Self-styled prophet George Roden, scheduled for release on Sept. 21 after serving a six-month jail sentence for filing obscene legal motions, faces the possibility of more jail time at a contempt of court hearing today.
Waco attorney Gary Coker will seek to prove in McLennan County’s 19th District Court that Roden violated a 1979 court order forbidding him from staying on 77 acres near Elk, now known as New Mount Carmel Center.
Coker is representing members of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists — who are led by Vernon Howell, a minister/musician who members say is their prophet. Members of the group say Roden ran them off the disputed property at gunpoint. They reclaimed it after U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smit of Waco sentenced Roden to six months in jail on March 22 for filing legal motions that threatened to have God sic herpes and acquired immune deficiency syndrome on judges.
The Branch Davidians, most of whom had been living in plywood shacks near Palestine, paid more than $62,000 in back taxes on New Mount Carmel Center.
“Roden took possession of the property, which we feel is contemptible,” Coker said. “We want him held in contempt. We want him punished in the hopes he won’t do it again.”
The struggle between the Branch Davidians and Roden already has ended up in court. Seven members of the Branch Davidians were found not guilty last April of trying to kill Roden. A mistrial was declared in Howell’s case.
Deputies with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department arrested the men after a shoot-out with Roden in November of 1987. They confiscated several high-powered rifles from the Branch Davidians and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.
The men claimed they were trying to get proof that Roden was abusing a corpse. Roden, who was slightly injured during the shooting, claimed the men were trying to kill him. During a controversial trial, Roden admitted he tried to raise the body of Anna Hughes from the dead three times.
Hughes was a follower of Roden’s mother, Lois Roden.
The Branch Davidians argue that Lois Roden, who died in 1987, left the property near Axtell to her church, not her son.
Visiting Judge Byron McClellan of Gatesville will preside over Roden’s contempt hearing.
Judge Bill Logue removed himself from the case after Roden filed a motion for him to do so, calling Logue his “greatest enemy.” Logue said he withdrew to save taxpayers the cost of a trial on Roden’s motion.
Roden’s hearing comes five days before he’s scheduled to be released from the McLennan County Jail. Coker said the Branch Davidians fear for their safety and believe another jail sentence is needed to teach Roden a lesson.
“The members want to teach him that he can’t point guns at people. They want to teach him that you can’t violate a restraining order and nothing happens to you. That’s what has happened in the past though.”