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New Evidence in Bombing Case Contradicts Witness' Testimony

By Richard A. Serrano and Ronald J. Ostrow
Los Angeles Times

In a development that could cloud the credibility of the government's key witness, new evidence in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing case appears to challenge Michael Fortier's account of suspect Timothy J. McVeigh's alleged involvement in a gun robbery to help finance the blast.

Fortier, who pleaded guilty last month and agreed to testify against McVeigh, has twice said under oath in Oklahoma City federal court that McVeigh stole a cache of firearms and gold coins from the home of a Royal, Ark., gun collector last November.

But hotel records and other evidence obtained Thursday by the Los Angeles Times show that on Nov. 5, 1994 - the day of the robbery - McVeigh was actually about 800 miles away attending a gun convention in Akron, Ohio.

It was not immediately clear how damaging the discrepancy might be to Fortier's credibility in the case. In the months before the trial begins, prosecutors will work to reconcile it and other apparent conflicts with their theory of the crime.

But Fortier's believability is crucial for a prosecution that, five months after the blast, rests heavily on circumstantial evidence.

The April 19 bombing destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 169 people and injuring another 600. McVeigh, along with another friend, Terry L. Nichols, are scheduled to stand trial next May as co-conspirators in the worst terrorist attack in the United States.

On Nov. 4, McVeigh registered for two nights at the Knights Inn motel in Kent, Ohio, which is next to Akron. He checked out of the motel on Nov. 6.

The gun show was held on the Summit County Fairgrounds in Akron on Nov. 5 and 6. Tony Giordano, an Akron firearms dealer, told investigators in the bombing case that McVeigh - whom he had never met before - attended the show.

McVeigh's presence in Akron contradicts what Fortier told the federal court in Oklahoma City when he pleaded guilty on Aug. 10.