FBI denies witness tampering accusation

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2014 5:36 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The FBI did not pressure a former government operative into backing out of testifying in a lawsuit claiming the agency failed to search its files for additional videos of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a new FBI report shows.

The bureau's office of inspections disclosed the report on Friday, a day after U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups threatened the FBI with contempt of court for not completing the tampering investigation as he had ordered.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday to discuss the matter.

The lawsuit was filed by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who believes there is video showing Timothy McVeigh was not alone in detonating the bomb in Oklahoma.

Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect would explain why his brother was flown to Oklahoma months after the bombing. His brother died in a federal holding cell.

The case reached trial because the judge was not satisfied by the FBI's previous explanations after the lawsuit was filed in 2008. The judge also cited the public importance of the possible tapes.

Trentadue leveled the witness tampering allegation during trial in July. Department of Justice attorneys said they were false, but Waddoups ordered the FBI to look into the claim.

Former operative John Matthews had been set to testify about his involvement in a stealth government operation that tracked militia movements and included McVeigh, Trentadue said.

The agency's report said Matthews called the FBI in Utah to tell them he didn't want to testify during the lawsuit and asked how he could get out of it.

FBI inspectors said they listened to five recorded phone conversations between Matthews and agent Adam Quirk and determined Matthews was never intimidated or discouraged from testifying.

The report found Quirk should have notified the Justice Department about the calls and been clearer about the FBI not being able to give advice about testifying. Still, the agency said there was no tampering.

The report includes partially redacted transcripts of several recorded phone conversations. One call from Quirk's cellphone was not recorded, and there is no transcript.

Matthews also sent an email saying he made the decision to back out of testifying on his own, the report says.

A transcript of one phone call shows Matthews telling Quirk that he wasn't going to testify unless a judge issued a subpoena. If he was forced to testify, he said, "I'm going to sit there on the stand and say I don't recall anything."

Matthews later added, "This is old stuff and it don't need to be brought up again."

In a different call, Matthews said he met Timothy McVeigh before the bombing but "just because I crossed someone's path don't mean I have anything to share."

Quirk told investigators the nature of the unrecorded, four-minute call from his cellphone was similar to the recorded ones.

"This report does not put my mind at ease," Trentadue said. "It just raises more questions."