- The Fairfax County, Va., home of John Culbertson - once
a member of former U.S. Rep. James Traficant's scandal-plagued congressional
office - was raided Friday afternoon by Oklahoma City police detectives
searching for evidence related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
- A copy of the search warrant obtained by the McCurtain
Daily Gazette described the evidence sought by detectives as including
any and all computer equipment, letters, correspondence, electronic mail
and image files.
- The raid was prompted after a Jan. 27 "in-camera
hearing" attended by prosecutors and defense attorneys involved with
the Terry Nichols murder trial, set to begin in McAlester one month from
- Information seeking the warrant indicates that during
the closed-door meeting with District Judge Steven Taylor, it was brought
to the attention of prosecutors that Culbertson could have critical evidence
of the bombing crime - evidence that had not come to the attention of state
or federal prosecutors.
- According to the affidavit filed with the search
warrant, Nichols' defense attorneys filed a motion under seal with the
court and further advised prosecutors that Culbertson "may have possession
of a video and/or still photographs of a Ryder truck parked in front of
the Alfred P. Murrah building before the explosion and during the explosion."
- The motion presented by defense attorneys stated that
Dallas, Texas, attorney Thomas W. Mills Jr. observed and described a video
and still photos that Culbertson showed him.
- The affidavit also indicates that Nichols' defense
attorneys said they attempted to contact Culbertson and that he was not
cooperative in showing them the possible evidence.
- Following up on a recommendation by Judge Taylor to
conduct an investigation into the matter, next Oklahoma City police detective
Mark R. Easley the next day traveled to Dallas for an interview with Mills
at his law office.
- Mills advised that years ago he had gone to Washington,
D.C. to meet with Culbertson and actually viewed the video on Aug. 26,
- Mills specifically told police detectives that he
saw a portion of a video and possibly three still pictures that were stored
on Culbertson's laptop computer.
- In an affidavit obtained by this newspaper, Detective
Easley said Mills told him the images he was shown included the Murrah
building in "pristine condition."
- Mills then said, "Mr. Culbertson pushed a button
and a second photograph came up with a small glow at the bottom of the
building. Mr. Culbertson pushed another button and another frame appeared
of a ball of fire rising from the building and the building fell.
- "Mr. Mills asked where the video and pictures
came from (and) Mr. Culbertson said it came from an ATF agent."
- In the motion filed by Nichols' defense earlier, attorney
Mark Earnest explained that he interviewed both Mills and Culbertson about
the potential evidence. He said Culbertson told him his request for a copy
of the video and photographs "placed Culbertson in a tight spot."
- When contacted by telephone late last week, Culbertson
told an Oklahoma City police detective that he had turned over a copy of
the evidence to the House Judiciary Committee several years ago. Asked
if he still had a copy of the material, Culbertson was described as evasive
- refusing to divulge that information.
- Appearing July 27, 2000, before the Committee on
the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, the record shows that Culbertson
alluded to the subject of the possible existence of a videotape of the
bomb blast in Oklahoma City.
- Speaking as the director of the Center for Reform
in Washington, D.C., Culbertson told members of the committee:
- "With respect to the statements made by the
Department of Justice that there are no photos or videos of the explosions
of the Murrah Building, we have discovered that some indeed exist and are
known to members of the law enforcement community.
- "We have a short video presentation with a federal
police officer describing a surveillance tape he personally witnessed at
a gathering of law enforcement officers and comparing it to similar photos
we have obtained in the Oklahoma City investigation, which will be presented
after this opening statement, with your consent, Mr. Chairman. It is about
2 minutes long.
- "This is a video taken April 13 of this year. It
is a Federal police officer describing a surveillance tape from Oklahoma
City he personally witnessed and comparing it to other photos we have uncovered."
- During his appearance before the House Committee,
Culbertson filed an affidavit containing statements he says were made by
a federal agent who, Culbertson claimed, told him he was present at a training
seminar after the bombing when this remarkable videotape was alleged to
have been shown to several federal agents.
- The statement included in the official record of
the hearing is as follows:
- "The Federal Police Officer described two distinct
explosions the locations of which are consistent with evidence uncovered
in the course of investigating the attack on the Murrah Federal Building.
The Federal Police Officer also stated that the photos and video frames
recovered as described above are consistent with the surveillance video
that he witnessed in the training seminar. The officer's statement as well
as photos obtained in the investigation is contained in this document."
- Culbertson went on to testify, "The Department
of Justice has deprived the public of this important information as well
as the courts in various jurisdictions charged with trying cases related
to the bombing. This act is nothing short of callous and malicious obstruction
of justice in what many might consider one of the most important cases
of the Twentieth Century."
- However, under direct examination by a member of
the committee, Culbertson admitted that he did not have possession of the
- The transcript of the hearing contains this exchange
between Culbertson and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York:
- Mr. NADLER. Have you seen it?
- Mr. CULBERTSON. I actually conducted the interview in
Mr. Traficant's office.
- Mr. NADLER. Have you seen the tape, I asked.
- Mr. CULBERTSON. The surveillance tape?
- Mr. NADLER. No. You have not seen the surveillance tape.
Do you have it with you today?
- Mr. CULBERTSON. The videotape?
- Mr. NADLER. No, the surveillance tape.
- Mr. CULBERTSON. No.
- Mr. NADLER. So this is a tape of an officer talking about
a different tape that we cannot see?
- Mr. CULBERTSON. We are attempting to get this tape. This
is a tape of a police officer describing what he saw and comparing it to
photographs and videotape frames that we have in our possession. There
are more than one series of surveillance.
- On July 30, 2002, a federal judge sentenced Culbertson's
boss, James Traficant, to eight years in prison and fined him $150,000
after a jury found the Ohio Democrat guilty on 10 counts of bribery, racketeering
and tax evasion.
- The guilty verdict led the House to strip Traficant
of his seat, making him only the second member of Congress kicked out since
the Civil War.
- Culbertson remained on the former congressman's office
staff for a short time until elections could be held to fill the vacancy.
An inventory of the items removed from the Culbertson residence has not
been made public. So whether the evidence sought was located during Friday's
raid will have to remain a mystery a little longer.