OKLAHOMA CITY -- Michael Fortier, the prosecution's star witness in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, will be freed this week, more than a year before his sentence was scheduled to end.
Survivors of the 1995 attack and relatives of the 168 victims received a letter from the Bureau of Prisons this week indicating Fortier's release date of tomorrow.
''He's the luckiest man in the world," said Paul Heath, who was on the fifth floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building when the bomb exploded. ''Fortier, by being willing to do a plea bargain, won the Powerball lottery of the justice system."
Traci Billingsley, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, said yesterday that she had no information about Fortier to release.
As part of his deal with prosecutors, Fortier testified against bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols at their federal trials and later at Nichols's state murder trial.
He was sentenced to 12 years and ordered to pay $200,000 in fines after pleading to having prior knowledge of the bombing plan but not alerting authorities, to helping McVeigh and Nichols move and sell stolen guns, and to lying to federal authorities.
Fortier's sentence probably was shortened because of good behavior and for time served before his formal sentence, said Irven Box, a lawyer who covered the trial for KWTV in Oklahoma City. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. Nichols is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.