At the US District Court in Salt Lake City, almost twenty years after the Oklahoma City bombing, a trial is underway pitting Utah lawyer Jesse Trentadue against the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a dispute over alleged missing videos from the case’s evidence log.
Trentadue believes that the FBI is hiding videos that will help prove that his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was killed by guards in an interrogation-gone-wrong after he was mistaken for a “John Doe Number Two” that was allegedly being investigated as an Oklahoma City bombing suspect. Authorities eventually abandoned the theory that such a suspect participated in the bombing.
Kenneth Trentadue bore an uncanny resemblance, including similar tattoos, to both the police sketch of John Doe Number Two and suspect Richard Lee Guthrie Jr., an Aryan Republican Army member and bank robber who some believe to have been a co-conspirator in the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Kenneth Trentadue allegedly committed suicide while in federal custody in August of ’95, but Oklahoma City’s top medical examiner stated, based on the condition of Trentadue’s severely wounded and beaten corpse, that it was likely that he had been murdered. Trentadue’s family also believes foul play took place and that the government might be covering up its involvement.
In this week’s trial, Jesse Trentadue is suing to force the FBI to allow him to look through the government’s massive Oklahoma City bombing evidence lockers to find missing videos that have been mentioned in official documents and press reports, allegedly showing Timothy McVeigh carrying out the attack with the help of a co-conspirator bearing a resemblance to John Doe Number Two. Trentadue previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request and was given copies of 30 videos related to the case, but he believes that the FBI is hiding additional videos that support his theory as to what happened to his brother. The FBI claims to have given Trentadue everything he has requested.
On Monday, according to The Washington Post, US District Judge Clark Waddoups ordered the FBI to explain why it has failed to produce videos that are mentioned in case documents. One surveillance video in particular, mentioned in Secret Service logs, allegedly shows two suspects leaving the truck used in the attack, just minutes before the explosion. Waddoups also questioned why FBI agents failed to send Trentadue documents that mentioned additional videos that were not included among the 30 that were sent to him. The Judge also compelled agents to explain why they took no action when Trentadue sent a letter asking why one of the videos he received appeared to be incomplete.
FOX-13 Salt Lake City is reporting that, during the trial, Trentadue produced a document that allegedly shows that the ATF and FBI had prior knowledge of the attack but did not take it seriously. According to ABC News, three witnesses pointed to videos that should have been available to investigators at the time of the incident. Don Browning, an Oklahoma City police officer who was on-scene the day of the attack, testified that he noticed FBI agents seizing cameras from the besieged building. Jannie Coverdale, grandmother to two bombing victims, testified that the FBI seized surveillance tapes from her apartment building that could have recorded the attack. Another witness, Joe Cooley, a contractor who examined the building prior to the bombing, claimed that he saw several cameras affixed to the outside of the structure.
The Star Tribune notes that FBI witness Richard Williams, the assistant building manager for General Services Administration at the time of the attack, testified that the cameras on the building were not operational and had not been since two years prior to the bombing. Also, a retired FBI agent named Stephen Brannan claimed that he investigated an incident where FBI agents allegedly attempted to sell videos of the attack to the media for $1 million and found it to be a hoax. Another FBI witness, Charles Hanger, then an Oklahoma highway patrolman, took the stand to explain what happened to the dash cam video of Timothy McVeigh’s arrest, which he claims was rendered useless by a recording error.
The trial is expected to wrap up this week, though the Judge’s ruling is likely to come at a later date.