SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake attorney who contends the FBI is hiding surveillance video associated with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing might see his case go trial.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups denied the government's motion to dismiss the case Monday and ordered both sides to prepare for a bench trial. He scheduled a status hearing for Nov. 21, at which a trial date will be set.
"This is a significant ruling," said Jesse Trentadue, who has spent years trying to get the tapes. "There's no doubt that evidence exists. The question then becomes why can't you find it. The obvious answer is you don't want to find it."
At issue is whether the FBI adequately responded to Trentadue's Freedom of Information Act request for footage of Timothy McVeigh parking a truckload of explosives at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
Specifically, he is after surveillance tape of the federal building and neighboring buildings as well as dashcam video from the Oklahoma state trooper who stopped McVeigh 90 minutes after the explosion that killed 168 people.
The FBI has released 30 videotapes and 200 documents in response to Trentadue's FOIA request.
Trentadue began looking into the bombing after his brother died in a federal detention center in Oklahoma. He believes federal agents mistook Kenneth Trentadue, a convicted bank robber, for a bombing suspect and beat him to death during an August 1995 interrogation. His official cause of death was listed as suicide.
Trenatdue claims the video will reveal a second bombing suspect who resembles but is not his brother.
Waddoups has chastised U.S. Department of Justice several times for not producing the tapes since Trentadue sued in 2008.
The FBI has submitted several declarations from its top records manager to show the agency has searched electronic databases and evidence warehouses without success. But Waddoups said the declarations lack credibility because they do not include firsthand knowledge or details about who, when, where or how the searches were done.4 comments on this story
In his ruling, Waddoups wrote that he finds "genuine" dispute as to whether the FBI has adequately looked for the tapes, even according to its own ethical standards.
"This is even more pronounced given the public importance of the videotapes and related documentation," he wrote.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Kathryn Wyer argued last year that the FBI has searched using procedures other courts have recently upheld as reasonable. Trentadue essentially wants to use his FOIA request as a search warrant, which goes beyond the scope of the law, she said.