Business Deal - Not Terrorism -
Said Behind Anthrax Arrests
By Michael Fleeman,
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Far from planning an anthrax attack, William Leavitt Jr. -- described by his attorneys as a well-meaning if gullible scientist -- was involved in a deal to buy a $2 million germ-killing machine from an FBI informant who double-crossed him, Leavitt's lawyers said Friday.
He and Larry Wayne Harris, both microbiologists, were arrested here outside a medical office Thursday and charged with possessing anthrax or its precursor and with conspiring to possess the deadly germ warfare agent.
Their lawyers say the material seized by the FBI was anthrax vaccine, which is legal and safe.
The FBI was awaiting tests Friday to determine if it was vaccine or material grade anthrax, which is potent enough to kill thousands of people.
Leavitt is married with three children and runs his own fire-protection business. The FBI says he also owns microbiological laboratories in his hometown of Logandale, Nev., and Frankfurt, Germany.
His criminal attorney, Lamond Mills, said the FBI's informant, Ronald Rockwell, was trying to "scam" Leavitt into buying a germ-killing machine.
"When he couldn't scam 'em, he went the other way. He became a good guy for the FBI," Mills said.
Leavitt's business lawyer, Kirby Wells, said the machine was called the AZ-58 Ray Tube Frequency Instrument Prototype, and was hyped by Rockwell in glossy brochures as being able to flush the body clean of bacteria and viruses.
"It looked like a bunch of bells and whistles," said Wells, who said he saw a picture of the machine. "What made my client believe there was substance to that thing, I don't know. I wish I did."
A promotion on the Internet has a bold headline: "ANTHRAX," and goes on to say the AZ-58 "can treat large numbers of people at the same time."
"Has the greatest health discovery in history been suppressed?" the ad asks.
Leavitt was close to buying the machine in a $2 million deal, but wanted to test it before making a $100,000 down-payment and arranged to fly Harris to Las Vegas about a week ago to help, said Wells.
Leavitt believed that Harris was transporting anthrax vaccine, Mills said. But Rockwell told the FBI that Leavitt described it as military-grade.
On the"NBC Nightly News" Friday, Rockwell reiterated that Leavitt and Harris said they had military grade anthrax.
"They lied on what they were going to do," Rockwell said. "It scared me so bad."
There is no phone listing for Rockwell in the Las Vegas area. His attorney has not returned calls to The Associated Press.
Leavitt and Harris were arrested Wednesday night after the FBI, with Rockwell's help, tailed the men to a medical office in suburban Henderson. Authorities removed a cooler and petri dishes from the office, and sealed the men's beige Mercedes in plastic before transporting it to an Air Force base.
Leavitt, 47, and Harris, 46, of Lancaster, Ohio, are being held without bond.
In an affidavit, the FBI said described Rockwell as a cancer research scientist who was convicted of felony extortion in 1981 and 1982. But the FBI has vouched for his credibility, saying he came forward without getting a deal and was a "citizen performing his civic duty."
Harris' attorney, Michael Kennedy, said Thursday that Rockwell's credibility "is something we're going to look into."
It was unclear how Leavitt, a Mormon bishop with strong political ties, got hooked up with Harris, an alleged white supremacist who has been plugging his self-published book about germ warfare.
The FBI has said Harris met Rockwell last summer at a Denver science conference, while Leavitt's attorneys said they believed Rockwell got the men together.
Mills said the results of the FBI tests will determine if they remain united in their defense.
"If the tests come back non-toxin, there is no case," said Mills. "If it comes back military grade, then whoa, time out, that's not our fault. We separate from (Harris) completely."

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