Md. native tied to Okla. grand jury surrenders

Conspiracy-book author accused of tampering with investigation

January 20, 1999|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore man who wrote a book alleging a government conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing turned himself over to authorities yesterday to face charges that he tampered with a grand jury investigating the explosion.

David M. Hoffman, 38, surrendered at 10 a.m. at the Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma City. As he was taken inside by sheriff's deputies, he declared that he is "a lowly reporter" being persecuted for telling the truth about a government cover-up.

County prosecutors say that Hoffman mailed his book, "The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror," and an intimidating letter to the home of a man serving on a grand jury formed 18 months ago to re-investigate the bombing case. The grand jury concluded that there was no elaborate web of conspiracy in the bombing.

But the panel did hand up one indictment: Hoffman's. He is charged with two counts of grand jury tampering and faces a year in prison on each count if convicted.

The letter in question, which was unsigned but which investigators later determined to have been written by Hoffman, said, "Do not let them tell you what do do, and do not take your cues from them. If you do, you will be making a grave mistake, and shortchanging the people of this nation," according to a court affidavit.

Hoffman, a 1978 graduate of Pikesville Senior High School, was released from jail yesterday afternoon. His lawyer, Michael Johnston, couldn't be reached for comment.

In a previous interview, Hoffman said the letter was intended to be "inspirational" and to let the grand jury panel know that its members should "do what is in [their] hearts."

Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Suzanne L. Gump said prosecutors found the note to be troubling because Hoffman has a stalking conviction, stemming from a Oklahoma woman who dated him and and later refused to see him.

Hoffman said that he is serving a deferred sentence on the stalking charge, which landed him in jail for five days. Further information on the case wasn't available yesterday.

The April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. Hoffman's book alleges that government "agent provocateurs" knew about the bombing plot well before it was carried out and may have planted military explosives in the building.

He claimed that government officials allowed the building to be bombed in their zeal to bring discredit to neo-Nazis and the patriot militia movement.

"The government can't tell the public what really happened in that case because if they did, people would be rioting in the streets," Hoffman said. "My book is the most thorough one out there about the biggest terrorist attack on American soil."

The grand jury allegedly targeted by Hoffman was formed in Oklahoma City. It followed up on the original investigation that led to the federal convictions in 1997 of Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols in U.S. District Court in Denver. Federal prosecutors claimed the two men acted on their own.

Members of the Oklahoma County grand jury said they could find no evidence that the government had any advance notice of the bombing or that there were any other people involved.

Hoffman sent a copy of his book to county grand juror Frank Simms on Sept. 21. Before opening it, Simms called prosecutors to let them know that a suspicious package had been sent to his home without a return address, according to an affidavit.

Investigators later opened the package and found Hoffman's book inside, along with a small note that said, "If you don't want this, please give it to Vicki Ann," referring to another county grand juror serving on the panel, the affidavit said.

As he was being lead inside the jail, Hoffman accused Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy of persecuting him. Macy "has put 53 people on death row, some of whom he knew to be innocent," Hoffman said. "Now he's trying to prosecute a lowly reporter for speaking the truth about a crime he was charged to investigate but failed to do so."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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