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DAVIDIAN PRISONERS SPEAK OUT
Below are statements eight Branch Davidians made June 16 and 17, 1994 just before federal Judge Walter J. Smith sentenced them to a total of 240 years on aiding and abetting voluntary manslaughter and/or weapons charges. These were charges which the jury believed would earn Davidians little more than time already served. These statements, taken from the trial transcript in the order in which they were made, have been edited somewhat for clarity and brevity. This is honest, heartfelt testimony by victims of an out-of-control government which preys on its citizens and shows no remorse.
Judge, I noticed in your initial address regarding the Sentencing Guidelines you gave some examples as to why the Court has to sentence the way it has to sentence, and also why the Court has to sentence at all. In those examples, you used people who had acknowledged their guilt. Also, in the arguments presented here by the defense counsel and the prosecution with respect to sentencing, they may have left the impression that we are in some way implying that we were guilty. I would like to point out that there is no doubt in our minds that we are innocent. I think that all the Defendants share that position.
As a matter of fact, we would like it to be reflected on the record that the charge to which we are actually brought here today, for which the jury returned the verdict of guilty, that of [aiding and abetting] voluntary manslaughter, was not, in fact, included on the original indictment. Furthermore, it was added after the defense had rested its case, and, for most of us, it was without consultation. And we certainly do not accept it.
Let me also state for myself personally, never, at any point, have I sought to distance myself from David Koresh, his teachings, or from the actions of the residents of Mount Carmel during February 28th through April 19th. There is no doubt in my mind that the actions that we were forced to take were justified, given the circumstances that we were placed in by the actions of the agents of the Government.
You pointed out that the reasons why you were forced to sentence us the way you intend to do is because of the people, through Congress. You also indicated that through the jury's decision, representing the people, again, you are forced to sentence us. So, effectively, the reason we are being sentenced today is because of the people.
The people. It's funny, this reminds me of a situation, coming from a religious commune, that goes back to 2,000 years ago regarding Christ. You made mention of the fact many people had contacted you on the phone regarding this whole affair, requesting leniency, which is not something that I request. I fully support the actions that were taken at Mount Carmel. It's unfortunate regarding the consequences. But regarding what you said about those who contacted you, it reminds me of that woman that came to Pilate and said something to the effect, "Have nothing to do with this just man," but nevertheless, he went ahead and did what he did.
There were other symbols that we notice in this whole trial, right from the beginning, that affirm for us the fact that we were pursuing realities pertaining to the spirit, that this Court does not recognize, as they did not recognize 2,000 years ago. Right from the beginning, the spiritual aspect of this was totally and absolutely rejected. But it was the core of why we were at Mount Carmel, and why we acted the way that we acted. The fact that this was rejected gave me the impression that, right from the beginning, we were never going to receive justice. And right now, we do not feel that justice has been done today because a crucial element facilitating that was denied. And you expect us, given what we've gone through, to support what is going on today, to acknowledge somehow that we were responsible, that we were guilty. We remain convinced that everything that we have done, everything that we've suffered, we've suffered for truth and justice. It pains my heart when I hear statements like "paying restitution." For what?
My attorney says to me something to the effect that, "Livingstone, all of this will be taken up in appeal. You don't really have to worry about this." Two thousand years ago when Christ was on the cross, we know that he was innocent. But he didn't have an appeal, did he? The system killed him. Is that appeal going to bring back [my wife] Evette, David, the children and all of the rest? No, it's not. Appeal doesn't mean nothing to me. It doesn't mean nothing to us, nothing short of the lives of the people that were lost is of any benefit. But we are comforted in the thought that we entered into this whole situation on the basis of a faith that has been proven true in as much as that we endured the circumstances we did. We don't particularly care what you want to do. You're going to do it anyway.
But we also serve a God who sits on a throne, like you, a judge. He's got a book in his hand, sealed with Seven Seals. Men don't know his judgement. Consequently, Mount Carmel happened the way that it did. As you have judged, so, too, you will be judged. This is only an opportunity, from our perspective, for you, not for ourselves.
