The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:George Kuempel

Cult member's mom lauds involvement of lawyer in talks

WACO -- The mother of a member of the Branch Davidians said Wednesday that she is delighted that a Houston lawyer has been allowed inside the religious cult's compound.

Balenda Ganem, whose son, David Thibodeaux, 24, is among about 90 people holed up in the compound, said family members had pleaded with federal authorities for weeks to allow outsiders to join in talks designed to break the impasse.

"It's the one thing we have asked for from the very beginning. We are absolutely elated,' she said.

Ms. Ganem said bringing in an outsider will "set a format for the breakdown of hostilities' that have stymied negotiations.

Houston lawyer Dick De-Guerin, retained by the mother of cult leader David Koresh, met with Mr. Koresh for the third day Wednesday. He said he hopes he can persuade Mr. Koresh and his followers to surrender peacefully.

Another lawyer, Jack Zimmerman of Houston, has been allowed to talk by telephone with another cult member.

While encouraged about Mr. De-Guerin's involvement, Ms. Ganem said she and other family members are disappointed that they aren't being allowed to talk directly by telephone to their loved ones inside.

"We want to see more family contact,' she said. "We would like to have an opportunity to talk over the telephone live . . . with our loved ones.'

Federal authorities earlier passed along taped messages and have defended their negotiating tactics.

Ms. Ganem said that's not enough.

"We just feel very, very left out, very helpless. It is very hard on people,' she said.

Ms. Ganem, who lives in Bangor, Maine, said she is the spokeswoman for seven other families with relatives in the compound.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, she said federal negotiators are ill-equipped to deal with religious cults.

"They are very skilled in working with terrorists and murderers,' she said. "But what we have here is a mind control. These people are very much out of control of their thought process right now.'

She praised federal authorities, however, for silencing the loudspeakers that have been blasting the compound with music, chants and obnoxious noises.

Federal authorities said Wednesday that they have limited use of the speakers in a show of good faith in the renewed talks.

Ms. Ganem said her son, a musician, joined the Branch Davidian about 18 months ago to play in Mr. Koresh's band.

"He found David Koresh interesting, electrifying. He wanted to learn from him,' she said.

She said he was "very happy' there and was preparing to return home for a visit about 10 days before the raid by federal agents at the compound Feb. 28.

Ms. Ganem, a mental health worker and cook, came to Texas shortly after the shootout and said she plans to remain in Waco until the end.

"It's pretty miserable,' she said.

The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock, Bruce Nichols

Cult lawyers given more time
Counsel for Koresh says talks are going slowly

Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin said Wednesday that his talks with Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh are going more slowly than anticipated, partly because Mr. Koresh is suffering from wounds received in a gunbattle with federal agents Feb. 28.

"His physical condition is not good. I'm not a doctor. I don't intend to go into it any further except to say it has slowed down discussions a little bit,' Mr. DeGuerin told reporters Wednesday night. Mr. DeGuerin met with Mr. Koresh twice Wednesday in the Branch Davidian compound.

"David is kind of weak from his injuries, and that has kind of impeded the talks a little bit,' he said.

However, he said he was still optimistic that the cult leader and his followers would surrender to authorities outside the compound.

"I feel very good about it,' he told reporters. But "It's going to take a while,' he said.

On Tuesday, his first day of face-to-face talks with Mr. Koresh, Mr. DeGuerin was more optimistic.

After more than three hours of talks Wednesday, however, he said that Mr. Koresh's medical condition and "substantive issues' and legal questions being raised by Mr. Koresh and his followers could take several more meetings -- and several more days -- to resolve. He said he and Mr. Koresh planned another meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday.

He declined to make any predictions. "I got in trouble once before for speculating when it's going to end. That's (Thursday) a possibility. It's possible it could be next week.'

He said the meetings Wednesday made "some more progress. . . . I feel like we have established a good deal of mutual trust.'

Federal negotiators have ceased talks with the Branch Davidians to allow Mr. DeGuerin and another Houston lawyer, Jack B. Zimmerman, time to try to persuade the sect to surrender, an FBI spokesman said Wednesday. Officials said Mr. Zimmermann was allowed to talk by telephone for about 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon with Steve Schneider, a sect member and Mr. Koresh's chief lieutenant.

FBI Agent Bob Ricks said officials decided to set up the call because Mr. Schneider is viewed along with Mr. Koresh as the "two key leaders in this process' and both had asked to speak with their lawyers.

Mr. Zimmermann said his client "sounded upbeat, he sounded positive, and he sounded encouraging' during the unmonitored telephone discussion.

