Jury selection to begin in Oklahoma City bomb plot trial

Jerry Drake Varnell

OKLAHOMA CITY – A man charged with trying to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb outside an Oklahoma City bank is standing trial in federal court.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in the trial of Jerry Varnell, who pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted use of an explosive device and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Prosecutors say Varnell planned to detonate a vehicle bomb Aug. 12, 2017, outside of a BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, but the FBI learned of the plan and an undercover agent posing as someone who could help construct the device provided inert materials.

“The target himself, Mr. Varnell, would call the bomb through a triggering device in a cellphone that was affixed to the bomb,” said Raul Bujanda, the assistant special agent in charge for Oklahoma City. “He would call the phone, and it would ring and that’s what would detonate the bomb.”

Instead, it rang another phone that was in the hands of law enforcement.

Defense attorneys argue that Varnell was entrapped.

The judge has prohibited prosecutors from showing jurors a video of a similar bomb exploding, but will allow photos and testimony about the potential damage it could cause.

Varnell faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on attempting to use an explosive device and life in prison on the weapon of mass destruction count.

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