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Profile: Robert R. Elsey
Robert R. Elsey was a participant or observer in the following events:
James Nichols (see April 21, 1995 and After and April 25, 1995), the brother of accused Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), is released on his own recognizance from a Michigan federal prison. Nichols has been held on charges of conspiring with his brother and accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and May 16, 1995) to make bombs in Michigan, where he owns a farm in Decker. “If released, this defendant poses a risk of flight and a danger to the community,” Assistant United States Attorney Robert Cares tells Judge Paul Borman, citing his belief that Nichols had “prior knowledge” of the bombing. Defense lawyer Robert R. Elsey says Nichols is nothing more than an ordinary farmer, and brings a number of neighbors to the proceeding to vouch for Nichols’s character. Borman rules that there is not enough evidence to hold Nichols on the charges; says that he is not a threat to the public nor a flight risk, ruling, “There is not an iota of evidence of dangerous acts towards others”; and orders Nichols released into the custody of neighbors. Nichols will wear an electronic device to monitor his movements—he is under a curfew and restricted to moving in a small group of Michigan counties—and is ordered to stay away from explosives and firearms. Nichols has been held without bail since his Decker farmhouse was raided on April 21 (see April 21, 1995 and After). He was indicted in early May (see May 9, 1995) by a grand jury on charges of conspiring with McVeigh and his brother to make, store, and detonate bombs on his farm. Nichols was never charged in direct connection with the Oklahoma City bombing; in today’s hearing, Borman focused on the Michigan charges, and refused to allow the prosecution to tie Nichols to the Oklahoma City bombing without more evidence. Government prosecutors argued that Nichols should remain in jail because of his ties to the two subjects. Cares suggested that the “bottle bombs” that Nichols has admitted setting off with his brother and McVeigh were an “experiment” that served as a prelude to the 5,000-pound truck bomb in Oklahoma. Cares told the court: “James Nichols himself engaged in rhetoric of violence. If it was just rhetoric, we wouldn’t be here today. But he and Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh turned those words into action.” FBI agent Patrick Wease testified that a confidential source told him that Nichols said a group called the Patriots would take over the government by force. Wease testified that Nichols told the witness the Patriots “would be involved in the killing of cops, judges, and lawyers.” Elsey will argue at an upcoming hearing that all charges against Nichols be dropped. For his part, Nichols says he harbors no resentment towards the government, and says he wants to go home and plant his soybeans. He declines reporters’ requests to discuss his brother. Of the bombing itself, Nichols says: “It’s a bad tragedy, and everyone should cooperate—and I’m cooperating fully—to get to the bottom of it.” Elsey says Nichols’s anti-government views have been exaggerated. “He just believes the government in many instances is behaving beyond the norms of the constitution, and the limitations of the constitution,” Elsey says. “His alleged animosity to the government was ill-stated by himself.” Elsey adds that Nichols made some anti-government comments during a contentious divorce. [New York Times, 5/22/1995; New York Times, 5/23/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 235-236] In August, federal prosecutors will drop charges against Nichols concerning his manufacture of explosives on his farm. [New York Times, 8/11/1995] Nichols will be given a hero’s welcome when he returns to Decker, where many consider him an unwarranted victim of government persecution and a scapegoat for a bombing conspiracy that they believe was carried out by the government itself. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 193-194]
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