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MCVEIGH’S ARIZONA FRIEND MAY ACCEPT PLEA BARGAIN

SHARE MCVEIGH’S ARIZONA FRIEND MAY ACCEPT PLEA BARGAIN

A friend of bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh who allegedly inspected the federal building with him is negotiating a plea bargain with the FBI, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Michael Fortier of Kingman, Ariz., has been cooperating with authorities in Oklahoma City as they seek a broad conspiracy indictment, the Times quotes three unidentified federal sources as saying.Officials have spent a week discussing a written agreement for Fortier, 26, to plead guilty to limited charges and become a key witness against McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the newspaper said.

The newspaper's sources said Fortier could face charges ranging from having knowledge of the bombing conspiracy to giving false statements to authorities. Those charges carry minimum five-year prison terms.

Fortier and McVeigh became friends in Kingman, where they worked in a hardware store following their service in the Army. Both men traveled to Oklahoma City and posed as job applicants to inspect the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, unidentified sources told the Times.

Mack Martin, an Oklahoma City lawyer representing Fortier, wouldn't comment on the meetings.

So far, McVeigh, 27, and Nichols, 40, are the only people charged in the April 19 attack that killed at least 167 people. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Fortier's mother said she holds McVeigh responsible for her son's situation. "He just got caught in the middle of something that is unexplainable," Irene Fortier told the Times.

On Thursday, Nichols' attorney said his client shouldn't be subjected to 24-hour video surveillance, the taping of a phone conversation with his mother and other "unlawful tactics."

"Federal agents have used deceptive and unlawful tactics to obtain statements from him while he is in custody," attorney Michael Tigar said in documents supporting a bail motion.

The documents said that Nichols' wife, Marife, has been held in custody since April 21 while FBI agents and senior Justice Department officials take turns questioning her.

FBI spokesman Dan Vogel said Thursday the agency had no comment on Tigar's motion. The prosecution has a week to respond to it.

Tigar's motion maintains that Nichols is not a threat to flee.

"Mr. Nichols has proved himself throughout his life to be a law-abiding person with a reputation for peacableness," Tigar wrote.

He proposed seven conditions for Nichols' release, including that Nichols wear an electronic monitor and that he report to a law enforcement officer each day.

Meanwhile, Nichols' mother, Joyce Wilt, said McVeigh is a "freeloader" who is responsible for her son's current troubles.

"Terry's a great guy," Wilt said in Friday's Detroit Free Press. "He has a big heart. He took care of that stupid Tim. That's what got him into trouble."