I really don't think that there is much to be gained by pursuing words. Through the 51-day negotiation period, David tried to pursue words in an effort to prevent this, the events that happened, but it made no difference. My purpose here was to make clear to the public that we in no way want to leave any impression in the mind of anyone that we are anything but innocent. And we do not accept this notion, this facade that is being presented in this court, that somehow we have agreed with this judgement, with this sentencing, with anything that has taken place. We have not, and we want to make this clear. We are innocent. Absolutely, without any doubts whatsoever. we know we are innocent.
(Livingstone Fagan, a British social worker, masters in theology and father of two, left Mount Carmel during the siege. He was sentenced to 40 years and is non-cooperating by refusing to appeal.)
As Livingstone said, we still stand on our innocence. Or I do, in my actions pertaining to February 28th. Judge, you made a statement that the government is not on trial here. There's no doubt in my mind that the government should be on trial for its actions.
When justice and judgement is given to people to uphold the law, in relation to Congress, legislation and so forth, you've got to understand that we're all human beings and we all make mistakes. And if we make these mistakes, we have to acknowledge our mistakes. Going back to Genesis, the time of Cain, passing the buck--I think that's what happened here. People that were responsible didn't want to pay up for their actions. Most of the people I've talked to see the injustice that's been done by those responsible for letting the agents pursue that avenue.
You know, every time I wake up in the morning, I'm in a jail cell, and it's kind of hard to forget what you're going through and your experience in relation to what occurred at Mount Carmel. It's a scar that's left with me. And every day I wake up and I have to realize that I'm still alive. I've gone through an experience I try to share with people and bring them to an understanding of what happened and what Mount Carmel was about. And some people are spiritually oriented and they want to know, "Hey, what happened out there?"
I try to present to people's minds a truth that I've learned the last six years in my experience with David and the others. And the David Koresh that's been portrayed to the world, that's not the David Koresh I understand and know. That's not my friend. But David Koresh I know, that's my experience and I think I'll keep it to myself.
I tell people, "It's like this. There's two spirits in the world. There's a spirit of God and of Satan. And those who are part of that spirit of Christ have that understanding of truth, and they live their lives according to that truth, as best they can, whether Muslim, Jew, whatever." I try to put in people's minds there's a truth, and related to that truth, we've told the truth. As soon as I came out, I told the truth. I told the Texas Rangers what happened. And we came to trial to ascertain that truth.
In the light of everything that's happened, there's a God. We're hoping in something, we're hoping in the truth. We're hoping in God's word. Not following David Koresh. We're following the truth. If we're so deceived, then show me where I'm wrong. I want to know.
I just hope that out of this whole situation, I hope it's pricked the conscience of people to realize and to understand, to waken people up to the realities taking place in this world. And, hopefully, when God finally decides to do something, maybe they'll have a better understanding. Maybe they'll fear God for once in their lives.
(Jaime Castillo, a musician from California, survived the fire that burned Mount Carmel. He was sentenced to 40 years and is appealing.)
I've got quite a few issues. The [aiding and abetting] voluntary manslaughter charge that was given to the Court to give to the jury on my behalf actually was added by my attorney without actually asking me for my permission. And that might violate some of my rights under the Constitution, since I should be told prior to any charge against myself the actual nature of the charge or the indictment.
The second thing. We heard testimony saying that UH-1 helicopters were only used as diversion, but weren't actually used to fire on Mount Carmel in any way. I have evidence [to the contrary]. . .Now would it be okay if I called David Aguilera (BATF lead investigator who was in a helicopter) to the stand? (Judge Smith says no.) I've got evidence that perjured testimony was used in this trial. Are you saying that you're going to still make a judgement, knowing that there is evidence showing there was perjury? (The judge says this is not the time to raise that issue.)
My next thing is the want of jurisdiction in this court. Has this Court got jurisdiction over me? I have witnesses and evidence and testimony, and, therefore, proof that I am innocent, and that alleged agents perjured themselves and the prosecutor used perjured testimony with specific intent. (Avraam challenges whether the judge is a Constitutional Article III judge and the judge asserts he is. Judge Smith claims that government witnesses "had no reason to either lie or be mistaken" when they testified under oath.)
