Nichols, an alleged co-conspirator, was convicted of conspiring to build a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) and 8 counts of involuntary manslaughter.  He was sentenced to life without parole in 1998.  Since the trial was a federal case, the State of Oklahoma initiated a death-penalty case against Nichols in 2000.  Court precedent says that there is no double jeopardy protection for charges by the federal and state governments even if they are the same and/or for the same events.  Nichols was charged with 161 counts of 1st degree murder.  In 2004, the jury found him guilty on all charges, but deadlocked on sentencing.  Judge Steven Taylor sentenced Nichols to life without parole.

Michael and Lori Fortier were alleged co-conspirators as well.  Michael Fortier assisted McVeigh in scouting a bombing location.  In a plea deal, he agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife.  He was sentenced to 12 years in 1998 and a $75,000 fine for failing to warn authorities about an impending attack.  In 2006, after serving 10 1/2 years, he was released for good behavior and entered the Witness Protection Program with his wife.  Lori Fortier allegedly laminated a fake driver’s license for McVeigh, which he later used to rent the truck he put the bomb in.

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