Interview With The Grand Juror Who Wouldn't Shut Up: The Oklahoma City Bombing Case - Part Two
BY JON RAPPOPORT
Author of Oklahoma City Bombing - The Suppressed Truth
In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy on April 19, 1995, independent researchers have begun to lift the lid on very troubling details of the crime. As in the JFK assassination, disturbing evidence of a different sort of murder scenario from the official version has emerged; and typically it has been relegated to the "conspiracy file" by the mainstream press. Very serious questions about bombs other than the ammonium nitrate truck bomb have surfaced. McVeigh himself in some eyes begins to appear as the dupe, the patsy left holding the bag. Key stories about federal law enforcement agencies having advance warning of a bombing in Oklahoma City are gaining credibility. Researchers on the scene in Oklahoma City are talking about the FBI intimidating witnesses and thereby shaping a false version of events. The Grand Jury itself which has brought indictments against Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols has come under fire for ignoring other potential suspects.
Are we being treated to what is basically a gigantic government press release, a foreshortening and distorting of the case?
On December 14, 1995, I interviewed Hoppy Heidelberg, a grand juror in the Oklahoma City case. Several months earlier Heidelberg had, off the record, engaged in a conversation with Lawrence Myers of Media Bypass magazine. Subsequently thrown off the Grand Jury by Judge David Russell for allegedly going public in the subsequent Media Bypass article, Heidelberg is very critical of the government's refusal to pursue murder suspects beyond Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Which suspects? Start especially with the notorious John Doe 2.
Grand jurors are not permitted to reveal details of legal proceedings on pain of contempt-of-court citation and imprisonment. Heidelberg has now risked being accused of this, because he feels his Grand Jury was steered away from evidence that could implicate the government itself in the bombing.
Has such a straightforward rebellion by a grand juror ever taken place before in a high profile American trial? After the Media Bypass article appeared, the major media gave the Heidelberg story one or two days and passed on to more routine matters: car accidents, murders, storms and potential medical breakthroughs.
Meanwhile Heidelberg has wrestled with his discovery that grand juries are basically run by the prosecuting attorneys who herd jurors like sheep in bringing indictments. (Indictment being the end product of a grand jury, the defendant is then bound over for trial.)
However, with a little research Heidelberg has also discovered that grand juries are potentially vital bodies in which jurors are legally permitted to actually bypass prosecutors and question witnesses directly, find and call witnesses and in general investigate the crime at hand.
Such a citizen-body, if honored -- not sidetracked and intimidated by prosecutors and judges -- would, of course, add a whole new dimension to the American legal scene. In practice though, these grand juries are never allowed to exercise their legally endowed powers. This was the very personal discovery of Heidelberg and it has obviously made him more determined to expose what he considers gross shortcomings in the legal system.
Across the U.S., several million, yes million, people are plugging into very active underground networks of news composed of faxes, videos, internet groups, alternative newspapers and magazines and self-published literature -- all of which present challenging and unofficial scenarios of the federal building bombing.
Heidelberg has formed his own unofficial perceptions close up to the action in the Oklahoma case and that is what we discussed in our interview.
[Real History Archives note: Boldface type is Rappopport. Indented text is Hoppy Heidelberg.]
How many John Does are there?
People who were with McVeigh?
These witnesses who saw the other John Does -- were any of them brought forward to testify in the Grand Jury?
Were any of the John Does brought forward?
So all these suspects are left completely alone by law enforcement.
My understanding is you feel that John Doe 2 was not pursued by the prosecution because he could well turn out to be a government informant or agent. That would link the government to the bombing.
Did you think you'd get what you wanted in the Grand Jury? The presentation of evidence you felt was vital?
You had some kind of book on jurors' duties with you in the Grand Jury room.
Did you think the government knows who John Doe 2 is?
But they also said Bunting wasn't guilty of any crime.
When did you decide to go public with your dissatisfaction with the Grand Jury?
You eventually hired an attorney, didn't you?
In a letter you wrote to the judge, David Russell, you said bomb experts and geologists and engineers should be called as witnesses. Why?
Did you request that?
The bomb is the key to the whole case.
Was any of this discussed in the Grand Jury?