Wednesday night, Mr. Zimmermann said he did not receive a second phone call that he expected from his client that afternoon.

Both lawyers, who are working as a team, declined to discuss specific issues or conditions of surrender being raised by the group.

They acknowledged that they are sending in legal documents to be reviewed by the group but would not detail what Mr. DeGuerin is taking into the compound during his visits with Mr. Koresh.

Agent Ricks said federal officials deliberately have stepped back from the negotiations process and even have halted some tactical operations to allow the Branch Davidians to focus fully on talks with Mr. DeGuerin.

Although some music and spotlights were aimed at the compound Tuesday, they were less obvious than on previous nights. "A lot of our activity has been limited. We've tried not to interfere with what's going on,' Agent Ricks said.

Mr. DeGuerin has not been given any deadline or timetable for hammering out a surrender agreement, but he "knows he's talking in terms of days, Agent Ricks said.

"If after two days we believe one more day might break the deadlock and the might be willing to come out, we will extend that one more day, but we're not saying you have 24 hours, 48 hours to get this issue resolved,' Agent Ricks said.

Negotiators will resume contacts with Mr. Koresh if he requests, but they have no plans to contact him or his followers as long as Mr. DeGuerin appears to be making progress, Agent Ricks said.

"We see nothing that could be gained by us trying to contact Mr. Koresh at this point in time. We want all his energies focused with his counsel,' he said. "We don't want him to be distracted in any manner.'

The extraordinary face-to-face talks between the besieged cult leader and his lawyer came after a quiet, three-week lobbying effort by Mr. DeGuerin, Mr. Zimmermann and Paul Lavine, Mr. Zimmermann's partner and counsel for another cult member.

After he was retained by Mr. Koresh's mother March 11, Mr. DeGuerin tried to enter the compound but was rebuffed by federal agents. Federal prosecutors successfully opposed motions by Mr. DeGuerin and Mr. Zimmermann that asked a federal judge to allow them to see Mr. Koresh and Mr. Schneider.

FBI agents also rejected three separate written offers by Mr. DeGuerin to try to talk his client into giving up, Mr. Zimmermann said. As recently as Saturday, FBI agents said Mr. Koresh had rejected their offer of a meeting with Mr. DeGuerin.

On Sunday, the self-proclaimed Messiah agreed to talk with Mr. DeGuerin, and that discussion laid the foundations for face-to-face talks that have taken up more than 15 hours in the last three days, authorities said.

Mr. DeGuerin met with Mr. Koresh Wednesday morning, broke for lunch and then returned to the compound at 3 p.m. He stayed until shortly after 6 p.m.

Mr. DeGuerin confirmed Wednesday evening that he met with officials during the day in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store in Waco, but he would not say who he talked to. Observers said it appeared to be Jeffrey Jamar, FBI agent in charge of the Waco operation; Agent Ricks and McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell.

"I intend to meet with the FBI as often as I think necessary to find out and pass along facts . . . to distinguish (gathering facts) from becoming a negotiator for either side. I'm not that,' he said.

"I will not negotiate. It's my belief that the more that David and the rest of the folks in there know about what their rights are and how they can be protected, the more willing and sooner they'll be coming out,' he said.

Asked whether he thought that Mr. Koresh was using his talks with Mr. DeGuerin as a delaying tactic, he said, "I wouldn't put up with it, but I don't think that's happening at all.'

Agent Ricks said FBI officials have not allowed Mr. Zimmermann to meet personally with Mr. Schneider because they want as few outsiders as possible in the compound.

The standoff began Feb. 28 when four agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were killed when the agency tried to arrest Mr. Koresh and search the compound for illegal weapons.

"They had people they viewed as their adversary explaining their legal rights to them,' Mr. Zimmermann said of the Branch Davidians. "I think it's a natural human reaction that they may not trust that.'

So the attorneys say they have taken on the same obstacle that has blocked federal negotiators for 32 days: convincing sect members that they will be treated fairly and won't be in any physical danger if they walk out of the compound.

"That's what Mr. DeGuerin and I are working on, to try to establish trust with them, that we are on their side,' he said.

He said the chief unknown in the ongoing talks is when -- and not if -- the sect will surrender. Almost 100 men, women and children are believed to be inside the compound.

"I think it's a matter of record that they want to come out. They're not desirous to have any kind of shootout,' he said. "And I don't think the United States government wants to shoot women and children.

"At this point, the FBI and Mr. DeGuerin and I have the same goal. Lets get everybody out of here. Nobody else gets hurt. Let's take this fight to the courthouse,' he said.