A Friend's Testimony

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DENVER: Before a rapt jury, Timothy McVeigh's friend Michael Fortier presented gripping details of what he said was McVeigh's plan and motive for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah building. Fortier, looking like a young stock broker in a tan suit and wire-rimmed glasses, seemed remarkably convincing to jurors, reports TIME's Patrick Cole from the trial. In three hours of chilling testimony, Fortier described how McVeigh "told me they wanted to bomb the building on the anniversary of Waco to cause a general uprising in America, hopefully that would knock some people off the fence and cause them to take action." He said that McVeigh, in justifying the killing of innocent people, likened the federal employees to Star Wars storm troopers: "They may be individually innocent but because they were part of the evil empire, they were guilty by association." According to Fortier, everything McVeigh did in the months leading up to the blast led him to believe he would carry out the threat. In great detail, he ticked off his story: How McVeigh had stolen explosives from a Kansas quarry; how he had talked about his reasons for turning to terrorism and had asked Fortier to join him in the bombing; how the two of them had even driven to the Murrah building to case it in advance. "Even under intense cross-examination, when the defense hammered away at his credibility by questioning his drug use, Fortier had the jury rapt," says Cole. "The defense had no comeback for much of what he said about McVeigh."