Bonnie Haldeman sat beneath a mammoth bronze reproduction of the Bill of Rights outside Waco’s federal court Thursday and ticked off at least three of the inalienable rights she thinks have been stripped from her son, cult leader Vernon Howell.
As she waited for prominent Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin to file a writ of habeas corpus on her son’s behalf, Haldeman glanced up at the huge plaque bearing the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution and said federal authorities have violated her son’s right to an attorney, to freedom of religion and to bear arms.
“It seems sort of ironic, doesn’t it, that I am sitting here under the Bill of Rights when they are violating so many of my son’s,” she said.
Her son and about 100 fellow Branch Davidian sect members today begin their 13th day under siege by federal agents.
Four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents died in a shoot-out with cult members Feb. 28 as the agents tried to serve arrest and search warrants for firearms violations on Howell, also known as David Koresh.
Negotiations for a peaceful resolution to the standoff continue with those inside the compound.
DeGuerin’s motion asks U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to allow him and Haldeman access to Howell.
DeGuerin has said the state of siege conditions, in essence, have Howell in federal custody. Those under arrest have the right to talk to their attorneys, he said.
Haldeman, who said she was advised by DeGuerin against talking to the media, said she is unsure if she could talk her 33-year-old son into surrendering peacefully to authorities. But she said she would like the opportunity to try.
As she spoke, she fingered a gold Star of David necklace hanging from her neck. When asked if Howell gave it to her, she said she bought it from Avon.
“I just thought it was pretty. It doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
Former cult members say Howell gave Star of David necklaces to members of the “House of David,” girls and women he selected as his “wives.”
He referred to them as members of the “House of David.”
DeGuerin alleged in his motion that Howell’s Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel is being violated because federal agents surrounding the compound are restricting access to those inside.
Smith took no action on the motion Thursday and has not scheduled a hearing, a court spokesperson said.
However, Smith rejected a similar motion filed Tuesday by Houston attorney Kirk B. Lyons, Waco attorney Gary Coker and former McLennan County District Attorney Vic Feazell. The motion sought a temporary restraining order against federal authorities and their handling of the standoff. It also sought access to Howell.
Feazell has said he will represent the sect members inside, but only if they surrender with no further bloodshed.
Feazell was acquitted on federal bribery charges while serving as the county’s chief law enforcement officer in 1987.