This Judge Won't Budge on Bombing Buddy

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Michael Fortier may have been a good citizen after the Oklahoma bombing, but he was still a villain beforethe crime –- and what a crime it was. That was apparently what weighed on U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber’s mind as he refused to abate –- despite an appellate court’s clear wishes that he do so –- the 12-year sentence he had given Fortier a year ago. Ordered by the appeals court to use new, lowered sentencing guidelines (involuntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder), Bebber stuck by his guns. TIME legal correspondent Adam Cohen can see why. "It’s unusual for a judge to butt heads with an appeals court and go so far above the guidelines," he says. "But clearly this was a crime far and above the usual."

Fortier lawyer Michael McGuire argued to no avail that the four years his client has already served was enough –- that Fortier was "cast aside conveniently" by the government after helping to bring Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to justice after the carnage. "This man was the difference in both of those cases, your honor," said McGuire. "This man has given a lot. I don't know if he'll be credited for it. He should be given credit." For Bebber, a reduction from 171 1/2 years to 12 was more than enough "credit" for a man who pleaded guilty to knowing about the whole deadly scheme beforehand. "This is an Oklahoma City judge who’s part of the community that this traumatized," says Cohen. "He’s obviously passionate about this. If you’re going to be tough, this is the crime to be tough about." Said a battle-weary McGuire afterward: "Might as well just get the ball rolling on the appeal."