Well, they did have a reason since the Posse Comitatus Act does not allow military aircraft to be used in [combatting] civilian crime. What I'm saying is that there was good reason for them to lie. And the Comitatus Act may have been violated by President Clinton by using tanks, the tanks should never have been used to enter the building. (Judge says none of that will affect the sentencing in his case.)
I don't think anything I can say is going to have any benefit. I don't think anything here is going to change your mind. I believe you have your mind already made up.
(Avraam tries to read letter into record in which jury forewoman Sarah Bain tells the judge about errors made by the jury in deciding on their verdicts but he says a juror cannot impeach their verdict. Avraam disagrees. He also attacks the credibility of Texas Rangers who kept adding things during trial that were not in their original reports.)
I'd like to say that for those who died at Mount Carmel, I don't believe they died in vain. I do believe the Government was responsible. I don't care what the Government says, how much they try to whitewash it. I have evidence that the CS gas was flammable. Colin Powell gave a report saying CS gas was harmful and flammable, even self-combustible. I don't believe it was right for them to use tanks to go straight into the building where women and children are.
I'm from England. This trial has not convinced me of being guilty. It has not convinced me at all. I don't think it's convinced the jury, because they're certainly unsure. I don't think that you could sentence someone on something that is not clear, not definitive, not facts.
For those who died at Mount Carmel, I won't forget them. David Koresh told [undercover ATF agent Robert] Rodriguez that "we know you're coming," and still they come with helicopters blazing. Davy Aguilera, he was firing one of them. He ain't going to deny it. Helicopters blazing. They know that we know they're coming. The leadership put the agents at risk. If I was the wife of the agents, I would be suing the ATF leadership for being so stupid.
David Koresh did come to the door and did try to stop them. But the plan was, go in through windows, flash-bangs and everything, kill some dogs. The plan went ahead even though they knew the element of surprise had been lost. That's why Davy Aguilera started firing from the helicopter. The criminal charges should be brought against those that did that, because that is a violation of the Comitatus Act. I don't think military equipment should be used against civilians and that is in the Constitution.
Well, it's a sad situation because so many people died for something that was so simple as someone's supposedly converting semiautomatic to full automatic and every gun was legally purchased. You can have automatic weapons, all you need is a license. Of course, the Government wants scapegoats out of all of this and we are the scapegoats.
We're all going to stand before God. And I hope, Judge Smith, that you have a squeaky clean record, because as a judge you're sentencing other people. I hope you can stand before God. I hope you have done everything that you think is right. We're all going to stand before God--if you believe there is a God. I'm sure you do. I'm going to stand before God and I will be happy to tell him, to affirm my convictions. I've searched the Bible, I've searched truth. I believe that David Koresh did teach the Seven Seals.
The stories that are going around are all blown out of proportion. That was the FBI and the ATF feeding the media, the media's done such a good job of slandering the Davidians. That's why there's such a travesty of justice. And the agents came together, to speak to each other about what they'd done. I can't see how you can accept their testimony, their perjured testimony.
Well, I leave it in God's hands. God sits on the throne, and I pray for the agents, I pray for the Davidians. I leave it in God's hands.
(Renos Avraam, a British businessman and musician, survived the fire that burned Mount Carmel. He was sentenced to 40 years and is appealing.)
Thank you, your honor, for giving me the time to give you an understanding of my feelings. I'm from Honolulu, Hawaii. We call that "paradise." And you know, to live in paradise, born and raised, and to pack your bags at an instant and leave, there's got to be reasons for that and justifications in anybody's mind, to just pack up, whether they're running from the law or whether they believe in a faith. I had the opportunity, through friends that I knew all my life, one of them being Steve Schneider, to get a few Bible studies and to get that understanding of: what were we supposed to do for today? I had always had questions like that. Being born and raised in America, where I've always heard God first, and then country. I have a curiosity for my God and to know what is asked of me today. What should I do to gain eternal life? What can I do for my family's salvation or my salvation?
I met somebody that I thought was pretty inspired. And he had a message and I couldn't refute it. So I followed him to Waco to learn more. And my life revolved around religion. From an Adventist school, I've always been taught 2000 year old questions. If Jesus came up to you and said, "I'll make you fishers of men, will you follow me?" That's always been in my mind. I wondered if I had the faith to do something like that.
