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WITNESS TO SAY HE HELPED PLAN APRIL OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

SHARE WITNESS TO SAY HE HELPED PLAN APRIL OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

Prosecutors building their case in the federal building bombing now have a star witness: a former Army buddy of the two suspects who will admit helping plot the deadly attack.

Michael Fortier has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testifying for the government, his court-appointed attorney, Michael McGuire, said in Wednesday's Daily Oklahoman.Fortier, 26, of Kingman, Ariz., spent almost four hours Tuesday testifying before a federal grand jury, McGuire told the newspaper. "He's an important witness to both sides," he said.

Fortier agreed to plead guilty to lying to a federal agent, knowing about a felony but doing nothing to stop it and interstate transportation of stolen weapons, McGuire told the newspaper. Media reports said he also would plead guilty to a second weapons charge.

The offenses carry a maximum punishment of 23 years in prison, but McGuire told the newspaper Fortier's actual sentence should be less under federal guidelines. Asked Wednesday to confirm his comments to the newspaper, McGuire said he would not talk until later in the day.

Fortier has admitted casing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building last December, authorities say. His lawyer said Fortier would admit helping plan the April 19 bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who served with Fortier at Fort Riley, Kan., are the only people charged in the bombing. Both are being held without bail under a federal anti-terrorism law that carries the death penalty. The grand jury is under a Friday deadline to indict both men.

McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the plea deal with Fortier is "an admission by the government that they have a weak case."

"If they had a strong case," Jones said, "they would not be offering a deal to one of the principal participants."