The Dallas Morning News
Koresh attorney is accustomed to high-profile cases
He's known as intense, thorough
WACO -- His role in the Branch Davidian standoff is not the first time Houston defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin has been in the limelight.
Federal agents have made Mr. DeGuerin a center of attention by allowing him into the cult compound to talk directly with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, whose mother hired Mr. DeGuerin in the case.
The 52-year-old former partner of the late Percy Foreman -- one of Houston's most famous defense lawyers -- Mr. DeGuerin has been a high-profile, highly paid, sometimes high-society defense lawyer in Houston for years.
Before the cult standoff, he was known in Waco for defending Muneer Deeb, a convenience store operator retried and acquitted in a notorious Waco capital murder case. A Fort Worth jury acquitted Mr. Deeb in January after he had spent six years on death row for the 1982 slashing murders of three Waco-area teen-agers.
"He's a very talented trial lawyer," said Mike Hinton, a Houston defense lawyer who once worked as an assistant district attorney.
"He is very aggressive. He's well-prepared. He's intense. He's bright," Mr. Hinton said. "No one has ever referred to Dick as afraid of anything."
State District Judge Joe Kegans contrasted Mr. DeGuerin with his mentor, Mr. Foreman.
"Percy had that compelling personality and that ability to take a courtroom literally in his hands," Judge Kegans said. "Dick is real thorough, but he's not flashy."
Even so, Mr. DeGuerin has a certain style. He jogs with his black Labrador retriever, has been seen driving a gold Mercedes Benz and has made at least one best-dressed list in Houston.
"He can afford some expensive clothes," said Chuck Rosenthal Harris County assistant district attorney.
In a 1989 profile, Texas Lawyer reported that Mr. DeGuerin regularly charges $100,000 for his services.
Mr. DeGuerin had a long winning streak in the 1980s, but lately he has lost some cases.
He represented a lawyer convicted of buying babies in an adoption business. He represented a former policeman convicted of raping a handcuffed prisoner. His client in a pair of love-triangle stabbing deaths received a life sentence in a plea bargain.
Mr. DeGuerin's involvement in the Waco cult standoff "is real unusual," said Mr. Rosenthal, who has handled similar situations in Houston.
"There's very little negotiation between any client and law enforcement officers prior to arrest," Mr. Rosenthal said.
But parts of the situation will be familiar to Mr. DeGuerin, said Joe Magliolo, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who is now an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston.
"Ninety percent of a defense lawyer's job is negotiation," Mr. Magliolo said. "Most cases are pled. It's only when negotiations break down that you go to trial."
Mr. Hinton said there is no inherent conflict in Mr. DeGuerin's going into the compound to talk to his client.
"I would imagine Dick DeGuerin would say I'm here with the permission of law enforcement people to tell you your rights in the criminal justice system, but it doesn't start until we get you out of here," Mr. Hinton said.
But Mr. Rosenthal said Mr. DeGuerin could be risking his role as a defense lawyer by going in. "You could put yourself in a position of not being able to be a lawyer if you're a witness to various aspects of the case," Mr. Rosenthal said. "Of course, he may not care (if he represents anyone at trial)," Mr. Rosenthal said.
Fellow defense lawyer Allen Isbell of Houston said he didn't see much risk of Mr. DeGuerin becoming a witness rather than a lawyer because lawyers always investigate their cases and have information prosecutors would like to have.
He also said he doubted that there had been any negotiation of outcome between Mr. DeGuerin and the federal officials.
"I can't imagine them negotiating the outcome at this early stage because that would be sort of risky for everybody. It's been a botched deal already. I can't imagine the federal government with dead agents on their hands agreeing to anything Dick would agree to. Maybe it's negotiating the surrender," Mr. Isbell said.
One lawyer who asked not to be quoted by name said it is hard for a lawyer with a small firm to take on a case such as the Branch Davidians, which could go on for months. Despite the publicity, the payoff might not cover the costs, he said.
Mr. DeGuerin has shown a willingness to take risks before. "He's very confident of himself," Mr. Rosenthal said.
After graduating from the University of Texas Law School in 1965, he worked for the Harris County district attorney's office for three years, then joined the firm now known as Butler & Binion.
The job with a major Houston firm promised security, Mr. DeGuerin has said, but he preferred criminal defense law, which then paid less.
So, he joined Mr. Foreman in 1971 and stayed until 1982, when he decided to leave and go out on his own -- a parting that caused some hard feelings but was "as friendly a divorce as you could expect," Mr. DeGuerin told Texas Lawyer.
Occupation: Lawyer, DeGuerin & Dickson.
Born: Feb. 16, 1941, Austin.
Career highlights: Harris County assistant district attorney, 1965-68; Butler, Binion, Rice, Cook & Knapp (now Butler & Binion) 1968-71; associate professor, South Texas College of Law, 1969-70; Foreman & DeGuerin, 1971-82' DeGuerin, Dickson and Szekely, 1982-84; DeGuerin & Dickson, 1984-present.
Academic: B.A., University of Texas, 1958; law degree, Texas, 1965.
The Dallas Morning News
Koresh, attorney meet again
Officials hopeful impasse near end
WACO -- Besieged cult leader David Koresh met face to face with his attorney for the second day Tuesday, prompting cautious optimism among federal officials that the 31-day impasse is inching toward a peaceful end.
Federal agents refused to characterize Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin as a go-between or outside negotiator but said he has indicated that his talks with Mr. Koresh are "substantive' and "productive.'
