Oklahoma suspect cashes in

US/ McVeigh 'the next OJ'

THE MAN charged with the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh, looks as if he is preparing to follow OJ Simpson's example and transform his notoriety into profit.

He took the first step last week by granting an interview to Newsweek, which featured him in soulful close-up on the cover. Tutored by his lawyer, Stephen Jones, he transformed himself from stony-faced mass-murderer to all-American boy next door.

McVeigh portrayed himself as a wholesome young man with a firm handshake who played sports as a kid; helped dad in the vegetable garden; worked in a fast-food outlet; fought in Desert Storm.

Mr Jones, anxious not to blow his chance of wealth and fame, went so far as to call him a "wonder boy". Teasingly, Jones said his client had not quite made up his mind which celebrity anchor would land the coveted first TV interview.

Once that happens the book, the movie, the T-shirts, the bumper stickers, the plastic McVeigh doll in camouflage dress will not be far behind. The money made from the Simpson trial had exceeded the gross national product of Grenada by March, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At least 15 Simpson-related books have been published so far, including his own I want to tell you and one by Kato Kaelin, the famously inane prosecution witness, which has so far sold 800,000 copies.

There is no reason why McVeigh should not get on the gravy train. And there's every reason to believe that's where Stephen Jones wishes to put him.

McVeigh already fulfils the first requirement for success in the American bazaar: instant fame. Best of all, he is an enigma, possibly a mass-murdering enigma, who according to the FBI hit upon a particularly perverse device to realise the American dream of rising from middle class obscurity to the status of an overnight celebrity, a household name.

His autobiography, however banal, would net a fortune. As would books by his father, sister, mother, best friend - and lawyer.

As for the actual business of providing McVeigh with a decent defence, here again Jones is aping the example of his more celebrated Simpson trial peers. OJ's lawyers, Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran et al, went out of their way before the trial began to spread the idea of their client's innocence as far and wide as is the reach of the American media. For a potential juror to have missed the onslaught he would have had to be away on Mars or, at any rate, in the Amazon jungle.

Jones followed up the Newsweek interview by releasing to the press at large 13 pleasingly well-lit cover-boy photographs of McVeigh and a video for use on the nation's TV networks. Already he has planted a seed of doubt that did not exist in the American public following what the lawyer called the "Niagara Falls of vilification" from the FBI.

And he has put down his first deposit on what should turn out to be one of the year's better showbiz investments.

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