Star witness takes stand in Nichols' trial
Michael Fortier says he saw box of explosives
November 12, 1997
Web posted at: 10:13 p.m. EST (0313 GMT)
DENVER (CNN) -- Michael Fortier, a star witness against convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, took the stand Wednesday to testify against Terry Nichols, McVeigh's accused co-conspirator.
He told jurors that in November 1994, he and McVeigh followed Nichols to a rented storage shed near Kingman, Arizona, and saw where explosives had been hidden.
Fortier testified that he met McVeigh and Nichols at Fort Benning, Georgia, when they were in the same Army basic training platoon.
Later, the three men were all based at Fort Riley, Kansas, where Fortier said he befriended McVeigh. He described Nichols as just an acquaintance.
Fortier repeated his testimony from the McVeigh trial, telling about how McVeigh became increasingly concerned that the "new world order" was targeting him and describing an exchange of letters with McVeigh in the late summer of 1994.
"Tim was asking me if I wanted to help him and Terry (Nichols) take ... offensive action against the government," Fortier said. "He also said if I wanted to be a part of this, I'd have to keep it a secret from my wife."
He said he threw the letter away but later wrote a response to McVeigh.
"I told him I was curious about what he was talking about, and I wouldn't keep it a secret from Lori," Fortier said. His wife, Lori Fortier, also was a key witness in the McVeigh trial.
About two weeks later, he said, McVeigh visited him at his home in Kingman, Arizona.
"He told me they were planning on bombing a building," Fortier said.
"Did he say specifically who 'they' was?" asked prosecutor Geoffrey Mearns.
"No," Fortier said.
"He just asked me if I wanted to be a part of it," he said. "I told him no... unless there was a U.N. tank in my front yard."
Later, in the fall of 1994, Fortier said he again met McVeigh and Nichols. He said he and McVeigh followed behind Nichols' truck on a drive to a storage shed in Kingman.
"Tim showed me explosives," Fortier said. He described a box of explosives with a yellow diamond on it. That description is similar to what a rock quarry employee has testified was taken in a burglary the prosecution contends was the work of McVeigh and Nichols.
Asked what Nichols did at the storage shed, Fortier said, "He was loading stuff into his truck."
Nichols is charged with murder and conspiracy in connection with the April 19, 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others.
McVeigh has already been convicted of the same charges and sentenced to death.
Fortier, who locked eyes for several seconds with Nichols after he sat in the witness chair Wednesday. testified for only a hour before court recessed for the day. His testimony is to resume Thursday.
Fortier, who pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and lying to the FBI after the bombing, will be sentenced after the Nichols trial under terms of a plea bargain. His wife was given immunity in return for her testimony. She is also on the government's witness list in the Nichols trial.
The defense is expected to launch on all-out attack on the couple's credibility and portray them as drug users who have made up lies about Nichols to save themselves.
Earlier Wednesday, the government began the tedious process of introducing records from scores of calls linked to a phone card purchased by Nichols. Prosecutors accuse Nichols and McVeigh of using phone cards under the fake name Daryl Bridges to shop around for bomb materials.
His lawyers have acknowledged Nichols used an alias to buy phone cards. But they say Nichols was trying to avoid creditors and that he did not use the cards illegally.