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Trial begins for Salt Lake attorney seeking Oklahoma bombing videos, answers

Published: Monday, July 28 2014 7:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 28 2014 10:48 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue speaks during an interview in Salt Lake City. Trentadue's quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Jesse Trentadue has spent nearly two decades searching for answers in the death of his brother on a path that has led him to question both the government's explanation for the death and whether they are hiding information related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Monday, that search culminated in a trial in U.S. District Court.

In 2008, Trentadue filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the FBI for videos and documents related to the bombing. The government said it identified 244 videos and 200 pages of documents relevant to Trentadue's request, after a search by an employee in Oklahoma City named Linda Vernon.

After Trentadue, a Salt Lake attorney, was asked to narrow the scope, 30 videos and the 200 pages were released to him.

"Every tape is known and accounted for," U.S. Department of Justice attorney Kathryn Wyer said in her opening statements Monday. "If the tape did in fact exist it would be found through the searches that (Vernon) did. The plaintiff (Trentadue) refused to accept that the 30 tapes he got are the only tapes."

Trentadue believes there are more videos and is challenging the claim in a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups. Trentadue is after surveillance tape of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and neighboring buildings the day of the bombing as well as dashboard camera video from the Oklahoma state trooper who stopped convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh 90 minutes after the blast.

He claims a "contemporaneous government record" referred to a security camera videotape that showed a Ryder truck pulling up to the federal building, pausing seven to 10 seconds before parking and then "the truck detonation three minutes and six seconds after the suspects exited the truck." The videos provided in response to his FOIA request do not show this, Trentadue argues. He said the FBI provided an edited dash cam video and no surveillance from the Murrah building nor video from surrounding buildings that were directed at the Murrah building.

Waddoups apparently ordered the government to conduct additional searches for the videotapes, but Trentadue said it never did.

The U.S. Department of Justice contends that it has given Trentadue all the information he requested, but he said they have failed to provide footage of McVeigh parking a truckload of explosives at the federal building on April 19, 1995.

Trentadue believes this video will reveal there was a second man with McVeigh who exited with him shortly before the truck exploded, killing 168 people. He claims the second bombing suspect resembled his brother, leading to him being wrongly targeted.

A convicted bank robber, Kenneth Trentadue had been picked up in California after violating his parole and was transported to Oklahoma City for further proceedings. During this time, the FBI was investigating the bombing.

Kenneth Trentadue was found hanging in his cell while in federal custody, and his death was ruled a suicide. Jesse Trentadue felt the explanation did not fit the battered, bruised condition of his brother's body and believes federal agents mistook Kenneth Trentadue for a bombing suspect and beat him to death during an interrogation.

Monday, Trentadue pointed to one video he is still seeking. He said he asked for information produced as part of another Oklahoma City bombing-related information request that landed in court — David Hoffman v. DOJ. But Monica Mitchell, who works in the FBI's records office that responds to FOIA requests, testified that Trentadue didn't ask for information about the Hoffman case.

She said he just referenced the case in his request simply because it was a case that sought similar information.

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