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"Davidian arrested for having handgun at Dallas airport"

by Tommy Witherspoon ("Waco Tribune-Herald, August 31, 2000)

A Branch Davidian who left Mount Carmel during the 1993 government siege has been arrested for having a handgun at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Rita Faye Riddle, 43, now of Candler, N.C., was released from the Dallas County Jail on Sunday after posting $5,000 bond on charges of carrying a weapon in a prohibited location.
Airport spokesman Emilio Howell said Riddle was arrested after airport security officers spotted a pistol in her bag as it went through a scanning machine about 8:45 a.m. Saturday. Riddle consented to a search of the bag and officers found the handgun, Howell said.
"She stated to the officers that she had no knowledge of the handgun," Howell said. "She said it may have belonged to her traveling companion."
The offense could be handled either in state or federal court. Howell said he was unsure how officials would proceed with the charges.
Riddle left Mount Carmel during the 51-day siege that ended on April 19, 1993, in a fire in which Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and 75 followers died.
She attended part of the recent wrongful-death civil trial in Waco's federal court that concluded July 14. Branch Davidian survivors alleged in the suit that the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were responsible for the deaths of cult members.
Jurors concluded that the government was not at fault.
Riddle was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was probated for one year. She was also ordered to pay $150 of a $1,500 fine in September 1993 after she was convicted of shoplifting four pairs of jeans from Richland Mall.

"Judge cancels hearing on remaining Davidian issue"

by Tommy Witherspoon ("Waco Tribune-Herald," August 30, 2000)

A September hearing on the remaining issue in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government - whether agents shot at sect members during the April 19, 1993, fire - was canceled Tuesday by a federal judge in Waco.
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. had set a hearing for Sept. 18. However, in an order Tuesday, Smith said he would issue a ruling in the lawsuit based on evidence already in the record since none of the plaintiffs expressed an interest in paying for an infrared expert to be brought from England to Waco for the hearing.
Smith removed the issue from the lawsuit because David Oxlee of Vector Data Systems was not available to come to Waco for the trial, which started in June.
After an advisory jury's verdict cleared the government of wrongdoing in the deaths of David Koresh and 75 of his followers, the majority of plaintiffs said that they no longer were interested in pursuing the gunfire issue. They had alleged that FBI agents fired into Mount Carmel on the final day of the standoff and pinned sect members inside a burning Mount Carmel.
Oxlee's analysis of infrared videotape shot during a re-creation at Fort Hood in March indicated that flashes appearing on the tape during the fire likely were sunlight reflecting off debris.
Smith has set no timetable for when he will issue his final "findings of fact and conclusions of law" from the civil trial.
Also in his order, Smith clarified a previous order by saying that the costs associated with the March demonstration at Fort Hood are to be paid by the individual plaintiffs, not the plaintiffs' attorneys.
Lead plaintiffs attorney Michael Caddell of Houston questioned Smith's Aug. 11 order in which the judge broke down the cost of the re-creation based upon the number of plaintiffs each of the three attorneys represented. In a motion filed Monday, Caddell called the judge's order "manifestly unjust" and asked the judge to clarify his order.
Smith had ordered Caddell and his 138 clients to pay $20,014; Ramsey Clark and his 35 clients, $5,131; and James Brannon and his three clients, $513.
The government will pay the other half of the $51,318.17 that the Department of Defense billed for the test at Fort Hood.
Those costs did not include the salaries of military personnel used during the re-creation or the cost of transporting a Lynx helicopter from England for the test. The judge said in his order Tuesday that salary and the transport costs will not be passed on to the plaintiffs.

"New Davidian evidence discovered"

by Tommy Witherspoon ("Waco Tribune-Herald," August 26, 2000)