I believe that the message that I heard, the Seven Seals, was an inspirational message. So I was there in Waco learning more of it. I wasn't convinced. No one's ever convinced. Studying the Bible is ongoing learning, it's daily learning. And that's why I was there.
I had come on April 3rd, 1992. I was asked to come and improve some property there. We built a gym, we built a swimming pool for our kids. These guys are some of the greatest individuals in the world. I lived with them for a couple of years and I've lived in all kinds of circumstances.
I've been a law enforcement officer, too, in Hawaii. I don't think we did anything wrong, except what we believe in. There's women and children in there. I think law enforcement should have really considered that there are kids, babies--babies on that land, mothers giving suck to those babies on that land. And the way they went ahead and bombarded the place, with 90 people armed to the hilt. I mean, being a former law enforcement agent myself, I can't fathom that type of reaction, especially as far as being your first choice of operation. I don't have a disrespect for people like the disrespect that was shown for us that day.
I thought I was going to die that day. I thought I was going to get blown away. And I couldn't believe this was our country doing this to its citizens. I couldn't believe it. In fact, I didn't see [who it was] until after the retreat. When I read what was on the backs of their clothes, I couldn't believe it, Judge. I could not believe that was a law enforcement agency that did that. I thought we got attacked by some kind of renegades or some kind of an anti-Christian group.
I was sacred. I was so scared that I thought for two or three weeks I was going to die, until there was negotiations. Then I came out, in good faith and to see if there was justice in this country. And that's what I'm doing right now. I'm hoping, one last breath, because I'm not an articulate person. I just hope that you do extend as much mercy as you can on all of us as a group, on all of us. I can't see the justification for 30 years. No way.
Put in that situation where you've got women and children crying and screaming, "Oh, my God, please help us, save us, do something! They're shooting at us!" It's a reaction, because when bullets fly, they fly faster than the mind can perceive. And when you're hit, you go down. But until you are hit, you have a God-given instinct, and that God-given instinct is for self-preservation. You do anything, you pick up anything you can, if you life is threatened, to defend yourself. And you do your best to live another day or live another hour or another minute.
Every time I reflect on that day and what had happened, I don't think we were given any time at all to make any kind of decision that this Court would accept. No. It was either live or die. That was my experience. We have to go right back to self-preservation, it's God-given. You've got people attacking you. You've got women and children being fired at. It's a masculine thing, a protective thing.
I was raised in a family where we protected each other. I have a wife. I have children that haven't seen me in over two years now and they're asking me, "Dad, when are you coming home?"
And I just hope that the courts and the Judge will understand that we're there for our faith. We're there for our beliefs. We didn't ask anybody to provoke anything. There was no prior contempt in any way at all from us. We are law-abiding citizens. We all are law abiding citizens. And we'd probably still be there today, minding our own business, if the 28th of February 1993 never came. I think we're a plus to our community, and I think our neighbors could honestly tell you that we've done a lot of work for them for nothing. Unfortunately, that never came up publicly. I do not know why, but God will be the judge one day.
I personally have never been arrested in my whole life. I have never owned a weapon in my whole life or had a registration for a gun. I've never participated in a gun show. And I'll say 98 percent of the people there didn't either.
Count Three, I understand it's automatic weapons versus regular firearms. I have not been able to, even analyzing what happened in the trial and what I have before me, to [understand your] conclusion for us to have automatic weapons. I've never owned an automatic weapon. I've never fired an automatic weapon. I do not know what an automatic weapon would consist of. I want you to know [Mount Carmel] is big. There are places I've never been in that facility. There were certain places that were off limits.
What we did was not planned. It was a reaction. If you approach somebody by knocking up on their door and saying, "Hey, we've got some discrepancies, we've got some problems. We know you're a good old boy. We've dealt with you in the past."
We know the local county sheriffs. Why don't you come on out and cooperate with us?
