A federal grand jury Friday handed down a new, sweeping indictment against 12 Branch Davidians, charging them with murder, conspiracy to murder and weapons violations.
Among those newly charged in the deaths of four U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents is Paul G. Fatta, who was not at Mount Carmel during the botched Feb. 28 raid by the ATF.
Fatta, whose 15-year-old son Kalani testified before the grand jury Friday, also is charged with carrying a firearm during a violent act. Previously, he had only been indicted for conspiracy to manufacture and possess illegal machine guns, charges again outlined in the superseding indictment.
The new indictment replaces several filed between April and June.
Paul Fatta’s attorney, Mike DeGeurin, said he was not surprised by either the new charges against his client or the grouping of all the Branch Davidians under one indictment.
“That bothers me a lot, but I expected it. I’m sure the government would like to try it all at one time,” DeGeurin said.
DeGeurin said he would be seeking to sever Fatta’s case from the others. He already has asked for a change in venue for Fatta’s trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Jahn declined to comment on the new indictment.
The grand jury handed down the indictment after hearing from Kalani Fatta and Branch Davidian David Thibodeau.
The cultists, the indictment alleges, were part of a year-old plot by Branch Davidian leader Vernon Howell and his band of “Mighty Men” to start a “war” with the United States. Members of the elite group included the 10 men charged Friday, according to the indictment.
Two women also were indicted.
An earlier affidavit filed by the government said Thibodeau, too, was a Mighty Man, but he has not been charged with a crime.
Howell, also known as David Koresh, “originally predicted that this ‘war’ would occur in the nation of Israel and later changed the location to Mount Carmel Compound, near Waco, Texas,” the indictment said.
Battle plans included the purchase of numerous weapons, ammunition and other military equipment, the indictment states.
The “war” broke out on Feb. 28, when four ATF agents and at least five cultists were killed during an attempt to serve search and arrest warrants at the fortress-like compound in the countryside near Elk.
The resulting standoff ended April 19, when a fire destroyed Mount Carmel, killing at least 80 cult members.
Former Branch Davidian Marc Breault, who left the cult in 1989, said he was not surprised by the talk of war.
“In some ways, it’s true,” said Breault, in a telephone interview from Australia. “Vernon had preached about killing authorities, though maybe not the ATF specifically.”
Elizabeth Baranyai, Breault’s wife, said Howell preached that authorities would come for him after learning that he had had sex with underage girls.
The fire was the result of a plan, hatched the day before by Howell and chief lieutenant Steve Schneider, to burn the compound down in case of an FBI attempt to end the siege, the indictment states.
The fire started after the FBI used tanks and tear gas in a failed attempt to drive out the Branch Davidians. The indictment alleges Howell ordered that flammable liquid be poured throughout the compound, but does not say who started the fire.
Some of the alleged conspirators, the indictment charges, fired at FBI agents before flames consumed the structure.
Even though the FBI reportedly used sophisticated eavesdropping equipment to monitor the cultists during the siege, one of the agents in charge of negotiations said he was not aware of a plan to burn Mount Carmel.
“I’m not aware of anything along that line,” said Richard Schwein, the special-agent-in-charge of the FBI’s El Paso office.
The new indictment lists criminal violations by the Branch Davidians that allegedly took place between February 1992 and the final day of the standoff.
All 12 Branch Davidians were charged with murder and conspiracy to murder in the deaths of ATF agents Steve Willis, Robert Williams, Conway LeBleu and Todd McKeehan.
In addition to Fatta, cultists charged in the 10-cound indictment are:
Kathryn Schroeder; Brad E. Branch; Kevin A. Whitecliff; Clive J. Doyle; Jaime Castillo; Livingston Fagan; Woodrow Kendrick, also known as Bob Kendrick; Norman W. Allison, also known as Delroy Nash; Graeme L. Craddock; Renos Avraam; and Ruth Ottman Riddle.
All those, except Riddle, were already in custody when the grand jury convened Friday. Riddle was arrested at the Waco Salvation Army shelter, where she had been staying as a material witness in the case.
Avraam and Riddle, who survived the fire, had not been named in previous indictments. Allison, Craddock and Kendrick had previously not been charged with murder or conspiracy in the deaths of the four agents.
All the defendants, except Allison and Kendrick, are charged with using a gun during the ATF raid.
The pair were arrested the evening of Feb. 28 while trying to sneak into the compound after a skirmish with ATF agents. Killed in the firefight was Schroeder’s husband, Michael.
Alison and Kendrick are charged with attempted murder and weapons violations connected to the skirmish.
Craddock, who likewise survived the fire, also was charged with possession of an illegal grenade. The indictment charges that Howell gave him the weapon.