A federal judge in Waco who presided over criminal and civil trials involving the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy has ordered that unspecified newly discovered evidence in the case be turned over to his court.
The two-sentence order, issued Friday afternoon by U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr., does not specify what new evidence was found.
"In this case, the court has learned that the Waco division United States Attorney's Office has discovered new evidence that may be relevant to this case, and that the United States Attorney may be reluctant to follow the Court's previous order and deliver such evidence to the Clerk of the Court," Smith wrote in his order.
The judge directed the U.S. Marshals Service to take possession of the evidence and deliver it to the clerk of the court.
Two members of the judge's staff declined to discuss the order, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin of the San Antonio U.S. Attorney's office.
Bill Blagg of San Antonio, the U.S. attorney for the federal Western District of Texas, did not return phone messages to his office. The Waco U.S. Attorney's office is part of the Western District of Texas. Attorneys in the Waco office also did not return phone messages Friday afternoon.
Smith's order comes six weeks after an advisory federal court jury in Waco cleared the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of wrongdoing in the April 19, 1993, fire at Mount Carmel that killed David Koresh and 75 of his followers. The ruling also cleared federal agents in the failed Feb. 28, 1993, raid that started the 51-day standoff.
Michael Caddell of Houston, lead plaintiffs' attorney in the $675 million wrongful-death lawsuit, was out of town Friday and did not return phone messages to his office.
Michael Bradford of Beaumont , U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas who represented the government in the civil lawsuit, also did not return phone messages left with his office.
Thom Mrozek, a Justice Department spokesman, declined comment on the order, saying he had not had an opportunity to review it.
The plaintiffs had alleged that the ATF used excessive force when 76 agents riding in cattle trailers stormed Mount Carmel to try to arrest Koresh on weapons violations. The suit also alleged that FBI agents accelerated a Justice Department-approved plan to demolish the building without authorization while inserting tear gas on April 19, 1993, and fired into the compound during the fire, trapping Branch Davidians inside.
Smith has yet to issue a final judgment in the lawsuit. He has set a hearing for Sept. 18 at which he intends to hear evidence concerning the results of a re-creation at Fort Hood to test whether gunfire can be detected on aerial infrared videotape.
Experts appointed by the court have said that the flashes on the FBI infrared tape are sunlight reflecting off debris around Mount Carmel and not flashes from gunfire.
Most of the plaintiffs have indicated that they no longer wish to pursue the gunfire issue, so the hearing might be canceled.

"Counterpoint : Who should decide what the public needs to know?"

by Karen Foss ("St. Louis Post-Dispatch," August 26, 2000)

I am writing not as a representative of the news organization for which I work, but rather as a concerned, individual journalist.
I commend former Sen. John Danforth for his service to our country, but I disagree with his expectations of the news media as outlined in his Aug. 22 letter to the editor.
His comments raised many questions for me. Danforth suggests that the media have not learned the "lessons" of Waco, and he points to follow-up reports on the tragic killing of police officer Robert Stanze as evidence of an irresponsible media. Danforth asserts that news organizations erred by reporting on a news conference called by the family of the man charged with murdering the officer.
First of all, I object to Danforth's disdainful characterization of the "curbside" news conference. As a reporter, I can testify that cosseting a speaker in a wood-paneled conference room does not guarantee his credibility.
Second, I take exception to his broadbrush characterization of the "media." In so doing, he perpetuates the myth that news organizations act as a pack and conspire to inflame public opinion. In reality, the competitive nature of daily news coverage -- and varying concepts of what warrants attention -- will lead to differing degrees of scrutiny paid to any event by various media outlets.
But my greatest concern is with his assertion that news organizations should not bestow "public credence" by reporting on unofficial claims. Danforth acknowledges that the Post-Dispatch report (and I would add News Channel 5's reports as well) included not only the family's claims of brutality, but also their lack of documentation, as well as denials of abuse from the police and sheriff's department and the hospital.
In other words, the reports were textbook good journalism. They were balanced and inclusive, giving the reader or viewer information from which to draw conclusions. Many of whom, no doubt, came to the same conclusions as Danforth.
I would ask him to consider what would have happened if the "media" had docilely accepted the official explanations regarding the Watergate break-in? Would he have liked us to accept the theory that Monica Lewinsky was a deluded young White House intern with an overactive imagination? Would he accept the denials from New York City police officers, later convicted, of a savage sexual assault on suspect Abner Louima?
Finally, who would Danforth like to charge with the responsibility of making those decisions about what the public needs to know? Surely he would not have journalists pre-judge which claims are "sensational but baseless." Would he truly want us to limit the scope of public discourse and report only the unchallenged official positions on controversial issues? Danforth seems to regard open, inquiring media as a "nuisance."
He shows little confidence in the abilities of the men and women of this region to process conflicting accounts and arrive at sensible conclusions.
Who better -- I would ask -- to draw those conclusions than an informed citizenry, armed with all the information available, thanks to a constitutionally guaranteed free press?

"Judge Orders Waco Evidence"

(Associated Press, August 26, 2000)

WACO, Texas (AP) - The judge who presided over the Branch Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit against the government has ordered that new evidence in the case be turned over to his court.
The evidence was not identified in U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith's order on Friday. The judge said the U.S. Attorney's office in Waco found relevant evidence and may be reluctant to turn it over.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and government could not be reached for comment Saturday.
An advisory jury decided July 14 that the government was not responsible for the 80 deaths resulting from a standoff that ended on April 19, 1993, when tanks driven by FBI agents pumped tear gas into the group's compound near Waco.
The judge still has to make a final ruling in the case.

"Memories of Waco tragedy linger in latest Texas standoff"

by Hugh Aynesworth ("Washington Times," August 21, 2000)

TRINIDAD, Texas — A smoldering situation that stirs up memories of the tragedy at the Branch Davidian complex near Waco has many folks on edge in this tiny community about 75 miles southeast of Dallas.
Like Mount Carmel in 1993, when more than 80 Branch Davidians died in a raging fire after a 51-day standoff with federal authorities, the scenario here involves an offshoot church, claims of illegal weapons stockpiled, undelivered felony arrest warrants, even children held unlawfully.
But local officials say they are not prepared to storm the main house, located on a 47-acre wooded homestead, and arrest John Joe Gray, a 51-year-old part-time carpenter and part-time religious guru, and take away two boys said to be held illegally inside.
Mr. Gray was indicted by a grand jury in May for assaulting a state trooper and taking his weapon. He has refused to show up for court hearings on the charges.
Legal custody of the two boys inside his compound, his grandsons, has been awarded to their father, who has desperately tried to get them back.
Henderson County Deputy Sheriff Ron Brownlow said last week he will not serve the arrest warrants on Mr. Gray, or deliver the boys to their father, "until we feel certain nobody will be hurt."
He has reason to be concerned. In a note delivered by an intermediary recently, Mr. Gray warned Henderson County Sheriff H.B. "Slick" Alfred that if he or his men "invaded" the Gray property, the sheriff had better "bring body bags."
Mr. Gray in recent years has adopted the beliefs of the anti-government Embassy of Heaven religion, an Oregon-based sect that does not recognize government authority. Secular government is in direct competition with God, insist the group's leaders. Followers often refuse to get automobile license plates, Social Security cards orbirth certificates, and do not pay income tax or pay attention to court decisions.
"I thought we would be in the midst of another Waco [incident] by Thursday morning," said Harley Summers, a retired farmer from nearby Gun Barrel City. "But I guess somebody backed down. Thank God."
Asked if he was familiar with the Gray property, Mr. Summers abruptly got in his pickup truck and said, "No. No, not me. I wouldn't go within a mile of that place. I'm old, but I'm not crazy."
On Tuesday and Wednesday, rumors were rife that heavily armed federal troops were poised about 20 miles from here, preparing for an onslaught on the Gray home.
Alarmist Internet sites cited "reports" of the forthcoming "invasion."
Some area television stations reported those rumors, although officials denied knowledge of any plan to arrest Mr. Gray in Trinidad, population 1,056.
"I even had a phone call from the county judge," said Deputy Brownlow. "I told him there was nothing planned, that no federal agency had been involved in this situation and that I had no idea where this rumor began."
"We've got a serious situation here with some very serious threats made," Sheriff Alfred said. "The children's safety is of primary concern."
Deputy Brownlow said authorities aren't sure how many people, including children, are inside the compound.
Alex Jones, who calls himself an anti-government journalist and operates a Web site from Austin (www.infowars.com), said he went inside the compound Wednesday night and reported that 10 adults and seven children were present.
Lisa Tarkington, 30, one of Mr. Gray's daughters, took her two small boys to live in the rustic compound last year. Her husband, Keith Tarkington, has since filed for divorce and was awarded custody of their boys after Mrs. Tarkington refused to show up in court.
Mrs. Tarkington subsequently sent a letter to the judge that said: "God will never let him see his children again."
Today, 15 months later, Mr. Tarkington is enraged that authorities have not entered the compound and removed his boys.
"What are they doing?" he asked. "They are endangering my boys. They don't have electricity in there, they must be getting low on food. And I think one could certainly make the case they are being abused, just being around that gun-toting nut group.
"Why doesn't law enforcement do what it is paid to do?"
Last week, after erroneous reports aired about the forthcoming raid, several Texas reporters arrived at the scene and observed supporters who dropped off supplies.
One man, who refused to give his name, delivered several bags of food and another donated a portable electric generator.
As he drove off, he told a woman standing at the front door, gun in hand, "Don't let [them] get you down. You've got friends. Don't let 'em get to the front door, like they did in Waco."
The woman, flanked by other residents who were visibly armed, waved her gun and said, "Don't worry. Ain't nobody getting inside this gate."
Then she said somberly, "We know how to use these. Tell everybody that, so there won't be any surprises."
On the property, a posted sign reads, "Public employees beware. Notice to all public servants. No Trespassing. Survivors will be prosecuted."

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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