There was none of that at all. There was cattle trucks to conceal 90 individuals that had firearms. There were three, four helicopters buzzing around, shooting people. What the ATF did was unjustifiable. They owe us an apology for what they've done, the type of tactics they've done, not considering at all the Constitution and the right for God-fearing people to assemble, as well as live together. I think they broke and violated everybody's constitutional rights to be there, just to be there in beliefs or searching for the truth. It takes time, it takes input, to search.
And I know you have decisions today, Judge, to make, and I know you're getting, probably, tired of me. I [see] your lack of eye contact, but I understand. I just want to get this over with and go home. My daughter wants to know when I'm coming home. My wife wants to know when I'm coming home. My mom wants to know when I'm coming home. I just want this to be over and behind me, and I think the other guys do, too.
As far as what the Government reported to the press, what the majority of the population thought and believed that we were, it was just a burden. I'm under duress. I've spent 15 months in jail. I'm not the same individual I was. Believe me, I'm not. I'm run down. I'm pressured out. It's taken its toll on me. It has. And I hope your decision today will consider that. Consider the fact that I've never been in trouble in my life. Consider that I've always had a job. Consider that I've paid my taxes and done the best job I can.
I hope you consider these people here. They have families, too. They have lives, too. Regardless, I know what you have to do, you have to do. Consider that I have a family, too, and a life I'd like to go ahead and pursue if it's at all possible with you. And I know my daughter, my son, would like to see me again before I'm 73. I'd like to have that chance to start over again. I think we all would like to have that chance.
You're never going to change our beliefs. Our beliefs are our beliefs, and they will stay with us, like Livingstone said. But the Government has a chance now to make a lot of wrong a little it more right, at least even it up a little bit on our behalf. And I think the people of this country are watching real closely to see what kind of decisions you'll make today. And I hope that you'll do the right thing and analyze the past of each of us and where we've been and what we've done. And I think you'll come to the conclusion in your heart that we're not common criminals, we don't fit the same M.O. If there is any more time to be spent [in prison], at least give us that opportunity, each one of us, give us that opportunity to have a future again.
(Kevin Whitecliff, a native of Hawaii, left Mount Carmel during the siege. He was sentenced to 40 years and is appealing.)
You honor, ladies and gentlemen. I'm basically a shy person, so if I faint. I'm going to stand up here with all humility. And the truth of the matter is, these people that I'm here with, it's a basic truth, a Seven Seal truth. We stand in judgement before God. The question is simple. Who is worthy? I don't know what to tell this Court as far as what ya'll want to hear. And if I made no sense, it's because I can't make any sense of the Court.
As far as the matters of the Court and the question of sentencing, I just want to say that we were not advised on the [aiding and abetting voluntary] manslaughter charge. Our lawyers did a very good job and I commend them. I've lost all thought.
(Brad Branch, a technician from Texas, left Mount Carmel during the siege. He was sentenced to 40 years and is appealing.)
Your Honor, I just ask that you give me a few moments to say some things and try to look at things from my point of view. It seems like for these past 14 months, we've just looked at things from the Government's point of view, and, you know, they're people just like me. I'm going to read this statement:
Why did so many of my friends and family have to suffer and die at Mount Carmel? Who wants to take responsibility? The ATF doesn't. The FBI won't. How about Janet Reno? William Sessions? [Stephen] Higgins? Lloyd Bentsen? And, of course, Bill Clinton. I heard all these people judging my friends on national television. Why didn't any of these people have the courage to show up in court? Where are the managers and supervisors of these agencies? Why wouldn't they testify in court? Many of them have resigned, retired, have been fired or relocated. These are the very people that mocked and ridiculed my friends publicly.
They told us we would be treated fairly and humanely. They arrested our grandmothers and grandfathers, strip-searched them and put them in jail, charged them with murder. Then paraded them in front of the television cameras in chains.
On April 19th we had to watch as the FBI gassed and demolished our home. This was fair and humane treatment? Who wants to take responsibility?
Why did the Government plan a military assault on such a small group of people? The majority of people living at Mount Carmel were women, children and elderly. What our Government did to my friends would never be done to a foreign country. First, we would send ambassadors of peace and negotiators. The Branch Davidians were never given a chance. The Government's attitude is, let's launch a full out military assault and negotiate later.
