TWO TRIALS AND A TAKEOVER

Disclaimer: In hosting Amo Roden's version of events, I am not vouching for its accuracy.

On March 23, 1988 he stopped at the farm on his way to court to convince me to go with him. He had been summoned to "show cause" why he should not be held in contempt of court for calling Judge Walter Smith a "Goddamn tyrant" in a legal brief he filed several years before. I refused to go. His car broke down in my driveway and he had to call a cab to get him to the court house. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and taken into custody.

The next day Perry Jones led a band of about thirty of Koresh's followers in a takeover of the property. They called ahead to say they had a court order; this wasn't true. I arrived an hour before the takeover, walking up from the farm to fill my water jugs. I suggested to Don Williams that I borrow a gun from him and meet them at the front gate. Don talked me out of it. Then I thought of the files. Don, Sylvia and I hurried to the office and put the files into boxes. We loaded the boxes into the back of someone's black pickup and I sat in the back with them to keep papers from blowing out on the way to my farm. I arrived back at the property in time to watch the takeover. There was no court order. I was furious and the interview I gave a reporter showed it. Fourteen year old Stanley gave me a harsh critique and I never gave an excited interview again.

The morning after the takeover, Koresh had armed guards at. the gate. The guards searched cars coming and going. This harassment made Don and Sylvia Williams ready to leave, but it took three weeks to get together the rent money and a place to go. While they were looking Don reported that Koresh told him he wanted Don to train a 24 man army for him. Koresh didn't take Don's refusal meekly. He claimed that the William's children's beds belonged to the property and kept them. And some boxes of feces from the miniature dogs the family bred found their way into the boxes of household goods they left for later pickup. Don also said he believed that the human howling he heard some nights outside his new home was David Koresh.

Now that I didn't see George everyday I developed some sympathy for his plight. I formed my opinion of Koresh on the day he wounded George. He didn't seem very Christian to me. The takeover confirmed it. I visited George in the jail even though I had to hitchhike because my car was broken. George ordered his son Jonathan to fix his car for me so I could file legal papers for him.

Around this time Koresh prepared a brochure showing the poor conditions of some of the houses, drug paraphernalia and pornography allegedly found on the property and one naked picture George was told was me. I had not even heard of this brochure when I next visited George. He opened our conversation by confusing me. "Did Koresh force you to pose for it at gunpoint? He must have used a gun. I told them he used a gun."

"What?"

"The picture, did he force you to pose for it at gunpoint?"

"What picture?"

"The naked picture of you at your farm."

"George, nobody took a naked picture of me at my farm. There is no such picture." I was becoming exasperated.

"It was a woman with her legs spread under a tree and your farm house was in the background. There was a black band over the face."

My eyebrows went up as he described the picture. This time I was very definite in my denial. "Now look George, I never posed for any nude pictures. And my house is uphill from any tree on the property. No one could take that kind of picture there."

It took a few more minutes to totally convince George; I think his theory that Koresh forced me to pose at gunpoint appealed to his sense of the dramatic. Years later I saw the brochure. It wasn't my farmhouse either.

Rumors of a methamphetamine lab based on the pictures of needles in this brochure surfaced at this point. Teresa used to say wisely, "What goes around comes around." That means that as you mete out God will mete out to you. Eventually these same artifacts that Koresh used to vilify George were used to justify the use of tanks and helicopters against him. There was no meth lab at the compound while I was involved with the church. That covers a period of Sept. 1987 to Koresh's takeover in March of 1988. During that time most people there were struggling for gas money. Donny and Connie were probably responsible for the drug paraphernalia and almost certainly responsible for the pornography. No one understood why they always waited for the mail while it was happening. After I studied the brochure I guessed they were running a mail order porn business using the church mailbox.

David Koresh went on trial for attempted murder in April, 1988. He was still known as Vernon Howell then. Steve and Teresa left town. Don and Sylvia Williams, Bobby Roden, and I were subpoenaed. At the time I only saw the obvious. The prosecution rested its case without calling either George or I as witnesses. I suspected later that I seemed too sane for their purposes. The picture of George presented to the court was that of a crazy man. That was part of getting Koresh off. A sane wife night have marred the presentation. I believe Koresh was promised that he could kill George without consequences. I bumped into the first trick at the jail. At the start of the trial I was met at the front door of the jail and denied visitation because I would not allow myself to be searched for underclothes by a female guard. I felt that the bulky sweaters I always wore over my shirts made this my business only. I got angry and fired off a letter to George that same day suggesting that he sue the county for harassment because this was frivolous search. I said the same to El Hadi Shabazz, the prosecuting attorney, the next day. Shabazz tried to argue with me, "That's only for criminals". If he weren't black I suspect the disgust I felt would have turned him red. "The Constitution applies to everyone," I retorted sharply.

