This story appears in today’s edition of the McCurtain Daily Gazette.
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 follows a Jan. 27 closed-door meeting attended by prosecutors and defense attorneys involved with the Terry Nichols murder trial, set to begin one month from now in Oklahoma.
During the meeting, it was brought to the attention of prosecutors Culbertson could have critical evidence concerning the bombing – 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 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 affidavit also indicates Nichols’ defense attorneys said they attempted to contact Culbertson and he was not cooperative in showing them the possible evidence.
The motion presented by defense attorneys also stated Dallas, Texas, attorney Thomas W. Mills Jr. observed and described a video and still photos that Culbertson showed him.
Oklahoma City police detective Mark R. Easley interviewed Mills at his law office after District Judge Steven Taylor recommended an investigation into the matter.
Mills said he had gone to Washington, D.C., years ago to meet with Culbertson and actually viewed the video on Aug. 26, 1998.
Mills specifically told police detectives 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 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 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 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 two 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 the 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 20th century.”
However, under direct examination by a member of the committee, Culbertson admitted he did not have possession of the film.
The transcript of the hearing contains this exchange between Culbertson and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York:
NADLER: Have you seen it?
CULBERTSON: I actually conducted the interview in Mr. Traficant’s office.
NADLER: Have you seen the tape, I asked.
CULBERTSON: The surveillance tape?
NADLER: No. You have not seen the surveillance tape. Do you have it with you today?
CULBERTSON: The videotape?
NADLER: No, the surveillance tape.
NADLER: So this is a tape of an officer talking about a different tape that we cannot see?
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.
Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing