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FBI expert: Man on arson tape resembles Burlingame grocer

An expert who identified Osama bin Laden on videotape for federal investigators testified in court Thursday that Burlingame Grocery owner Thomas Calkins appears to be the man taped on camera seconds before a fire broke out and destroyed the store.

Grant Fredericks, lead instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., testified on the first day of Calkins' arson trial.

Calkins, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of insurance fraud and second-degree arson, could be sentenced to 90 months in prison if found guilty by a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury. The trial is expected to last until June 16.

For nearly five seconds, the tape shows a man Ñ resembling the silver-haired Calkins, wearing khaki pants and a fleece pullover Ñ walking toward a break room moments before the fire broke out at 11:21 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2001, in the Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard store.

Fredericks, a manager at Boston-based digital media manufacturer Avid Technology Inc., said he spent months analyzing the videotape rescued from the torched grocery's security system.

On a screen in the court of Judge Linda Bergman, Fredericks played the grainy store video alongside a KOIN (6) video of Calkins as he watched the fire from outside of the store later in the evening. Fredericks said the men in the two videos were the same height and build, made similar body movements, and both had light hair and wore similar clothing.

'The person in the surveillance tape has identical physique and size to TV videotape of Calkins,' said Fredericks, a former Canadian police officer. 'There are no inconsistencies between the two É they both have the same unique characteristics. There is no difference between them.'

Several prosecution witnesses who testified on Thursday also identified the person on the tape as Calkins after being shown the tape by city fire investigators.

'I thought the video looked like Tom,' said Trenton Robb, who worked as a bakery assistant at Burlingame Grocery. Other employees who had keys to the store had darker hair, were skinnier and 'maybe taller,' he said.

Calkins' attorney, Pat Birmingham, had sought to have the video excluded as evidence, but Bergman ruled on Monday that it was admissible.

Birmingham said Thursday that he plans to call more than a dozen witnesses who expressed doubt about the video.

Calkins, whose two college-age sons sat in back of him during the first day of the trial, is expected to take the stand next week, as is his wife, Jackie.