My return to the jail was triumphant. First the female deputy who proposed to search me apologized. Then the deputy in charge of the jail apologized and told me that they would not search anyone else for underclothes unless it was blatantly obvious they weren't wearing any. Four or 5 deputies were in his office. I read them a small lecture; I'm not always a nice person. My visitation rights were fully restored and I went up to see George.

He was supposed to testify the next day but the prosecution didn't call him. The defense served a writ of habeas corpus ad testicatum on him the next week. I saw him at 2 P.M. on the day before he was to testify. I found him so incoherent that I had to ask him three times what was wrong with him. Eventually he interrupted his extended and disjointed verbal ramble to look inquiringly at me. "What's wrong with you?" I repeated.

"I have a headache. They won't give me the right medicine for Tourettes, they give me generic pills instead. They gave me Tylenol too but it didn't work. I still have the headache." He went on complaining gradually shifting to other subjects. I have never seen him like that before or after. He didn't make much sense and he wouldn't shut up.

The next day George went into court and testified that he was the son of Christ and the defense was apparently successful in convincing the jury that George was crazy and dangerous. As soon as I heard about his testimony I became convinced that he was drugged when I talked to him the previous day. The jury acquitted the men with Koresh but three jurors thought that he was guilty and so his trial ended in a hung jury.

Months later I looked into the file of the Vernon Howell attempted murder trial. Another dirty trick was obvious. The jury sent three requests for information to the court. Their interest was in who fired first. The testimony attributed to George astounded me. I was so amazed that I read it over and over. Defense Attorney Gary Coker asked George who fired first and George replied "I don't remember."

I needed a copy of that but couldn't get one. It was Thursday, I could come in and pick up a copy next Tuesday. When I told Don Williams about George's testimony he was astounded. "That's not possible! I was standing next to him and they fired first. He had to remember that."

My own memory was consistent with that. There were three shots close together and then I saw George running. When I went to get my copies the question and answer were nowhere to be seen. What was left was George denying that he fired first in a roundabout way. I believe that the actual testimony was misrepresented to the jury to help gain an acquittal for Koresh. It would not be the last time I would see courthouse documents altered in order to obscure the truth. The clerks or their bosses are quite proficient. Even the creases on the replaced excerpt of testimony were exactly as they were on the original. I assumed they changed the excerpt of testimony in all 8 defendant's files, I didn't bother to check.

The next adventure terrified me after it was over. It was my personal Daniel and the lion's den. I took George's $15,000,000 lawsuit against the sheriff's dept. for failing to protect the church property (and request to remove Koresh from the property) to the District Court Clerk's Office and filed it for him. Days later Stanley had a U.I.L. meet in Stephenville so I dropped him off at his school to board his bus on Friday night and went home to the farm. It was the first time I had been alone in months. At 4 A.M. Saturday morning I was awake with the insomnia that frequently troubled me that spring. George had given me a red Doberman (named Red) and his .357 to protect me. Red only barked at people. He was not brave, he would hide under the Pear House after he barked, but he was vigilant. He barked when they arrived and again when they left.

I heard Red bark. I could almost place where they came over the fence, they had walked straight down across the fields rather than down my meandering driveway. Then I heard a noise outside the front door and another noise outside the back porch. Two of them, they were going to come in from each end of the house! I reflected that with my lack of skill at firearms I was in a lot of trouble! Then I heard the slam of a car door in the distance. About two minutes later Red started barking again as they left. First I marveled at the ease with which God saved me. They probably envisioned a deputy sheriff examining their empty car on the road. Then I realized that they had waited until I was alone and that probably meant that they were there to kill me rather than scare me. I described this to George the next Tuesday when I visited him. I told him that I was going to back off and he agreed that it was a good idea.

End of 1987-88 excerpt

Amo on the Ron Cole incident of November 1994


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