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Oklahoma bombing victims, Fortier emotional at sentencing hearing

Sketch of Fortier May 27, 1998
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT)

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNN) -- Michael Fortier wiped tears from his eyes Wednesday as victims and family members of those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing offered emotional accounts of their losses at a court hearing on his sentence.

Fortier will be sentenced at the end of Wednesday's hearing for not telling police about his friend Timothy McVeigh's plan to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. Fortier has admitted he could have stopped the bombing, and the deaths of 168 people, if he had notified the authorities.

Marsha Kight, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, said "No on can possibly understand the magnitude of the loss and grief ... The hardest thing a mother will ever have to do is bury her child."

Fortier's wife, Lori, who was granted complete immunity from prosecution for her testimony in the bombing trials, wiped tears from her eyes when families told of losing their children.

A bombing victim, whose body was riddled with 300 pieces of shrapnel, told the court about the 40 surgeries he's had since the April 19, 1995, explosion.

Fortier was never charged as a bombing conspirator. Instead, he pleaded guilty to four counts involving transport of stolen guns, lying to investigators and failing to disclose a felony.

He also agreed to testify against his former Army buddies, McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

The government's star witness could get 14 to 17 years in prison, though even prosecutors are willing to settle for less than that. He already has spent months behind bars.

Fortier's attorneys say their client should be rewarded for cooperating with prosecutors and helping to convict McVeigh and Nichols with a reduced sentence as low as time served.

Those who lost loved ones will ask for a stiff sentence, claiming Fortier is just as guilty as McVeigh and Nichols.

As many as 18 family members are expected to testify before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Van Bebber sentences Fortier, who also is expected to address the court with a plea for leniency.

McVeigh was sentenced to death for the bombing. Nichols will be sentenced June 4 on conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter.

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