Attorney representing Oklahoma bomb plot suspect asking to be removed from case

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OKLAHOMA CITY – An attorney representing a man who allegedly attempted to detonate what he thought was a bomb in downtown Oklahoma City is asking to be removed from the case.

According to a criminal complaint, the FBI arrested 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell on Aug. 12 after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van in an alley next to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City.

“He wanted to make the biggest impact wherever he was going to place his bomb. And, in his mind, this would have been the biggest impact in Oklahoma,” said Raul Bujanda, the assistant special agent in charge for Oklahoma City.

Investigators were tipped off in December 2016 by a confidential source about Varnell’s aspirations to bomb the Eccles Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., “in a manner similar to the Oklahoma City Bombing,” court records show.

However, he soon changed his mind and decided to target a building in downtown Oklahoma City.

BancFirst located in downtown Oklahoma City

An undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could help him with the bombing.

Court documents say after a final rehearsal of the route, Varnell drove the van by himself to the alley and loading dock of the BancFirst building.

“The target himself, Mr. Varnell, would call the bomb through a triggering device in a cell phone that was affixed to the bomb,” said Bujanda. “He would call the phone and it would ring, and that’s what would detonate the bomb.”

Instead, law enforcement officers swooped in and took Varnell into custody.

Drake Varnell, Oklahoma Department of Corrections 2015

Now, Varnell’s defense attorney is asking to be removed from the case due to a ‘conflict of interest.’

According to paperwork filed in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma, Terri Coulter says that she just became aware “of facts that create a conflict between Mr. Varnell and a client represented by this Counsel’s partner/associate.”

The filing goes on to say that the conflict of interest “will impair her ability to provide effective assistance of counsel.”

Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon Erwin ordered that Varnell undergo a mental evaluation before the case moves forward.

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