It's clear that if the truck bomb couldn't and didn't cause the major damage to the federal building, then other explosives were used, charges placed on the pillars inside the building. Then we have a whole new situation -- obviously an operation that is highly professional involving other people. None of this was brought up in the Grand Jury?
Some people think the trial itself will be a forum, an opportunity to bring forward these ignored witnesses as well as air a great deal of information about the truck bomb fallacy and other bombs set inside the building. I think Jones, McVeigh's attorney, will try to bring this up one time and the judge will call him to the bench and say, "Mr. Jones, these other possible shadowy perpetrators are not on trial here. Only Mr. McVeigh, your client, is. So I'm ruling out all this 'wider conspiracy' business. I don't want to hear it again." And Jones will say, "Yessir," and go sit down and that will be the end of that.
Of course, just to get an initial indictment on McVeigh, all they needed --
Let's talk about Michael Fortier, McVeigh's friend. At first when the FBI questioned him he said McVeigh would never have blown up the federal building and killed all those people. He said all the FBI had on McVeigh was his arrest for a traffic violation and a concealed weapons charge. Then a couple of months later he's saying that he and McVeigh actually went to Oklahoma City and cased the federal building with an eye to bombing it. What's going on there?
You mean on Fortier's confession? He's confessed to being a participant in the bombing.
I don't understand.
That's pretty strong.
In the Media Bypass article, you said he was just a kid and the FBI put a big scare into him.
Well, I know there was a weapons charge they were threatening Fortier with, and I believe they also said they'd put his wife in jail if he didn't cooperate.
Wearing him down.
Are you serious?
Not smart enough --
The FBI couldn't arrest him?
I'm digesting this. It's very bizarre.
But eventually he did give them what they wanted. He confessed to being involved in the crime with McVeigh.
He confessed to planning the bombing with McVeigh.
Well, if he hasn't made an outright confession --
I have no idea. If Fortier and McVeigh were traveling from Kingman to Southern Kansas . . .
Oh. Fortier just told the FBI they had been in Oklahoma City on their way to Kansas? That's all? He didn't say they were casing the federal building?
Well, all right. If Fortier never told the FBI they cased the building . . .
In between? You mean, it's between they were just passing through Oklahoma City and they were casing the building?
Fortier told the FBI they were in Oklahoma City on the way to Kansas and they went by the federal building and they looked at it. Something like that.
And there was never a real admission about planning to blow up the building.
Fortier, the prosection's big witness, never confessed. Is that what you're saying? Not even close?
But the prosecution didn't need him to gain an indictment against McVeigh. They want Fortier as a witness in the actual trial. Big time. But if his statement is so far south of being a confession, then they can't really use him at the trial.
The FBI spent all this time pressuring the hell out of Fortier --
So in other words, he never confessed to casing the building with McVeigh. The media has completely exaggerated it. Fortier and McVeigh were driving through Oklahoma City on the way to Kansas and they passed by the federal building. Something like that. And the media stretched that.
And the FBI spent so much time pressuring Fortier to link McVeigh to the bombing because they had nothing better.
But you feel McVeigh is linked to the bombing.
As I say, I know you can't be very specific about exactly what happened inside the Grand Jury, but you seem to be saying that the FBI used very poor sources to gain an indictment against McVeigh.
This seems to be part of a pattern.
For example, judging from the arrest warrant on McVeigh issued by the FBI on April 21, they rely on unnamed witnesses who saw McVeigh at the scene of the bombing. Witnesses who were found miraculously before McVeigh's arrest on the 21st. That's extremely quick work. There's one guy who saw the police artist's sketch of McVeigh on TV and came forward.
That's what I'm saying. None of these witnesses' names have been released. I'll read you the piece from my book. "On April 21st, a man who used to work with McVeigh called the FBI. He had just seen the artist's . . . sketch on TV. He said McVeigh was a right-winger. Had been in the Army and had at one point gone to Waco to look at the ruins of the Branch Davidian compound. McVeigh was very upset about what had happened there, what the federal agents had done. This man gave the FBI an address, 1711 Stockton Hill Road, Kingman, Arizona."
Must be a psychic.
That's what I mean. It's probable that the FBI is using extremely thin pretexts in accusing McVeigh.
