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Profile: Ronald L. Howland

Ronald L. Howland was a participant or observer in the following events:

April 27, 1995: McVeigh Held without Bail

US magistrate Ronald L. Howland orders Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995) held without bail. Howland rules there is “an indelible trail of evidence” linking McVeigh to the bombing, and orders him detained. FBI agent John Hersley testifies that at least three witnesses place McVeigh near the Murrah Federal Building minutes before the blast that almost destroyed the building and killed over a hundred people. Hersley also testifies that McVeigh’s clothing bore chemical residue that matched the explosives used in the blast. The hearing is held in the El Reno Federal Corrections Center instead of the usual courtroom setting because of security concerns, in a prison cafeteria converted for the purpose. Only lawyers, FBI agents, and a small number of journalists are present, along with McVeigh, who is heavily cuffed and shackled. Hersley testifies that one witness, a meter maid, saw someone she believes to be McVeigh driving a Ryder Rental truck similar to the one that detonated in front of the Murrah Building. A second witness, Hersley says, saw someone who he believes to be McVeigh walking away from the Ryder truck after parking it in front of the building. A third witness saw what he believes to be two men (see April 20, 1995) driving away from the scene of the blast in a yellow Mercury (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Hersley says that other witnesses saw McVeigh bring a Ryder truck to the Dreamland Motel in Junction City (see April 13, 1995), and saw him again in the truck a day before the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). The other person to testify is trooper Charles Hanger, who arrested McVeigh on unrelated gun charges (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh’s lawyer John Coyle tells the judge that his client chooses to “stand mute” during the hearing, and later points out that none of the witnesses cited by Hersley actually saw McVeigh detonate the bomb. At the beginning of the hearing, both of McVeigh’s lawyers, Coyle and Susan Otto, again ask to be removed from the case (see April 24, 1995) because of their personal experiences with the bombing. “We heard it,” Otto tells Howland. “We smelled it. We lived there in it.” Otto lists the names of 10 people she and Coyle knew who were killed in the bombing. They both repeat their request that McVeigh’s trial be moved from Oklahoma City (see April 22, 1995). [New York Times, 4/27/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 223-224; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Coyle will later tell reporters, “The reasons I accepted the appointment in the first place is that I’ve never seen anyone who needed a lawyer more than that boy did.” Now, however, “[t]his is a case where I know too many people. In a sense, I feel like a victim. Everyone in Oklahoma City feels like a victim. [McVeigh] deserves a lawyer who would have no hesitation in his defense.… If ever anyone needed a lawyer, it is this young man. And it should not be me.” [New York Times, 4/28/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 225]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charles Hanger, El Reno Federal Corrections Center, Timothy James McVeigh, Ronald L. Howland, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Susan Otto, John Hersley, John Coyle, Murrah Federal Building

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An FBI affidavit filed today in Oklahoma suggests that planning for the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) began as early as September 1994, when accused bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and April 24, 1995) began buying thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and rented the first of several storage sheds in small towns in Kansas (see October 17, 1994). Nichols is accused of accumulating two tons of ammonium nitrate and, just before the bombing, purchasing an unspecified quantity of diesel fuel, another essential ingredient for the bomb. The affidavit, unsealed at a hearing for Nichols at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center outside Oklahoma City and intended to show a judge that sufficient grounds exist to charge Nichols with the bombing, provides the first look at the government’s case against Nichols and accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). The affidavit provides a chronological timeline of events that together portray Nichols and McVeigh as Army buddies turned amateur terrorists, and suggests that Nichols may have actually led the bomb-making effort, though he did not participate in the bombing itself. Nichols’s brother James Nichols has also been indicted on charges of building bombs (see May 11, 1995). However, the indictment shows no direct involvement by James Nichols or anyone else in the bombing conspiracy. The indictment specifically offers no evidence that the as-yet unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), suspected of accompanying McVeigh when he rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), is involved in the bombing, though authorities continue to search for him, believing him to be either a co-conspirator or a valuable witness. The affidavit states that “an explosive device of the magnitude” that wrecked the Murrah Federal Building “would have been constructed over a period of time utilizing a large quantity of bomb paraphernalia and materials.” Building such a bomb, the document says, “would necessarily have involved the efforts of more than one person,” although it does not say how many. The affidavit also reveals that five months before the bombing, Nichols left a letter that instructed McVeigh to clean out two of the storage sheds if Nichols were to unexpectedly die, told McVeigh he would be “on his own,” and said he should “go for it!” (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). It shows that a search of Nichols’s home found numerous materials appearing to be related to the bomb, including explosive and other materials used in the bomb itself. And Nichols has admitted to having the knowledge required to make an ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) bomb such as the one used in Oklahoma City. He said he disposed of ammonium nitrate by spreading it on his yard on April 21 after reading press accounts that the substance was one of the ingredients used in the bomb, and told investigators that the materials they found at his home were “household items.” After the 13-minute hearing, US Magistrate Ronald L. Howland orders Nichols held without bail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 18. Patrick M. Ryan, the interim US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, reads the charges against Nichols, and says the government will seek the death penalty. Nichols is currently represented by two federal public defenders, David Phillips and Steven Gradert, but the judge is expected to appoint another lawyer to represent Nichols on the bombing charges. [New York Times, 5/12/1995]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Phillips, El Reno Federal Corrections Center, James Nichols, Patrick M. Ryan, Steven Gradert, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Ronald L. Howland

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 24, 1995, and July 11-13, 1995) and his accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995) plead not guilty to eight federal charges of murder and three conspiracy charges associated with the bombing. Each of the 11 counts could earn the two the death penalty if they are convicted. The two men appear separately in the Oklahoma City Federal District Courthouse. McVeigh, wearing a blue sport coat, a blue open-neck shirt, khaki trousers and polished brown shoes, and standing in a military at-ease position, tells federal magistrate Ronald Howland, “Sir, I plead not guilty.” After McVeigh is taken out, Nichols is brought into Howland’s presence; he tells the magistrate, “Your Honor, I am innocent.” [New York Times, 8/16/1995]

Entity Tags: Ronald L. Howland, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Magistrate Ronald Howland, presiding over the preliminary matters in the upcoming trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), unseals nine documents in response to petitions from news organizations. One of these documents says two witnesses saw a man they believed to be McVeigh and another person leave the scene of the bombing shortly before the April 19 attack. The document is an affidavit that is part of a search warrant. Another document says that McVeigh was carrying a pamphlet with a quote from 17th-century philosopher John Locke when he was arrested (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). The quote reads: “I have no reason to suppose that he who would take away my liberty would not when he had men in his power take away everything else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself in a state of war against me and kill him if I can.” [Reuters, 11/6/1995]

Entity Tags: Ronald L. Howland, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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