Jury convicted man in Oklahoma City federal bomb plot trial

Posted at 5:15 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 19:15:31-05

OKLAHOMA CITY – A 24-year-old man was found guilty of trying to detonate what he believed was an explosives-laden van outside an Oklahoma City bank, a federal jury ruled Monday.

Jurors convicted Jerry Drake Varnell of attempting to use an explosive device to damage a building and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Varnell allegedly planned to denote what he thought was a half-ton vehicle bomb on August 12, 2017. The FBI caught wind of the plan and an undercover agent posed as someone who could help construct the device according to prosecutors.

Varnell pleaded not guilty and his defense attorneys claimed he was entrapped. His parents testified that he is a paranoid schizophrenic who has been in and out of several mental hospitals.

Testimony in the case started February 12th and included an informant who made recordings of his conversations with Varnell and undercover FBI agent who helped Varnell build what he thought was a bomb.

Authorities said the explosives were not live and the public was never really in danger.

Federal investigators received information that Varnell originally wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the one used in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people.

Prosecutors said Varnell will remain in custody until his sentencing in about 90 days. He faces life in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and a maximum sentence of 20 years for attempting to use an explosive device.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)