MCALESTER, Okla. – A shackled, handcuffed Terry Nichols was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole, branded by a state judge as a “terrorist” who “betrayed your country” when he helped bomb the Oklahoma City federal building.

For his part, Nichols described how the 1995 attack had haunted him, causing him to “shed many tears.” But he offered no more details about the plot, saying only that “my views were never the same” as those of co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh.

“I’m truly sorry for what occurred,” he said, never taking his eyes off a prepared statement he read while sitting in the witness stand in a half-full Oklahoma courtroom. The trial was moved to McAlester from Oklahoma City because of extensive pretrial publicity.

Nichols thanked jurors who declined to impose the death penalty despite his convictions on 161 counts of first-degree murder and one count each of first-degree arson and conspiracy.

The jury’s deadlock on sentencing left Nichols’ fate in the hands of state District Judge Steven Taylor, who could not by law impose a death sentence. Even so, the judge ordered the maximum sentence possible – life without the possibility of parole, the terms running consecutively to ensure Nichols has no choice of freedom.

Wearing pale-blue prison garb with the word INMATE stamped on the back, Nichols remained stoic as Taylor delivered a scathing reproach of the Army veteran whose hatred of the federal government led to the truck bombing.

“I hope that you never have a waking moment when you do not think about or consider those 161 souls you took away,” the judge said.

Nichols, 48, has until Aug. 19 to decide whether to appeal his conviction and sentence. Legal experts expressed doubt he would, since he escaped the death penalty in the Oklahoma trial.

He already faces a life-without-parole sentence in federal prison after he was convicted in 1997 of conspiracy and manslaughter in the deaths of eight federal law officers killed in the blast.

McVeigh, considered the bombing’s mastermind, was convicted in a separate federal trial of conspiracy and murder. He was executed in June 2001.

(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Terry Nichols

AP-NY-08-09-04 1558EDT

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