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Witness in Oklahoma City bombings to be freed

Michael Fortier, the star witness for the government in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, is set to be released from federal prison Friday, victims’ relatives said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Fortier, the prosecution’s star witness in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, is scheduled to be released from federal prison Friday, victims’ relatives said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has notified family members of several bombing victims of Fortier’s impending release, the relatives said Tuesday. He still must serve three years of supervised release.

Fortier served in the Army with bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. He was sentenced in 1998 to 12 years in prison for knowing about the bomb plot and not telling authorities.

He also pleaded guilty to helping McVeigh and Nichols move and sell stolen guns, and for lying to federal authorities after the Oklahoma City bombing. The 1995 attack destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people.

Fortier, 37, formerly of Kingman, Ariz., has been in federal custody since the year of the bombing.

‘Enough time’
“I think he’s served enough time,” said Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie, a Social Security office staffer, was killed in the blast. “I think Michael was probably involved in some of the stuff that was going on in Arizona, but I hope he’s in line to be a good citizen now.”

Welch and other victims’ family members received a one-page form letter from the Bureau of Prisons this week listing Fortier’s release date.

Neither the form nor the bureau’s Web site indicated where Fortier was being held. Messages left with the bureau after hours were not immediately returned.

Jim Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the bombing, said he also believes Fortier should be released.

“McVeigh already got his punishment, and Nichols will be in prison for the rest of his life,” Denny said. “Let this guy get out and get on with his life.”

McVeigh was executed in 2001 at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for his role in the bombing. Nichols was convicted on both federal and state charges and is serving a sentence of life without parole.

Jannie Coverdale, whose two grandsons were killed in the blast, said she doesn’t believe that Fortier’s testimony was needed to convict McVeigh and Nichols.

‘Should’ve gotten life in prison’
“I am very angry,” Coverdale said. “I feel like Fortier should’ve gotten life in prison without parole.”

Fortier and his wife, Lori, both testified against McVeigh and Nichols during their federal trials and acknowledged helping the pair in their plan to blow up the building, said McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones.

“It’s intellectually indefensible to say that they weren’t conspirators, because they were. Their own testimony indicates that,” Jones said. “They knew the date, time and place of the bombing and both of them assisted materially.”

Lori Fortier testified that she helped make a false ID card that McVeigh used to rent the truck used in the bombing, Jones noted. She was granted immunity for her testimony and never served any prison time.