Ex-McVeigh Lawyer Offers to Testify on Plot

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The former lawyer for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh wants to testify under subpoena that his ex-client did not act alone in the 1995 bombing that killed 195 people.

Former McVeigh defense counsel Stephen Jones told the Sunday Oklahoman newspaper he would be willing to testify for the prosecution in a pending state murder case against McVeigh's convicted conspirator Terry Nichols.

State prosecutors declined comment Monday on whether they will subpoena him and Jones declined to elaborate on the comments he made to the newspaper.

``We have to say no comment right now,'' assistant Oklahoma County district attorney John Jacobsen said, citing a judge's gag order in the state case against Nichols.

Nichols, convicted in a 1997 federal trial of helping McVeigh plan the truck bombing that gutted the Alfred P. Murrah federal building (news - web sites), faces 160 state counts of capital murder.

McVeigh was sentenced to death in 1998 for detonating the bomb out of anger at the U.S. government's handling of the bloody 1995 Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas. McVeigh is scheduled for execution on May 16 at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

In the Sunday Oklahoman article, Jones stopped short of saying Nichols or McVeigh were guilty in the bombing.

``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.''

But Jones told the Sunday Oklahoman that he would be willing to testify under subpoena in the Nichols case if McVeigh tries to take sole blame for the bombing in an upcoming book.

``If McVeigh is saying he acted alone, that is inconsistent with what he told me,'' Jones told the newspaper.

A purported tell-all book about McVeigh titled ``American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing'' is scheduled for release April 3.

Jones said he had heard that the book contains statements from McVeigh claiming sole responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing.

Jones told the newspaper that this claim would be inconsistent with the facts of the case ``and certainly contrary to many statements Tim McVeigh made to me while I was his attorney''.

He said any such claim ``would be nothing more than an effort to obstruct justice in pending judicial proceedings.''

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

Contacted by Reuters, Jones declined to elaborate on his published comments. ``I'm probably not going to have anything else to say until I see the book,'' he said.

Jones told the newspaper his possible testimony under subpoena would not violate the law on attorney-client privilege. Jones and McVeigh had a falling out after McVeigh's trial and Jones no longer represents him.

Jones said he believed McVeigh had given up the attorney-client protection by attacking Jones in a lawsuit last year seeking a new trial. McVeigh charged in the case that Jones was incompetent and unethical, but U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected the complaint.