But yet McVeigh is involved.
None of it?
There is the possibility that some of that tape showed the federal building collapsing. The shape of that collapse could make it clear that the truck bomb was not the real device that caused the major damage to the building. That instead, interior charges placed on the columns did the job, because that's very easy to see. It looks like a demolition. The building collapsing in on itself. We've all seen that a hundred times on television.
So the Grand Jury indicts McVeigh. But the evidence brought forward by the FBI for that indictment is extremely thin. They do this on purpose. You feel that McVeigh was definitely involved in the bombing, but the FBI held back. They didn't provide any real evidence to the Grand Jury.
You know there was a witness to the building collapsing on April 19?
A man named Peter Schaffer. Not long after the bombing I spoke with a reporter on the Daily Oklahoman newspaper, Ann Defrange. She said that a man named Peter Schaffer told her he had seen the building collapse in on itself from the top down. That would be a classic implosion signifying charges placed inside the building on the columns. When I spoke with Schaffer he denied seeing the building fall down at all. I got back to Defrange. She remained very definite about what Schaffer had told her. She didn't budge at all.
So what we've got here is an attempt by the FBI and the prosecution to indict McVeigh in the Grand Jury without introducing other evidence that could be somehow damaging to the prosecution's case.
The FBI sticks to very thin evidence and ignores the more solid evidence because the solid evidence contains uncomfortable information that could somehow link the government to the bombing.
The truck bomb couldn't have caused the major damage to the federal building. That indicates the presence of other professional participants who planted charges inside the building. The FBI and the prosecution and the Grand Jury ignore all this. They don't want to bring this up, so they simply focus on McVeigh and Nichols and no one else. They concentrate on Fortier, browbeat him, and still they get nothing of substance from him.
Before my second conversation with Heidelberg on December 16, 1995, I reviewed material on Michael Fortier's indictment. Fortier will apparently be the state's star witness against McVeigh. He's a very shaky star.
Reading through the plea-bargained charges finally drawn against Fortier which were formally filed on August 11, 1995, it's clear that he never told the FBI he and McVeigh "cased the federal building" just prior to the April 19 bombing. Fortier said that he and McVeigh simply drove through Oklahoma City on their way to Kansas and passed the federal building. The Daily Oklahoman states that McVeigh at this point "pointed to the . . . building as the bombing target." That remains to be seen. At any rate, this car trip to Kansas actually took place on December 16, 1994, four months before the bombing.
Federal prosecutor Joseph Hartzler, according to the Daily Oklahoman (August 11, 1995) "noted that Fortier was not charged as a conspirator in the bombing and said the government has no evidence that he participated in that conspiracy."
So what was Fortier charged with? Having knowledge of the McVeighNichols bomb plot before and after the fact. He was also charged with keeping that knowledge from the FBI. He was also charged with helping to transport stolen firearms (not bombs) across state lines.
Heidelberg had said that in arriving at a plea bargain FBI investigators had put "huge 24-hour-a-day pressure on Fortier for several months, during which time Fortier had no attorney and no one to advise him. Fortier could absolutely have walked if he were more experienced," said Heidelberg.
It does appear possible that Fortier's admission of the charges finally filed against him by the government was not a compromise downward in his favor, but instead the result of pressure exerted upward, so to speak, toward more culpability on his part.
If Mr. Jones, McVeigh's attorney, has a real desire to represent his client, Fortier looks like he could come apart under cross-examination. Why? Because if these charges filed against Fortier are made out of scare tactics and forced exaggerations by the FBI, that can be dissected on the stand. Fortier, the so-called star witness, could admit that his "prior knowledge of the bombing plot" was really non-existent. That, for example, in reality he had only heard conversation from McVeigh about "possibilities," not a definite plot.
If Fortier does come apart under cross-examination, that could create a psychological window of opportunity for the in-court or even out-of-court introduction of evidence showing a wider conspiracy in which McVeigh is the patsy, the dupe.
But Mr. Jones does not seem like the lawyer to risk his career on a fully armed defense of his client, McVeigh. As usual, that leaves outmoded objectives, like honesty, questioning authority and digging for the truth up to private citizens. Welcome to America, 1996.
