Attorneys from all directions continued their efforts Friday to win a role dealing with Vernon Howell and end federal agents exclusive control of communications with the Branch Davidians.
Kirk Lyons, a spokesman for the Lawyers Response Committee, called on the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to allow outside communication with the estimated 100 Branch Davidians holed up in their rambling compound about 10 miles outside Waco.
Lyons is executive director of the Houston-based Cause Foundation, a Christian legal aid group that has gotten involved in numerous stand-offs between members of white separatist groups and the federal government.
“In every federal stand-off since Wounded Knee, those which used outside, neutral negotiators ended in a peaceful solution,” Lyons told reporters at the Waco Convention Center. “Those that have not and in which the government retained control have ended in injury and death, mostly by fire.”
Wounded Knee was a 1973 standoff between federal and state law enforcement agencies and militants of the American Indian Movement. The standoff, which included exchanges of gunfire that killed two Indians, lasted 70 days and severely damaged the town of Wounded Knee, S.D. before AIM members surrendered.
Despite the attention from the Cause Foundation, Howell’s Branch Davidians have never been known to be a white supremacist organization.
This week, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith denied a request by the foundation for a temporary restraining order that would have banned use of force against the Davidians and allowed them to communicate with outside counsel.
Lyons also questioned the excessive secrecy by federal agents in the case. Even the government’s argument against the temporary restraining order was ordered sealed by Smith.
“We are mystified by the absolute secrecy surrounding this case,” Lyons said. “All the federal documents which would normally be public record, are secret and sealed, most important of which is the initial probably cause upon which the government based its attack on Mount Carmel.”
But federal agents showed no inclination to give up control to an intermediary or anything else.
“I think we can handle that well ourselves,” said FBI spokesman Dick Swenson. “If we think it’s the time to do it, we will. It’s an option we’re leaving open. At this time I don’t think there’s any thought of doing that.”
Although numerous prominent attorneys were listed originally as being involved in the Lawyers Response Committee, none appeared at the press conference save Kevin Avery, a Los Angeles attorney working on the appeal of California white supremacist Tom Metzger against federal charges.
Also appearing was David Hollaway, a director of the Cause Foundation.