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DENVER - Government witness Lori Fortier admitted to jurors Tuesday in a choked voice that she could have stopped the Oklahoma City bombing because her friend Timothy McVeigh had told her of his plans.
"I guess on some level I was in denial that he really was capable of this," she said in a hushed courtroom packed with bombing victims.
Fortier, 24, then admitted she felt responsible for the attack and became emotional as lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler pressed her to explain why she had done nothing to stop it.
"I don't know," she said after a long pause, her eyes blinking rapidly. "I mean, I wish I could have stopped it now. If I could do it all over again, I would have."
The mother of two then put both hands to her mouth and closed her eyes tightly.
Her emotional answer concluded the third day of testimony in McVeigh's trial. Fortier was questioned by the prosecution for two hours, mostly giving a matter-of-fact recitation that was criticized for its rehearsed feel.
Today, she will face more questioning - this time from the defense. In his opening statement last week, lead defense attorney Stephen Jones told jurors that Fortier and her husband, Michael Fortier, implicated McVeigh "to save their own skins at the expense of the truth."
Prosecutors have promised to provide evidence that supports the accounts.
McVeigh, 29, scowled slightly during her testimony.
The former Army sergeant is accused of blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, to start a revolution against the federal government.
He is charged with three bombing counts and eight murder counts. A second defendant, Terry Nichols, 42, will be tried later.
"I knew right away it was Tim," Lori Fortier said after telling jurors of watching televised accounts of the bombing from her trailer in Kingman, Ariz.
She described how her husband and McVeigh met in the Army and how McVeigh frequently stayed in the spare bedroom of the trailer during trips to Kingman.
He was best man at her 1994 Las Vegas wedding, she testified.
She told jurors McVeigh was upset with the government over the deaths of Branch Davidian cult members near Waco, Texas.
Six Davidians died in a gunbattle with federal agents Feb. 28, 1993. More than 70 more people died inside the group's compound when a fire broke out during an FBI raid April 19, 1993. The raid followed a 51-day standoff.
"He thought the government had murdered the people of Waco," she said.
She testified McVeigh wrote a letter in September 1994 that "he wanted to take action against the government" and later explained that what he meant was to blow up a federal building.
"I think Michael told him he was crazy," she testified.
By October 1994, she said, McVeigh's plans became more specific. She told jurors McVeigh said he was going to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building and drew a diagram, circles inside a box to represent barrels of explosives in a rented truck.
"He said it was an easy target and it was a building that housed some of the people that were in the Waco raid," she testified.
"He said that he and Terry (Nichols) would do it together, and Terry would mix the bomb."
She said McVeigh also revealed that he and Nichols had stolen explosives from a Kansas quarry and were planning to rob an Arkansas gun collector named Bob. She said McVeigh called the planned robbery a "fund-raiser" for the bombing.
She said she was alone in the trailer with McVeigh a few days later when he took 12 soup cans from her cupboard and placed them on the floor in a triangular shape. She said he explained that was what he meant by a "shape charge" that would make the bomb more destructive.
Later in October 1994, McVeigh was in Kingman again and said that, disguised as a biker, he had bought racing fuel for the bomb, she told jurors. McVeigh also admitted buying fertilizer for the bomb, she said.
In December, she said, McVeigh recruited her husband to move the guns stolen from the Arkansas dealer to Kingman so they could be sold. The guns were stored in Kansas, she testified.
McVeigh disclosed that Nichols had robbed the gun dealer, she said. "He was upset because Terry had not killed Bob," she said.
She said she wrapped two boxes of blasting caps for McVeigh - disguising them as Christmas presents.
In 1995, McVeigh spent months in Kingman, bitter and upset because Nichols wanted to back out of the attack, she testified. McVeigh asked Michael Fortier to help him, but her husband said no, she told jurors.
"I was under the impression that it wasn't going to happen because no one wanted to help him," she said.
Sometime in February 1995, she said, she loaned McVeigh her typewriter so he could make a fake driver's license. She said she laminated the plastic herself because she didn't want her iron ruined.
She said she recalled the name on the license was "Robert Kling." She said she could recall the name because she and McVeigh joked about how the last name was similar to "Klingons" - alien characters in the "Star Trek" TV series and movies.
McVeigh is accused of using the name "Robert Kling" as an alias to rent the Ryder truck used in the attack. She told jurors she burned the typewriter ribbon after learning of the bombing.
She was given immunity from prosecution before her testimony Tuesday. Her defense attorney, Mack Martin of Oklahoma City, was with her in court.
Michael Fortier is in federal custody and has not testified yet. He pleaded guilty to transporting stolen weapons, lying to FBI agents and failing to warn authorities of McVeigh's plans.
Bombing victims who watched her testify reacted with anger at the woman who could have saved their loved ones - and with hope that she could hold up under cross-examination. The explosion two years ago resulted in 168 deaths.
Dietra Langley said she thought Lori Fortier came across as "exceptionally" believable.
"So far, she's nailed him pretty good," said Langley, who lost her brother, George Howard, 45, in the Murrah Building's U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development office.
Charles Tomlin agreed - but said she may have sounded too rehearsed: "Too good to be believable."
Tomlin lost his son, Rick, 46, in the Murrah Building's Federal Highway Administration office.
Rick Tomlin's son, Jeremy, 23, also was angry.
"I just hope she thinks about everybody who died every night before she goes to bed," Jeremy Tomlin said. "You know, she could've prevented it, and she didn't."
Langley and others said they were concerned Lori Fortier's testimony may be damaged by defense questions about her drug use and dishonesty when she first talked to FBI agents.
Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter, Frankie Merrell, 23, in the blast, said Lori Fortier shouldn't have been granted immunity for her testimony.
"If she's telling the truth, the evidence is very damning," Kight said. "But, my God, how can somebody live with that and still have her child? And she'll be walking scot-free, and I don't have mine."
But Tim Rousselle, nephew of Leora Lee Sells, 57, a HUD legal secretary killed in the attack, said he wasn't angry - just sad.
"I hope that if she's telling the truth, and she can hold up under the cross (examination), that (the truth) can come out," Rousselle said.Archive ID: 680108