The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Sylvia Moreno

Weekend hopes for end to cult siege are dashed

WACO -- Hopes of a quick resolution to the armed standoff between the Branch Davidian religious cult and federal agents appeared dim on Monday, as disappointed authorities began the lengthy legal process for the nine members released over the weekend.

But in response to reporters' questions about whether authorities were being manipulated by cult leader David Koresh, who raised and then dashed their expectations, FBI agent Bob Ricks said:

"We are not going to be jerked around. We will take whatever action is necessary to get it resolved and again, our ultimate goal from day one is to get it resolved peacefully.'

Meanwhile, two of the men released over the weekend told reporters waiting outside the federal courthouse Monday that they left the Branch Davidian compound "to see that there's justice.'

Federal law enforcement agents said Mr. Koresh breached his end of a bargain that led them to believe that over the weekend, he would accelerate an end to the stalemate that began with a fierce gunbattle Feb. 28. Four ATF agents and an unknown number of cult members were killed and 16 ATF agents were wounded when the agents tried to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons at the compound.

Agent Ricks said the delivery Friday of several national magazines, a religious tape and messages from relatives and an agreement to stop blasting tape-recorded messages at the compound Friday night and Saturday was done on the premise that Mr. Koresh would gather his followers and explain "this matter was going to come to an end.'

"They said if we came forward and did what they said that we do, we would see a substantial number (of members released). They said that they were going to start taking very positive action to end this matter in a matter of days,' said Agent Ricks. "That is why we are disappointed that this is not really flowing.'

Two cult members voluntarily left the compound Friday night and seven left Sunday. So far, 21 children, nine women and four men have left. By Mr. Koresh's figures, that leaves 17 children, 40 women and 39 men in the compound.

Although authorities spoke by telephone to Mr. Koresh until 1 a.m. Monday, Agent Ricks said that "from 2 o'clock on (Sunday), we saw nothing.'

"I would say we're disappointed,' he said. "We are still hopeful, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we want to see that there is, in fact, positive steps taken by them.'

As the standoff at Mount Carmel entered its 23rd day under gray sodden skies, eight of the nine Branch Davidian members released over the weekend were taken before U.S. Magistrate Dennis G. Green for an initial court appearance.

At the request of the federal government, he ordered all of them held in the McLennan County Jail as material witnesses and set detention hearings for later in the week. One of the men, identified Sunday by federal agents as James Lawten, was identified in court Monday as James Lawter, 70.

The ninth member, Victorine Hollingsworth, 59, was taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center early Sunday, suffering from a previous heart condition and high blood pressure. She remained in stable condition last night, according to the hospital.

The other eight were brought into court in groups of threes and twos, with their feet and one wrist in schackles and wearing bright orange jail-issue uniforms. They were read their rights and assigned court-appointed attorneys, except for Mrs. Martin and Gladys Ottman, 67.

All eight were mobbed by reporters as they entered and left the courthouse. Two of the women defended themselves and the Branch Davidians.

"We just like to have our Bibles. They haven't given them to us yet,' said Ms. Ottman. "We're not a cult. We read the Bible. That's not a cult.'

"You all are asking the wrong questions,' said Rita Faye Riddle, 35. "You need to be asking the FBI and the ATF some questions.'

The eight were allowed to call Mr. Koresh to tell him how they were being treated, officials said.

As darkness fell Monday night, spotlights shone on the compound. Earlier, between 5 and 6 p.m., federal authorities said a white man with long hair ran out of the compound waving a white flag and yelled something at a Bradley armored personnel carrier. The man then ran back inside.

Federal authorities vowed on Monday to keep up the pressure on Mr. Koresh and his followers to leave Mount Carmel.

On Sunday night, after it became apparent to federal agents that their weekend concessions to Mr. Koresh were not going to produce a large number of released members, the compound was blasted with recordings of chanting Tibetan monks who are followers of the Dalai Lama.

The music, played until 3 a.m. Monday, clearly annoyed Mr. Koresh, who expressed his displeasure during telephone negotiations, said Agent Ricks.

He said the chants were designed to escalate the pressure on the group.

The use of recordings of chants made by the Dalai Lama offers yet another bizarre twist in the negotiations. The Tibetan spiritual leader is a pacifist who won the Nobel Peace Prize four years ago for his nonviolent crusade against repression. His religion, Lamaism, is a branch of Buddhism.

In a speech at Rice University two years ago the Dalai Lama criticized those who profit from selling arms. "If there are no weapons,' he said, "I think humans' aggressive nature would be less dangerous.'

Staff writer Diane Jennings contributed to this report.