Fortier Prison Term Upheld

Friday, March 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) -A federal appeals court Friday upheld Michael Fortier's 12-year prison term in the Oklahoma City bombing, rejecting arguments that the judge was vindictive and improperly exceeded the sentencing guidelines.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, said U.S. District Judge Thomas Van Bebber could impose a longer sentence than the guidelines called for because of the enormity of the crime.

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

Fortier, 31, an Army buddy of Timothy McVeigh's, pleaded guilty to failing to warn authorities about the plot. He admitted that he helped McVeigh move and sell stolen weapons and that he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents after bombing.

His attorney, Michael McGuire, said he will seek a rehearing in front of the full appeals court.

This was the second time the appeals court has considered Fortier's sentence.

In 1998, Van Bebber sentenced Fortier to 12 years and fined him dlrs 200,000. Upon appeal, the appeals court said Van Bebber mistakenly used sentencing guidelines for crimes involving murder rather than manslaughter.

Van Bebber then resentenced Fortier to the same term and reduced the fine to dlrs 75,000. The judge went beyond the sentence specified in the manslaughter guidelines, which call for a maximum of slightly more than four years in prison.

In a dissent Friday, Circuit Judge John C. Porfilio argued that Van Bebber used improper sentencing guidelines because there was no evidence connecting Fortier to expenditures that facilitated the bombing.

Fortier also argued that Van Bebber was vindictive because he granted a newspaper interview and refused initially to allow Fortier to call witnesses, but relented on the day of the hearing when the witnesses were unavailable.

McVeigh, 32, is scheduled to be executed May 16. Terry Nichols, 46, is serving life in prison.