Jones may testify against Nichols if McVeigh takes blame for bombing

Monday, March 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The man who represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at his federal trial said he may testify against McVeigh's co-conspirator if McVeigh tries to take sole responsibility for the attack.

Stephen Jones told The Sunday Oklahoman in a copyright story about his concerns over the content of an upcoming book chronicling McVeigh's life from childhood to the 1995 explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.

Jones said Saturday that he was speaking up because the book, which is scheduled for release April 3, may downplay Terry Nichols' role in the bombing.

``If McVeigh is saying he acted alone, that is inconsistent with what he told me,'' said Jones, who no longer represents McVeigh.

Jones said if he is subpoenaed, he is specifically willing to answer prosecutors' questions about what McVeigh, 32, told him.

``I would say that any statement that Tim McVeigh acted alone is false. I will answer any questions put to me,'' Jones said.

Normally, Jones could not reveal his discussions with McVeigh because of attorney-client privilege, but he told The Oklahoman that he believes McVeigh has given up that right.

Last year, McVeigh sought a new trial on grounds that Jones was incompetent and unethical. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected the complaint.

The book ``American Terrorist'' is written by two reporters who spent 75 hours with McVeigh. Attorneys for Nichols are aware of the new book and may seek a videotaped statement from McVeigh to use on Nichols' behalf, The Oklahoman reported.

Jones said that based on the interviews with McVeigh, the new book will claim ``that no one else was criminally involved, specifically Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, and that if they did anything to assist it was only because they were duped or manipulated ... or they didn't know what they were doing.''

Jones said that claim would be contrary to statements McVeigh made to him while he was McVeigh's attorney, and ``would be nothing more than an effort to obstruct justice in pending judicial proceedings.''

He said he has seen publicity about the book, but not the book itself. Jones did not concede McVeigh's guilt in the crime.

``At this point, it's not appropriate for me to name names or to go into detail in the media,'' he said. ``There are pending proceedings.''

Oklahoma City police tried to talk to Jones last year after McVeigh criticized him in the new trial request, but Jones refused.

``I felt my work spoke for myself and I didn't need to defend myself. This is different. ... It is an attempt to influence judicial proceedings by making false statements to reporters who will repeat those false statements.

``If I remain silent, my silence could be taken ... as condoning what he has said and I can't do that,'' Jones said.

Jones said he spoke with one of Nichols' prosecutors, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Fern Smith, as recently as Thursday. He has not yet been named as a prosecution witness.

He said his statements would be legally admissible, despite rules against hearsay testimony.

``I'm not going to voluntarily walk in to the district attorney's office and start talking because I don't think any defense lawyer should be placed in that position, but ... McVeigh is putting me in that position,'' Jones said.

``He has waived the attorney-client privilege. I'm just any other citizen served a subpoena.''

Jones said he said he expects much of the new book ``will be a monstrous lie.''

``The danger is that it will influence public opinion and prejudice the trial to the disadvantage of the state,'' Jones said.