Found document backs McVeigh witness

Then-prosecutor says not knowing of talks with FBI affected work


DENVER - One of the newly discovered FBI documents handed over to lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case was a report about a witness on the day of the bombing whose testimony at trial was later discredited, in part, because lawyers on both sides did not know about the document, a person familiar with the case said.

The missing document, known as a lead sheet, was one of about 4,000 pages of information turned over to attorneys for Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry Nichols in recent weeks after the FBI sought to close its case in preparation for the execution of McVeigh.

McVeigh's execution was delayed this month after Justice Department officials acknowledged the existence of all the documents and said they should have been provided to the lawyers before the two men were tried.

The lead sheet pertained to Morris John Kuper Jr., a witness who called the FBI on April 21, 1995, two days after the bombing, to suggest that the bureau investigate activities that he observed in a parking lot a block away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building an hour before the bombing.

Kuper, who was called as a witness by the defense at the trial of Nichols, testified that he saw a man resembling McVeigh walking with another man on the sidewalk near the Federal Building in Oklahoma City at 8:02 a.m. the day of the bombing. He said he saw the two men getting into an old, light-colored car similar to the Mercury in which McVeigh was arrested later that morning.

In court, Kuper described the other man as muscular and dark-haired, a description that was similar to that of a number of witnesses who have described the unidentified suspect who came to be known as John Doe No. 2.

Kuper also testified that he called the FBI on April 21 to suggest that the agency check cameras at the public library and Southwestern Bell that might have caught action, "but they took my name and phone number and never contacted me again."

In fall 1995, Kuper responded to an e-mail request for information about any activity in the parking lots from his employer, the Kerr-McGee Corp.

In his cross-examination, Patrick Ryan, then the U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City and one of the prosecutors, emphasized that the date of the first FBI interview report with Kuper was Oct. 24, and repeatedly challenged Kuper's credibility, saying that Kuper made no attempt to reach the bureau until then.

In an interview Friday, Ryan said he had no idea the document existed and that he would have treated the issue much differently if he had.

"I certainly would never intentionally tell the jury someone had not come forward for six months if I knew they had come forward a couple of days after the bombing," said Ryan, a lawyer in private practice.

On Friday, Chris Watney, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said she could not comment on the details of any of the documents. "We have reviewed all of the documents carefully and remain confident that nothing in them undermines McVeigh's admission or the justice of his sentence," she said.

On Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft said that "nothing in any of the documents links anyone else to this bombing" and that he saw no reason to delay beyond June 11, the date on which Mc- Veigh's execution is scheduled.

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