SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawyer suing the FBI over his public records request for surveillance videos from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing said Tuesday that one of his witnesses backed out after being visited by government officials last week.
Utah attorney Jesse Trentadue made the accusation Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups during the second day of the trial, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
“I think this is a serious matter,” Trentadue said.
Waddoups agreed and ordered lawyers representing the FBI to find out if anyone told John Matthews not to testify. The attorneys said they were unaware of what happened.
Trentadue says Matthews was set to testify about a government investigation that had ties to the Oklahoma City bombing investigation, and about how evidence was gathered and records pertaining to evidence were prepared.
The trial stems from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Trentadue filed against the FBI in 2008.
Trentadue says the agency is refusing to release videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb that killed 168 people. The government says McVeigh was alone.
The FBI has given Trentadue 30 video recordings in response to his FOIA request, but none shows the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in the truck.
Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations and citing the public importance of the tapes, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find videos that are mentioned in evidence logs.
The FBI has brought employees to the stand to explain how the agency has thoroughly searched its archives and found no evidence that more videos exist. Additional searches would be burdensome and fruitless, FBI attorney Kathryn Wyer argued during the first day of a bench trial.
Diane Lang, an FBI evidence technician in Oklahoma City, said Tuesday that she is convinced all video tapes of the bombing have been located, echoing what other FBI employees said Monday.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday with Trentadue bringing at least four of his witnesses as he tries to show Waddoups that the FBI has not adequately searched for the videos.
If Trentadue wins at trial, he hopes to be able to search for the tapes himself rather than having to accept the FBI’s answer that they don’t exist.
Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect explains why his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was flown to Oklahoma several months after the bombing, where he died in a federal holding cell. Kenneth Trentadue bore a striking resemblance to a police sketch based on witness descriptions of the enigmatic suspect “John Doe No. 2,” who was never identified.
Trentadue’s 44-year-old brother, who was a convicted bank robber and construction worker, was brought to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City after being picked up for probation violations while coming back to the U.S. at the Mexican border, Jesse Trentadue said.
Kenneth Trentadue’s death was officially labeled a suicide. But his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes were the result of a beating. In 2008, a federal judge awarded the family $1.1 million for extreme emotional distress in the government’s handling of the death. The amount was reduced to $900,000 after an appeal.