A little respect and common sense can go a long way. Did ATF investigators bother to contact our families and do a background investigation? Did they make an effort to find out what our faith in God was? If the Government felt we were misguided, misled or deceived, why didn't they send some representative to show us our error? We are reasonable people, we would have sat down and listened to what they had to say. I know for a fact, if the U.S. Attorneys and the ATF would have treated us with respect, this tragedy would never have happened. We had a right to exercise our religion and be left alone.
What kind of spirit or mind would send 90 agents and helicopters to someones' home, knowing they were provoking a confrontation? The people responsible for the planning and execution of this military assault on our church are supposed to be intelligent, professional people. They are public servants. Their job is to serve and protect, not kill, main and destroy property.
The prosecution wants the public to believe they are fighting for the four agents that died. I find that hard to believe. The truth is, they're trying to cover up their own incompetent decision-making. These men, along with others, were more concerned about putting on a show than the lives on my friends and federal agents. The truth is, the Branch Davidians were for peace, but the Government was for war. Here are some facts from the trial to back that statement.
Number one. I witnessed David Koresh leave Mount Carmel at least a dozen times in the last two months before the raid. David Koresh invited ATF Agent David Aguilera to inspect all the weapons at Mount Carmel, but he refused. David Koresh and the other residents of Mount Carmel treated undercover ATF agent Robert Rodriguez with respect. He was invited into our home and we shared our faith with him. He was never threatened or provoked, not even the morning of the raid. Robert Rodriguez pleaded with the raid supervisors to call off the raid. Why didn't they listen? Why would they purposely want to provoke a confrontation? Was "show time" and a budget hearing in March more important than the lives of men, woman and children?
David Koresh went to the front door unarmed. He told the attacking agents, "Let's talk. There are women and children living here." Instead he was met with gunfire, and him and his father-in-law were both wounded.
Wayne Martin called 911 to arrange a cease-fire. How many lives could have been saved if this message was quickly passed to all the agents? At every point, an honest effort was made to avoid a confrontation. Why wouldn't anybody listen?
I came to Mount Carmel to study the Bible and to be supportive with the talents God has given me. I believe there was more truth from the Bible and Mount Carmel than any other place on the face of this earth. That is my personal experience. Theologians, scholars and religious leaders could not unlock the mysteries of the Book of Revelation or the prophecies. I believe David Koresh was given the responsibility to reveal the Seven Seals and make it plain to all those who had an ear to hear. I base my faith on God's word and go by the weight of evidence. Ultimately, God is my judge. I'll have to stand the judgement alone. I won't be judged according to man's laws. I will be judged according to God's word.
Many people find it strange we believe we will see our friends that died again. They are in error because they don't know the Scriptures nor the power of God. There's coming a day when those people responsible for the deaths of my friends are going to bow down at the feet of those children and be ashamed for their actions.
I guess the last thing I could say is, I don't have any personal grudges against law enforcement people. I have sheriffs, police officers, even ATF agents in my family. But there's something wrong with the way we were treated. And the way I look at it is if the U.S. Attorneys and the ATF planners had had family living at Mount Carmel, like brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, I think they would have handled things differently.
(Paul Fatta, a businessman born in Hawaii, was not at Mount Carmel on February 28, 1993. He was sentenced to 15 years and is appealing.)
Most people that know me know that I very rarely say much, even in the best of circumstances. As I hope you can appreciate, this is not the best of circumstances.
When I came out of Mount Carmel after the fire, I told the truth to whatever authorities that asked me, whether they were Texas Rangers or the Grand Jury. Or perhaps I should say, I told the truth under the best of circumstances that I could, realizing that I had been through a traumatic experience. And having gone through that, when you're in a tough situation, you mind tends to narrow what you can remember. Nevertheless, I told the truth.
You probably are aware that much of the evidence that was presented against me has come from the testimony of my own mouth, that is, the Grand Jury statement. Others who came out of Mount Carmel have never been indicted or convicted of a crime. I think possibly the reason for that is because they have chosen their constitutional right to remain silent and perhaps that's the only difference between what I have done and what they have done. I have chosen to tell the truth, whether it's hurt me, and obviously it has. I've put myself in a situation where you can have your choice as to whether to show me mercy or not. I wanted the truth to come out, the real truth, whether it hurt us or not. If there is a God and if there is a judgement to come after this, then all truth about what happened at Mount Carmel is going to be revealed.
