DENVER, June 4 -- Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols has been sentenced to life in prison for the April 19, 1995, truck bomb attack that killed 168 men, women and children. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said today 43-year-old Nichols will be in prison 'for the duration of his life' and ordered him to pay $14.5 million in restitution. Matsch said, 'This is not a murder case. It is a crime against the Constitution of the United States. That's the victim. Terry Nichols has been proven to be an enemy of the Constitution.' Nichols declined Matsch's invitation to make a statement, perhaps on the advise of defense lawyers, who want to avoid any new incriminating statements that might influence a possible trial on state charges in Oklahoma. Matsch said Nichols and his old Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, tried but failed to intimidate the government through terrorism. He said, 'There was no reign of terror. We proceeded with the orderly process of recovery and restoration.' In January, Nichols was convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, but he was acquitted of two bomb-related counts and first-degree murder. Matsch was compelled by law to sentence Nichols after jurors failed to unanimously sentence the former military surplus dealer and ex-GI to death by injection. The judge informed Nichols of his right to appeal and told him he has 10 days to do so. Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar said outside the U.S. Courthouse in Denver, 'The government did its job, and we are doing our job' in taking Nichols' case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Chief prosecutor Larry Mackey, referring to Matsch, said, 'He declared that the Constitution was at the heart of this crime. We're particularly satisified with the results.' Twelve survivors of the blast and victims' loved ones delivered testimony that brought tears and audible sobs to the crowded courtroom where Nichols and condemned bomber McVeigh were convicted in separate trials. Marsha Kight, whose 23-year-old daughter, Frankie Merrill, was killed in the explosion, said, 'The echoes of that day still reverberate. Those that survived the war zone will live with that the rest of their lives.' 'Families that were once close are living today in shreds,' she went on. 'They saw unspeakable horror that day.' Doris Jones -- who lost her pregnant daughter, Carrie, in the blast -- said she still wears clothing and a bracelet that were her daughter's. McVeigh was convicted of all 11 counts and sentenced to die. He is behind bars at the federal 'Supermax' prison in Florence, Colo., while his case is appealed. ---
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