Eleven of 12 cult members charged with conspiring to kill federal agents during the failed raid on Mount Carmel met secretly with U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. on Friday to request funds for their defense.
Federal prosecutors were not represented at the 45-minute hearing, which Smith closed to the public. Attorneys representing cult members, who attended the hearing with their clients, declined to reveal what the hearing was about for fear of tipping prosecutors to defensive strategies.
Stanley Rentz, who represents Graeme Craddock, would say only that a provision in the U.S. Code permits ex parte hearings, or hearings at which only one side in a case is represented, for defendants who cannot afford “investigative, expert or other services” they think are necessary to their defense.
Rentz declined to say what the defendants and their attorneys asked for the closed hearing, and an order signed by the judge pertaining to the hearing was sealed.
A second order filed Friday indicated that Smith had taken “judicial knowledge” of publicity in the area about the Feb. 28 raid at the Branch Davidian compound east of Waco, the 51-day standoff with federal agents and the April 19 fire, in which at least 80 cult members perished.
Four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents died in the initial raid while trying to serve arrest and search warrants on cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh.
At least two of the 12 Branch Davidians have asked that their trial be moved from Waco’s federal court because of publicity about the case.
Smith has scheduled a Sept. 30 hearing to consider motions in the case, and has set a tentative trial date for Nov. 8.
Cult member Kathryn Schroeder pleaded guilty last week to forcibly resisting federal officers. In exchange for her cooperation with the government in the case, prosecutors have agreed to drop murder, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons charges against her.
Waco attorney Richard Ferguson, who attended the hearing with his client Brad Branch, declined to comment about the hearing.
Other cult members charged include Kevin Whitecliff, Clive Doyle, Jaime Castillo, Paul Fatta, Woodrow Kendrick, Norman Allison, Renos Avraam, Livingstone Fagan and Ruth Ottman Riddle.