Obviously, Heidelberg was leading me to a conclusion about what kind of evidence the FBI was using in this case and what kind they were ignoring. He seemed to be saying that the FBI used the thinnest of pretexts to get an indictment on McVeigh and Nichols while holding back other kinds of evidence which could implicate the government in the bomb plot. I had some of that nailed down from the first interview, but I felt there was more to grasp here. Maybe it was just too simple and I wasn't seeing it. We started off the second conversation talking about McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, and I hoped that we would get to a more stark understanding of what the FBI and the prosecution were really up to with their manipulation of evidence. Eventually, we did. And as simple as the truth was, it was quite a shock.
The Media Bypass article said the FBI put a lot of pressure on McVeigh's sister. Like Fortier, she started out strongly defending her brother, and ended up being a witness against him. I mean, a sister testifying against her brother . . .
Did McVeigh's sister say McVeigh told her he had worked for a special operations Army group that was engaged in criminal activity?
That her brother told her such a special operations group existed?
That they had recruited him and he turned them down.
He didn't testify at the Grand Jury?
McVeigh's behavior is so inconsistent. His combat scores as a soldier are in the top 5 percent. He's said to be obvious officer material. He's smart. But then they say he purchased 4,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate and left his fingerprint on the receipt. A few days before the bombing he registered at the Dreamland Motel in Kansas under his real name. He drives away from the federal building on April 19 in a Mercury Marquis with no license plate and gets stopped by a state trooper outside town and arrested ninety minutes after the bombing.
Unless he's a drug addict or drunk.
One was possibly Steve Colbern who has been in police custody since last May. They reportedly found a speed lab in back of Colbern's trailer.
If McVeigh didn't really understand that this was a parallel operation, with secret interior charges placed inside the building and planned to go off simultaneously with the truck bomb . . .
The they that you mention, would then be some part of the government. Let's get back to John Doe 2. Here the prosecution manipulates the evidence by completely excluding the whole idea of John Doe 2 from the Grand Jury, isn't that right?
You mean, you pointed it out.
Didn't you ask for a bomb expert?
How did you feel when you first got on to the Grand Jury?
You've had attention from the mainstream press. You were on Good Morning America and The Today Show.
Who doesn't do the story, for example?
There are so many uninterviewed people in this story.
Unless they have been told to shut up about it. Unless this is more manipulation of evidence.
Now, we're getting back to what you were implying in the first interview. Are you telling me that no witnesses who saw McVeigh driving a truck in the vicinity of the federal building on the morning of the bombing testified at the grand jury?
Government informants or agents.
Well, that's what you're saying then. The FBI uses incredibly thin evidence and keeps back the real witnesses because they could tie some fraction or faction of the government to the bombing itself.
All right. Now I see what you're getting to. This is staggering to me. I mean we have a bunch of witnesses, real witnesses, who saw McVeigh at the scene of the bombing with other people, other John Does. The Grand Jury doesn't call any of them. They show you no surveillance videotape. Instead they browbeat Fortier, someone you say could have walked completely, had absolutely minimal involvement with any of this. I mean a Grand Jury is supposed to be a place where the crime is looked into.
Concealment of evidence so that John Doe 2 is kept out of it, and other suspects, other John Does are kept out of it, because somehow these other perpetrators would make it very uncomfortable for the government. They would open up the case into other areas. Areas showing government involvement.
No, I can't.
What do you mean?
From what you tell me, we're talking about a fair number of involved people.
McVeigh won't say who they are?
Because he's the good soldier?
After possibly being recruited by people who said they were Patriots.
These "Patriots" could have told him, "We're connected to a few good people inside this corrupt government in Washington. People who still want to save this country. They're our ultimate employer in this."
Do you think, sitting in jail, McVeigh hasn't figured out these recruiters set him up as the patsy?
Jon Rappoport is the author of Oklahoma City Bombing - The Suppressed Truth. A candidate for U.S. Congress in 1994, he hosts the weekly Free Form Radio on KPFK in Los Angeles. An investigative reporter for fifteen years, he has written articles on politics, health, and media for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Europe. His book on the Oklahoma City bombing can be ordered by phoning (213) 243-9005.
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