Mr. DeGuerin, who was retained by Mr. Koresh's mother, took part in six hours of talks inside the Branch Davidian compound and said he plans to meet again Wednesday morning.
"I will say that David and others are anxious to be able to give their side of the story,' he said Tuesday evening. "The only proper way for that to happen is in court. That's where I work, and that's where I hope we'll be before too long.'
He declined to discuss specifics of the Branch Davidians' condition or mood.
Authorities also have openly conceded that they hope Mr. DeGuerin will persuade Mr. Koresh, a self-proclaimed Messiah, to give himself up and hammer out conditions for his followers' surrender. The FBI said it is not directing or monitoring Mr. DeGuerin's sessions with Mr. Koresh.
Late Tuesday, authorities stopped bombarding the cult's home with obnoxious music, as they have done over loudspeakers for the last several days.
"We believe that the events have reached a point where a face to face meeting with his counsel might resolve the final hurdles . . . to get this matter resolved,' FBI Agent Bob Ricks said Tuesday.
Mr. DeGuerin, who is the first contact between Mr. Koresh and someone other than a law officer that the FBI has allowed into the compound, went inside Tuesday morning for an hour and a half.
Mr. DeGuerin left at noon and drove to his downtown Waco hotel. He returned for a second meeting with Mr. Koresh at 2 p.m. Mr. DeGuerin twice stepped a few feet outside a compound door to wave to agents watching nearby -- once at 4 p.m. and again an hour later. The lawyer left the compound shortly after 6 p.m.
Details not recounted
Agent Ricks said Mr. DeGuerin has not recounted his discussions with Mr. Koresh in any detail. But he has told federal authorities that they have focused on "substantive issues,' such as Mr. Koresh's rights and how he will be treated by the criminal justice system.
The FBI spokesman said Mr. DeGuerin's entry should not be seen as an indication of a stalemate in the federal negotiating effort. "It would not have served any purpose previously. There was not a focus on their part to try to get the issue resolved,' he said.
Now, however, Agent Ricks said, authorities believe that the group might be ready to "fashion those necessary terms' of surrender with Mr. DeGuerin's help. "Many of those mechanics are negotiable,' he said.
The direct discussions cap three days of talks among Mr. DeGuerin, federal officials and the cult, and they mark a clear shift in federal negotiating tactics in the confrontation. It began Feb. 28 when four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were killed trying to arrest Mr. Koresh and search the group's compound for illegal weapons.
The FBI has maintained continuous contact with Mr. DeGuerin since March 11, when he was retained to represent the 33-year-old cult leader by Mr. Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldeman of Chandler, Texas.
Earlier this month, agents refused Mr. DeGuerin's request to enter the compound, and federal prosecutors successfully opposed his attempt to obtain a court order to see Mr. Koresh.
U.S. Attorney Ron Ederer said authorities initially balked at letting anyone see Mr. Koresh because they were deluged with requests from lawyers purporting to represent Mr. Koresh and his followers.
As recently as Saturday, FBI officials said that Mr. Koresh had rejected their offer for a meeting with his lawyer. The cult leader apparently changed his mind Sunday, when he broke four days of silence to resume talks with FBI negotiators.
"He came back again and started focusing on what would the terms of a surrender be, what would the charges be and indicated at that point that he would be interested in speaking to this counsel,' Agent Ricks said.
Mr. Koresh made several "goodwill gestures' that helped convince authorities that a meeting might be fruitful, including giving federal officials a videotape depicting 16 of the 17 children and the four teen-age girls still inside the compound, Agent Ricks said.
In response, Agent Ricks said, authorities contacted Mr. DeGuerin and set up an unmonitored, 45-minute telephone call between the lawyer and the cult leader.
In that call, Mr. Koresh agreed to accept Mr. DeGuerin as his lawyer and also began making plans for Monday's face-to-face exchange, Agent Ricks said.
Agent Ricks said negotiators have assumed a deliberately low-key stance since Mr. DeGuerin's appearance. Their last direct discussion with Mr. Koresh was Monday night, but they have avoided questioning him about the ongoing talks.
"To be honest, we're not pushing it. We do not want to pry,' Agent Ricks said. He said officials are relying on the attorney's judgment to help determine whether such meetings should continue.
"We have said, "This is your time, to treat it as you deem necessary,' ' Agent Ricks said. "But we've also said that there is a certain amount of urgency. We do not want the process strung out, but we do not control him.'
"His reputation is also on the line here. He realizes that himself. He's taking a big risk,' Agent Ricks said. "He realizes that he has a relatively short time span.'
Also Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Waco indicted three cult members who surrendered earlier: Kathyrn Schroeder, Brad Eugene Branch and Kevin A. Whitecliff.
The three, who have been jailed without bond, were charged with conspiracy to murder federal agents and possession of a firearm. They could face a maximum of life without parole if convicted.
A federal affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court said Ms. Schroeder played a dominant role in the cult and alleges that she carried an AR-15 assault rifle during the 45-minute gunbattle with ATF.
The affidavit also alleges that Ms. Schroeder was seen wearing commando-style clothes and giving orders to other women during the firefight.
Richard Ferguson, Mr. Branch's attorney, told The Associated Press that the indictment is the latest "tactic' by prosecutors to keep the cult members in jail. "They are losing the battle on material witnesses -- they had to come up with another strategy,' he said. Mr. Ederer responded, "The indictment speaks for itself.' Staff writer Bruce Nichols contributed to this report.