When the firing broke out I just lie on the floor. We all heard shots being fired. I'd describe it like hailstones on a tin roof. It was very terrifying for all of us.
Because of my own testimony I believe I'm here today under threat of 40 years imprisonment. Because I did speak out, I did cooperate as best I could, I feel I am due some respect from this court. I think it's wrong to be convicted because you cooperated.
From all the people's perception of what David Koresh taught, people perceive him to teach a violent doctrine. I hate guns. I hate firearms. That's just my nature. I'm a quiet person. I never wished harm on anyone. I certainly didn't fire on anyone in those 51 days. I never attempted to harm a hair on anyone's head, in action or in intent.
I have been convicted of possession of a grenade. I'm from another country. I've never been instructed to the letter of the law. Certainly on the 28th of February, 1993 I had no wish or desire for any one of those agents to be injured.
I spent 51 days during that siege, during which I did my best to make life as livable as possible inside for those that were in there. I took on the responsibility of trying to maintain a communication system, a telephone line to the outside which, under those circumstances, was very difficult.
So far as that grenade which I have been convicted of, I never had any desire to possess a grenade. The first time we saw those grenades was on the first day of the raid, after the initial raid had taken place. I saw a box of maybe a half a dozen or a dozen grenades.
My interest in staying the 51 days was for those people, the women, the children, my friends. I believe these were innocent people. These are people I loved very much and I tried to help them.
I never had any intention or desire to possess a grenade. After being through 51 days of this absolute terror, it drained practically every morsel of inner strength from you. I didn't have any sleep. You had no will any more to care about anything. And when someone says, "Do you know how to use one of these?" I answered, instinctively and honestly (sic), "Yes."
I didn't care about it. It could have been a feather duster. I didn't have any intention to cause any harm to anyone with it. When you are in a situation like that, you don't want to get into an argument, a discussion. You just put the thing in a pocket and walk away. I wanted to get rid of the thing, but where are you going to put it? There's tanks coming through the wall. What if one of them rolls over it and sets the thing off? I didn't even know how dangerous the thing was. I didn't even know if it would go off. I can't throw it outside, it would be just as dangerous out there. The safest, the only time to get rid of it, was in the cinder block cell.
That's the testimony I want to put to you today. If you want to condemn me for that, then the message [you're telling] the average person is, "Don't cooperate with authorities. Even if you do, they're going to come down on you like a ton of bricks."
(Graeme Craddock, an Australian teacher and engineer, survived the fire that burned Mount Carmel. He was sentenced to 20 years and is appealing.)
I'd just like to say that this whole experience has been quite a tragedy, from my point of view and I'm sure from the agents' and their surviving families point of view. I feel at it's all been based on a misunderstanding.
We were a people living together as a family. We loved one another and we cared about one another, just as I'm sure the ATF family cares about each one in their family. And we were living there trying to study the word of God, to learn what was right for our day. And the things that happened last year need not have happened.
I was very saddened and moved by the things the families of the ATF who were killed said in the [sentencing] report. And I was also moved by the injured ATF agents who came and testified during the trial. But there was injury and sadness on both sides. We also saw Marjorie Thomas, who was very badly burned in the fire.
I'd just like to say that all these things need not have happened, and its been a terrible tragedy and it was not my intent, personally, that anyone be harmed in anyway. The last 14 months have been hard on me, as I'm sure they've been on my brothers. And I'd like to thank the support of all our friends and family. And I'd like to thank the lawyers who have spoken for us, and also the jury, who took a lot of time to consider things for us.
I'd just like to say that I feel its all been based on a misunderstanding. And I would ask that you take all things into consideration and grant as much leniency as possible within the law, because I know that's your duty. And I hope you do the right thing. And may God save this Court and may God save the United States of America.
(Ruth Riddle, a Canadian citizen, survived the fire that burned Mount Carmel. She was sentenced to 5 years, was released in December of 1997 and returned to Canada.)
Edited by Carol Moore, 1995.