- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

FBI officials in Oklahoma, under fire for withholding evidence in the Timothy McVeigh case, "consistently and seriously" failed to turn over documents in an inquiry into the death of a federal inmate.
A little-known 1999 report by the Justice Departments Office of Inspector General (IG) found that FBI agents and supervisors at the Oklahoma City field office sought to "minimize the importance" of an IG inquiry into the August 1995 death of inmate Kenneth Trentadue and raised "repeated objections" to providing investigators with critical documents.
The 206-page report said one FBI agent assigned to investigate the death waited months before beginning the probe, mishandled and misplaced key evidence and refused to review crime scene photos because of his distaste for pictures of dead bodies.
The report said the agent left critical evidence under his desk for more than two weeks, sending it to the FBI laboratory only after it smelled so bad that it made him sick.
By the time some of the bloody evidence was turned over to the laboratory, it had "putrefied," said the report.
The IG investigation, first reported by The Washington Times in December 1999, said its agents were hampered by a "significant and unjustified" lack of cooperation from FBI officials in Oklahoma City, noting that efforts by the FBI field office in the Trentadue inquiry contrasted sharply with the cooperation shown by U.S. Bureau of Prisons and by supervisors at FBI headquarters in Washington.
"We believe the lack of cooperation … in our investigation was significant and unjustified. It was also in marked contrast to the [Bureau of Prisons] response, which recognized the importance of our review, fully cooperated and provided us with documents in a timely fashion," the report said.
"It was also in contrast to the response from FBI headquarters personnel with whom we dealt on this matter, who cooperated throughout our review and were instrumental in getting us information and documents we needed," the report continued.
Last week, the FBI acknowledged that more than 3,100 documents on the McVeigh bombing probe had not been turned over to prosecutors and McVeighs defense attorneys as required by a discovery agreement in the case.
The McVeigh investigation was run by officials at the Oklahoma City office.
Yesterday, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, in his second day of public testimony before Congress, again took responsibility for the failure of the agency to deliver the documents.
But he told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that none of the missing records were intentionally withheld or had any bearing on McVeighs guilt or innocence.
Mr. Freeh said the bureau was "taking some particular steps" in dealing with the fact that the documents were not handed over, adding that the cause of the failure was not a technology problem.
"We believe its just a management and execution problem and, even given the extraordinary scope of this case in terms of the number of materials involved, millions and millions, we did a less-than-good job with respect to the accumulation and the discovery" of the documents, he said.
"I take full responsibility for that. I also will take some steps to try to address it."
In response to questions from Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, Mr. Freeh conceded that "culture problems" within the bureau contributed to the FBIs failure to turn over the records.
Mr. Freeh said agents and supervisors should have taken more seriously "the very clear and specific commands" that all McVeigh documents had to be given to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The FBIs failure to turn over the records caused Attorney General John Ashcroft to delay McVeighs scheduled execution until June 11.
McVeigh was convicted in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 persons, including 19 children.
With regard to the Trentadue case, FBI officials in Washington and in Oklahoma yesterday said problems in the Oklahoma City field office had been corrected, adding that the agents and supervisors cited in the IG report played only a minor role in the McVeigh investigation.
In the Trentadue inquiry, the IGs office was investigating whether prison and FBI officials properly responded to and investigated the Aug. 21, 1995, death.
The report concluded that the FBI improperly investigated the death, mishandled evidence and failed to document its investigation, but that Trentadue had killed himself and that multiple wounds found on his body were self-inflicted.
Trentadues family later sued the government, challenging the suicide ruling, and was awarded $1.1 million by a judge earlier this month.


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