SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The FBI capped off its attempt to persuade a federal judge that it is not hiding unreleased surveillance videos from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by bringing witnesses Thursday who testified that there have never been any security-camera videos of the bomb going off.
The four-day trial to determine if the FBI has done an adequate search for additional videos came to a close Thursday in Salt Lake City without a ruling from U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups. He instead requested final court briefs to be submitted in the next three months summarizing arguments from both sides: FBI attorneys and Jesse Trentadue, the Utah man who filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the federal agency.
A ruling is likely months away in a case that reignited questions about whether others were involved in a bombing that killed 168 people.
Trentadue said after the trial that he still thinks there is a video showing Timothy McVeigh was not alone in detonating the bomb. He believes the presence of a second suspect explains why his brother, who resembled a police sketch of a suspect, was flown to Oklahoma months after the bombing. His brother died in a federal holding cell.
“They brought people with no firsthand knowledge,” Trentadue said. “I think they searched out the people who would fit their story.”
Trentadue said he believes the tape would show the second person was a government informant who failed to prevent the bombing from happening.
Attorneys for the FBI declined comment after trial.
As the trial came to a close, Waddoups ordered an FBI agent to court in late August to respond to allegations that he tampered with a witness who backed out of testifying in the trial.
Earlier this week, Trentadue told Waddoups that former government operative John Matthews decided not to testify after the FBI agent contacted him and told him it would be in the best interests of everybody if he didn’t testify.
“He was told he should take a vacation and that if he did testify he should suffer from a case of the ‘I don’t remembers,‘ “ Trentadue said.
Waddoups ordered the federal attorneys to look into it. On Thursday, Department of Justice attorney Kathryn Wyer said the FBI in Utah told her that Matthews reached out to the agency to ask how he could get out of testifying. Wyer called Trentadue’s version of events “another wild theory” that is inaccurate.
But Waddoups said the allegation merits more attention, and he set a court date of Aug. 25 for the agent to testify.
“We can’t just leave this where it is,” Waddoups said. “It’s too serious of an allegation. We need to get to the bottom of this.”
Matthews was set to testify about his involvement in a stealth government operation before the Oklahoma City bombing tracking militia movements of which McVeigh was a part of, Trentadue said.
On Thursday during the trial, the FBI brought five former federal employees to the stand to explain why no videos were taken of when the bomb exploded about 9 a.m. April 19, 1995.
“There was no such film,” said former FBI agent Jon Hersley, one of the lead agents on the bombing investigation who reviewed mountains of evidence.
Richard Williams, then the General Services Administration assistant manager of the building, said outside surveillance cameras pointing at where the bomb was detonated had not been operational for at least two year before the bombing.
Hersley and two other former FBI agents said the only video showing the Ryder truck McVeigh used to house the bomb before it went off was taken about six minutes before the bombing by a surveillance camera on an apartment building one block from the federal building. That video was really just made up of time-lapse images, Hersley said.
Retired FBI agent Stephen Brannan said he investigated allegations that two FBI agents tried to sell surveillance videos showing the bombing to a network TV news station for $1 million and determined it was a hoax. Brannan said agents in Oklahoma told him unequivocally that there were no videos showing McVeigh arriving to the building in a Ryder truck or getting out.
The case reached trial because Waddoups was unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations. The judge also cited the public importance of the tapes. The FBI has given Trentadue 30 video recordings, but none shows the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in the truck.
Trentadue’s belief that the tape exists stems from a Secret Service document written after the bombing that describes security footage of the attack that shows suspects exiting the truck three minutes before the bomb detonated. A Secret Service agent testified in 2004 that the log does, in fact, exist but that the government knows of no videotape.
Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs