"Judge Delays Trial on Suit By Davidians"
("Associated Press", September 16, 1999)
WACO, Tex., Sept. 15 - A judge delayed the trial of a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by surviving Branch Davidians against the government, saying today that more time is needed for federal officials to produce the evidence he demanded.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who has battled the Justice Department over the scope of his demand, acknowledged that the department intends to comply with his order to turn over documents and evidence related to the 1993 Waco siege and its fiery end, which left about 75 people dead inside the cult's compound.
"However, the physical transfer of control of all of this evidence will take longer than originally anticipated by the court," Smith wrote. "Therefore, the current trial setting of Oct. 18, 1999, will be impossible to maintain."
Smith has yet to set a new court date. He said the government's request for a fall 2000 date was "unrealistic" and he will not postpone the trial for a year.
On Sept. 2, Smith ordered the government to surrender all evidence by Oct. 1 or face a contempt of court citation.
"We believe the judge appropriately recognized that gathering all these materials would take longer than Oct. 1," said Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin.
"Branch Davidian Prosecutors Recused From Further Inquiry"
by David A. Vise and Lorraine Adams ("The Washington Post", September 15, 1999)
The Justice Department has removed the entire U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas from further work related to the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex. The broad recusal is intended to avoid conflicts that could impede a fresh investigation being led by former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), a senior Justice Department official said yesterday.
Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said U.S. Attorney Bill Blagg, whose office handled the criminal trial of the Branch Davidians in 1994, requested that his Western District office be recused from further work on Waco. Holder said that it is routine to approve recusal requests and that David Margolis, the senior department official who handled the details of the matter, told him he had never turned down a recusal request.
"People who were involved in the original trial are potentially now going to be witnesses in the Danforth deal," Holder said. "It is an appearance thing to make sure people who are potentially witnesses are not actively involved in anything ongoing. If anything, it just makes it less difficult for [Danforth] to accomplish his mission."
One of the attorneys in Blagg's office who is being recused is Assistant U.S. Attorney William Johnston, who recently sent Attorney General Janet Reno a strongly worded letter warning that she had been misled by people within her department about the Waco siege. Holder said the broad recusal had nothing to do with Johnston's letter.
Holder, who is second-in-command at the Justice Department, has been overseeing the Danforth probe since last week, when Reno recused herself from the matter because she too anticipates being a witness in the Danforth inquiry.
The Danforth probe was launched last week after political furor over new disclosures that potentially incendiary devices were used by the FBI during the April 19, 1993, assault on the Waco compound that ended with about 75 Branch Davidians dying in a fire. Reno had said for the past six years that no potentially flammable devices were used, and FBI officials continue to maintain that the military tear gas canisters fired that day did not start the blaze. Danforth said he wants to determine whether government agents killed people and whether there was a coverup.
Holder said the recusal also was granted because officials in the Western District of Texas were present at "an interview" where the tear gas canisters were discussed. "My office has been recused from all . . . matters to avoid any potential or appearance of a conflict of interest," Blagg said.
Holder transferred authority to work on the case to U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of the Eastern District of Texas.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
Making an Early Mark At Justice Lawyer, 32, Defends U.S.On Waco, Ruby Ridge
by Terry M. Neal ("Washington Post", September 15, 1999)
A few short years ago, Donald M. Remy was just another bright young lawyer, looking to gain experience as a litigator and make a career in Washington.
Earlier this year, he found himself arguing a case for the Justice Department against former attorney general Ramsey Clark, who was representing the state of Idaho in litigation involving the FBI siege at Ruby Ridge in 1992.
"I was like, 'Whoa, I'm going to argue a case against Ramsey Clark,' " Remy said recently. "But once you get going, the butterflies go away."
At only 32, Remy is one of the Justice Department's top lawyers and is playing important roles in two of the agency's messiest entanglements this decade: Ruby Ridge and the assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Tex., in 1993.
Not quite two years ago, Attorney General Janet Reno and then-Assistant Attorney General Frank W. Hunger tapped Remy to be one of the youngest prosecutors ever to head a major office at the department, the Torts Branch of the Civil Division. As a deputy assistant attorney general, Remy supervises about 140 lawyers.
Hunger, now a partner at Long, Aldredge & Norman, initially brought Remy in as an adviser on policy and legislative matters, and Remy worked on national product-liability law reform and tobacco legislation. Hunger also assigned Remy to defend the Ruby Ridge case.
Hunger got Remy's name from a Republican, Michael Powell, who helped recruit Remy, a Democrat, to O'Melveny & Myers in 1996 before Powell left for Justice.
"He truly loves public service," said Powell, now a member of the Federal Communications Commission. "I see him as one of these people who goes to the private sector, feeds his family and comes back. He'll be on the short list of positions with great responsibility."
The job Remy has now is a big one. The Torts Branch defends the United States against lawsuits seeking monetary damages for allegedly negligent or wrongful acts by government employees and agencies. Remy personally handles certain aspects of the Ruby Ridge case and supervises senior lawyers defending the government in the Waco case.
In May 1998, a federal judge threw out Idaho's charge of involuntary manslaughter against Lon Horiuchi--the FBI agent who fatally shot Vicki Weaver, wife of white separatist Randy Weaver--after Remy argued that the Constitution's supremacy clause prohibited such prosecutions. Idaho has appealed the decision.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in Texas set a trial date of Oct. 18 for a lawsuit brought by the families of the Branch Davidians alleging that the government used "grossly excessive" force.
The Waco case has been complicated recently by the FBI's admission that federal agents used potentially incendiary devices during the siege, which the bureau had long denied. Reno has appointed former senator John Danforth (R-Mo.) to conduct a special investigation. Remy said he can't discuss details of the Waco case.
In an interview on Saturday, Remy looked weary from weeks of 12- to 14-hour days. "That's just one of my cases," he said of Waco. "I've got a lot of other stuff to do."
At any given moment, the Torts Branch is handling hundreds of cases on a variety of subjects, including aviation, employment discrimination, commerce and constitutional issues.
Remy's boss, acting Assistant Attorney General David Ogden, recently added to Remy's duties, asking him to temporarily supervise the Civil Division's 90-lawyer Federal Programs Branch, which defends the government against regulatory challenges.
There are a few other supervisors around his age at the Justice Department. Their jobs can be tricky, because they require leading teams of lawyers who, in many cases, are much older career employees.
"It didn't take me very long to see that he had the maturity and qualifications or ability that I thought was needed for someone to fill that position," Hunger said.
Remy, who grew up moving around as "your typical Army brat," went to Louisiana State University on an ROTC scholarship and attended Howard University Law School, where he graduated third in his class. Afterward, he fulfilled his four-year military commitment in the Army general counsel's office.
He clerked for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Jones said Remy worked closely with him on a precedent-setting racial profiling case, as well as other cases.
Remy said he was a bit nervous, but not daunted, by his promotion to deputy assistant attorney general.
"I felt like I could rise to the challenge," he said. "I was trained as a military officer, and I thought I had the background to be able to do it.
Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates
CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors.
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