A northwest Arkansas executive who has sued and been sued by Arkansas Business Publishing Group testified last week in a preliminary hearing for the state murder trial of Terry Nichols, accused co-conspirator in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Jim Bolt of Rogers, former chief operating officer of Golf Entertainment Inc. of Springdale, was called to testify about photographs showing the Murrah building at the moment of explosion that were said to be in the possession of his business associate, John Culbertson.
Detectives raided Culbertson's Centerville, Va., home in January looking for the images.
According to the Tulsa World, Culbertson was identified as an employee of the Arkansas Chronicle, a former Rogers newspaper now said to be based in Washington, D.C. Culbertson gave authorities a photocopied page showing various slides of some kind of explosion. Another slide that reportedly shows the Murrah Building just after the blast was being sent to Oklahoma, he said. Bolt testified Feb. 10 that he was the Chronicle's managing editor from 1996 to 2000 and that he recently rejoined the business. He said Culbertson had told him that no such photographic evidence existed, the World reported. Then, apparently contradicting himself, he claimed that Culbertson had talked about a photographic slide.
"I believe such a photo does exist," the World quoted Bolt as saying. "I believe it's in the hands of a shielded source that Mr. Culbertson has dealt with."
The term "shielded source" typically refers to a person whose identity is being protected by a reporter.
Bolt said he had never seen a photo like those being sought by the court.
According to the World, District Judge Stephen Taylor repeatedly interrupted both direct and cross-examination to personally question Bolt and to warn him that sitting on evidence of the bombing would be a crime.
Bolt's testimony was cut short, however, when he began to complain of heart pain.
An affidavit filed in support of the warrant to search Culbertson's home said Dallas lawyer Thomas W. Mills Jr. saw the images on Culbertson's computer in August 1998. Apparently with help from Bolt and Springdale attorney John Dodge, Culbertson has filed a civil action in Virginia court against the Oklahoma detective who did the search.
That case is called Sienna Broadcasting Corp., et al v. Mark Easley. Sienna Broadcasting Corp. is an alternative name for Golf Entertainment Inc.
Bolt said that Golf/Sienna had also moved to Washington. Last year the Arkansas Securities Department introduced into a federal court case evidence of an improper relationship between Golf and some closely connected investor. By May 2003, Golf was delisted from an over-the-counter stock exchange.
Beginning in August 2002, Arkansas Business and Northwest Arkansas Business Journal published a series of in-depth reports about irregularities in Golf Entertainment's business practices and its relationship with its largest shareholder, the Genesis Trust. Genesis Trust trustee Melvin Robinson has subsequently filed libel claims against the newspapers, their parent company and three employees.
In the meantime, Arkansas Business Publishing Group has sued Bolt and Dodge in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement related to a series of companies the two incorporated with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
Activity in both lawsuits has been delayed, in part by Bolt's claim that he suffers from a rare heart condition.
Robinson has since dropped his libel suit, and Bolt's complaint was automatically stayed when he filed for bankruptcy. The trademark infringement suit is pending.
Bolt and Dodge, who was general counsel for Golf Entertainment, have been involved in nearly a dozen legal actions in recent years against a litany of public and private entities and people.
Terry Nichols' trial has been moved to McAlester, Okla., where he is being prosecuted on 161 first-degree murder counts in connection with the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people.
He has already been convicted in federal court of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of eight federal agents and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He could face the death penalty on the state charge if convicted of murdering the 160 other people and the fetus one of them was carrying.
The mastermind of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh, was executed in June 2001.