Documents Show FBI Warned Of Murrah Bombing
By Jerry Bohnen/NewsRadio 1000 KTOK ~ The federal government attempted in 2005 to reach a deal with bomber Terry Nichols to take the death penalty off the table in his Oklahoma murder trial if he admitted to making a warning phone call to the FBI the day before the 1995 bombing, according to new documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents were released to Jesse Trentadue, the Salt Lake City attorney who's been in a 15-year fight with the federal government to prove his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was mistakenly beaten to death during an FBI interrogation because he closely resembled a man who ran with Tim McVeigh in robbing banks.
They also corroborate Nichols' claims that the government tried to get him to admit to making an April 18, 1995 phone call to the FBI warning of the bombing. Nichols claimed he knew nothing of the call.
"What that indicates to me, there is a record somewhere of that phone call and the FBI needs to explain it," said Trentadue in an interview with KTOK News. "If the call was from one of their informants with McVeigh, clearly, they had knowledge of the bombing and didn't stop it."
The attempt to reach a deal with Nichols occurred in 2005 as he was held in the Oklahoma County jail in Oklahoma City.
Nichols was visited by an attorney named Michael Selby who claimed he was working 'off the books' in representing the federal government. Selby promised the federal government would make sure its agents would not testify and support the state of Oklahoma's efforts in pushing for the death penalty if he agreed to three things. The first would be to admit he made the telephone call to the FBI warning of the bombing.
"This was the first I had ever heard of such a telephone call having made made," said Nichols in an affidavit filed recently in Utah U.S. District court. "And I told Mr. Selby that as well as the fact that I had not made that telephone call."
The second demand from the government was to implicate his brother, James Nichols, which Nichols refused to do.
The third demand was to reveal the location of a box of explosives taken from the home of Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore. Nichols refused to comply because he said he knew Moore's fingerprints would be on the box and he wanted to keep the materials out of the hands of the FBI.
"He was fearful the FBI would come into possession of it and then no one would ever know who else was involved," explained Trentadue. "And his fears proved true because the FBI apparently found out about the box of explosives hidden in the basement (of the Nichols home) and got the box."
The explosives were discovered in 2005 in the crawl space of the Herington, Kansas home where Nichols had lived. The discovery came 10 years after Nichols' arrest and following a search of his home by federal agents in 1995. The explosives were not destroyed until 2008 by the FBI.
FBI documents given to Trentadue reveal fingerprints of McVeigh and Nichols were found on the box along with others whose names were redacted by the government. The hidden box contained three hand flares, a coiled length of red fuse, 3 tear smoke CN grenades, hundreds of detonators, 52 Primadet detonator systems and a book about homemade detonators and another called 'The Poisoner's Handbook."
The fingerprints of Terry Nichols were found on the materials. So were fingerprints of an individual whose name was redacted by the FBI. Hair samples were also studied by experts at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. They were found not to be from McVeigh and Nichols and two other names that were redacted.
In reviewing the newly-found evidence, the FBI resubmitted materials taken from the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas as well as fingernail scrapings from Tim McVeigh.
And the laboratory resubmitted pubic hair samples from an individual whose name was redacted in the documents. Trentadue believes the government was desperate to reach the box before Nichols could make its location known to Homeland Security rather than the FBI. The attorney says it would have shown others were involved as government informants in the bombing conspiracy.
"When you look at these documents, that this was being monitored, this search for the box of explosives at the highest levels within the Department of Justice, right up to and include the White House I think, I mean, this wasn't your local FBI office handling this. This was being run right out of the main justice n Washington D.C."
The dozens of pages of FBI memos, complete with redacted names, reflect how the FBI interviewed Nichols in the spring of 2005 in Denver, Colorado. During the interviews, Nichols claimed he knew the identity of the 'John Doe Two' but refused to reveal the name for fear his family would be harmed.
"Nichols advisted John Doe #2's name had not been mentioned during the investigation and, as a result, he feared for his and his family's well being should it becomg public," wrote an agent.
Nichols made other admissions in an April 28, 2005 interview with the FBI.
"Nichols revealed the location of a rifle which he also stole from (redacted) and hid in a river bank near Herington, Kansas. He deposited McVeigh's Arizona license plate in a river north of Herington," stated the documents.
The same document explained Nichols told agents his family had no knowledge of the Oklahoma City bombing and 'there was no plan for a second bombing'.
"FBI Kansas City recovered a .50 caliber rifle from a river bank near Herington, Kansas from information provided during the Nichols interview," stated the document dated June 17, 2005 and sent to the FBI Director's office from Squad 12 located in Denver. The names of the agent authors were redacted.
Nichols was interviewed again in May, 2005 and Nichols 'stated he had no knowledge about McVeigh's involvement in any bank robberies'. Nichols also claimed he had no knowledge of any foreign terrorists or organizations in the Oklahoma City bombing.
The issue of the Arizona license plate raises some questions. It reportedly was the tag on the Mercury Marquise driven by Tim McVeigh when he fled Oklahoma City minutes after the bombing of the Murrah building. Witnesses claimed they saw it hanging by one screw.
Within days, the FBI had conducted a massive ground search by law officers on foot and horseback along I-35 leading out of Oklahoma City. The tag was never reportedly found. When McVeigh was stopped by Highway Patrolman Charlie Hangar on I-35 near Perry, his car had no license plate. That was the reason for the traffic stop. Yet Nichols maintained in the 2005 interview with FBI agents he tossed the license plate into a river near Herington, Kansas.
Trentadue says Nichols told him he discovered the car tag in a storage unit in Herington and discarded it.
The FBI documents also show how agents would not allow Nichols to be alone with Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) who interviewed him in 2005 in the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum prison in Florence, Colorado.
It is Trentadue's belief that Nichols intended to tell the congressman the identity of John Doe Two, but Nichols would not do so in the presence of the FBI agents.
The matter of the government's attempted deal with Nichols was first brought to KTOK's attention after his state murder trial in McAlester where he was convicted and given life in prison.
A court-appointed defense attorney for Nichols, prior to his murder trial, was Rod Uphoff who was present during the meetings with the government intermediary, Michael Selby. Uphoff could only vaguely verify the meetings at the time, saying he was still bound by attorney-client relations and would need the release of Terry Nichols.
As for Jesse Trentadue, he will continue his battle with the FBI and the Department of Justice to learn more of the truth of the Oklahoma City bombing.
"My quest is to prove my brother was murdered because he was mistaken for one of the participants in the bombing," he vowed. "Once I'm able to prove there were others, including Richard Lee Guthrie who my brother was mistaken for, that gives me the motive for why my brother was murdered."
His brother was found dead in the summer of 1995 in a cell at the Oklahoma City Federal Corrections Institute. A controversial investigation led to a State Medical Examiner's conclusion that Kenneth Trentadue committed suicide but the M-E later said he had been coerced by federal agents into making that determination.