- 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
- 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
- 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
- "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
- 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
- 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
- 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."