FBI objects to lawyer's deposition request
The FBI on Friday objected to a Utah lawyer's motion to conduct depositions of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and a death-row inmate in a lawsuit that alleges the attorney's brother was murdered in a federal prison.
Attorney Jesse Trentadue says the two prisoners can provide valuable information concerning his brother's death in 1995 and the FBI's alleged refusal to turn over all relevant documents requested in his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit. He believes authorities mistook Kenneth Trentadue for a bombing conspirator and that guards killed him in an interrogation that got out of hand.
In a memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, the FBI argued to Judge Dale Kimball that his authority in a FOIA case is limited to ordering disclosure of documents.
"FOIA does not confer jurisdiction on this court to order a wide-ranging and unofficial investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing or any other type of criminal conduct," Carlie Christensen, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote.
She also said that Kimball has determined through earlier rulings that the FBI searches for documents in response to Trentadue's requests were reasonable.
Kenneth Trentadue's death at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City a few months after the April 19, 1995, bombing was ruled a suicide after several investigations. The government has adamantly denied any wrongdoing in his death.
However, the inmate's family rejected those findings and has continued to press for information on the death. Jesse Trentadue has filed three FOIA lawsuits asking for documents pertaining to his brother's incarceration and the Oklahoma City bombing.
In February, he requested an order from Kimball allowing him to depose Nichols and David Paul Hammer, who is on death row at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., along with affidavits from the two men.
Nichols says in his affidavit that a high-ranking FBI official "apparently" was directing Timothy McVeigh in the plot to blow up the government building and might have changed the original target of the attack. He alleges he wrote then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004, offering to help identify all parties who played a role in the bombing, but never got a reply.
Both Nichols and Hammer - who says he had lengthy conversations with McVeigh during the 11 months the two were housed on the same tier at the Terre Haute facility - say McVeigh claimed to be an undercover operative for the military.
Hammer wrote in his affidavit that McVeigh said he made trips in the two years before the bombing to a white supremacist settlement called Elohim City in Adair County, Okla.
McVeigh also claimed he had robbed banks with members of the "Rob/Bomb Gang," which became known as the Aryan Republic Army, according to Hammer, and was present when gun dealers delivered weapons and explosives to Elohim City.
In addition, McVeigh was present at Elohim City in September 1994 when plans were made for the bombing, Hammer wrote. McVeigh allegedly said government informants were rumored to live at the settlement.
"He felt this was an advantage for his government-sponsored activities as word of his actions would be reported not only by him to his own handler but to others in the government by their own informants," Hammer wrote.
The FBI told The Oklahoman newspaper that it did not participate in the bombing or have any advance warning about it. Nichols is serving a life sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colo., for his part in the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which took 168 lives.
McVeigh, who carried out the bombing, was executed in 2001. Hammer was sentenced to death for the 1996 slaying of a fellow inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Allenwood, Penn.