March 7, 1998 in Nation/World

Informant Boasted He Also Had Anthax Bacteria, Paper Reports A Telephone Recording Of Rockwell Claim Allegedly Exists

Associated Press
 

A week before he turned in two medical researchers for allegedly possessing deadly anthrax, FBI informant Ronald Rockwell boasted that he, too, had the bacteria, a newspaper reported Friday.

The Las Vegas Sun said a phone recording exists in which Rockwell, a two-time convicted felon and self-styled scientist, tells a colleague in Alabama that he had obtained anthrax from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground west of Salt Lake City.

The Feb. 12 recording, according to a source who heard it, showed up in Las Vegas late last week and was turned over to Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O’Neale, who is spearheading a grand jury investigation into the anthrax scare that attracted worldwide publicity.

O’Neale, who did not immediately return a phone call, has declined to discuss or even acknowledge the grand jury probe.

There was no word Friday on whether the tape would affect Rockwell’s standing with the FBI or the grand jury. The FBI has defended its use of the 55-year-old Rockwell, saying it had other sources to corroborate his concerns.

Rockwell’s tip led the FBI to arrest Larry Wayne Harris, 46, of Lancaster, Ohio, and William Job Leavitt Jr., 47, of Logandale, Nev. for carrying what agents believed was lethal anthrax.

Rockwell, who has two convictions for conspiracy to commit extortion, has refused to comment since giving interviews shortly after the anthrax scare went public.

His friend and spokesman, Brett Marshall, said Thursday that Rockwell denies boasting of possessing anthrax himself.

“There’s no truth to any allegation that he bragged about anthrax to a colleague in Alabama,” Marshall said.

Charges against Harris and Leavitt were dropped on Feb. 23, two days after government tests showed the substance in their possession was a harmless animal vaccine.

Harris was to appear Friday before a federal magistrate in Columbus, Ohio, on charges of violating his probation during his trip to meet with Rockwell and Leavitt in Las Vegas.

A week before the two were arrested, sources told the Sun, Rockwell was recorded in the conversation boasting of his independent acquiring of anthrax from the Army lab.

Rockwell did not indicate whether the anthrax was military grade, but he reportedly claimed to have killed the virus with his equipment.

Rockwell also claimed on the recording that he knows how to grow anthrax from the harmless vaccine, a feat the medical world contends is impossible.

According to a copy of a proposed four-page contract obtained by the Sun, Rockwell wanted Leavitt to pay him to do research on time travel and nuclear waste neutralization projects.

© Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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