Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas: Child Abuse

U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

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Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas
February 28 to April 19, 1993


VII. Child Abuse

A. Introduction

One of the issues that received some attention in Congress and the media in the aftermath of the standoff involved allegations of prior and ongoing child physical and sexual abuse inside the compound, and the extent to which those allegations affected the Attorney General's decision to authorize the tear gas action. This inquiry has determined that:

1. Historical evidence suggested that Koresh had engaged in child physical and sexual abuse over a long period of time prior to the ATF shootout on February 28. This evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause to indict or proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, but it was sufficient to be relevant to the decision making process involving the proposed tear gas plan. The historical evidence is discussed in more detail below.

2. There was no direct evidence indicating that Koresh engaged in any physical or sexual abuse of children during the standoff. Given that Koresh had been shot and wounded on February 28, he probably lacked the physical ability to continue his abuse. However, there was evidence that sanitary conditions inside the compound, primitive to begin with, had worsened considerably during the standoff. It was unhealthy at best, and potentially life-threatening at worst, for children to continue, to be forced to live in such an environment.

3. The FBI did not exaggerate the child abuse issue when it presented the tear gas option to the Attorney General. The FBI did not try to "sell" the tear gas plan to the Attorney General as a way to save the children. While one of the FBI representatives made one misstatement indicating that Koresh was continuing to beat children during the standoff, that misstatement did not materially influence the Attorney General's decision. Indeed, the FBI included virtually no mention of child abuse in its initial briefing book for the Attorney General. In the final briefing book, prepared on the weekend before April 19, the FBI included the historical evidence of child abuse and in no way indicated that it had any evidence of continuing abuse.

4. The issue of child abuse represented only one of many factors that influenced the Attorney General in her decision to approve the tear gas plan. No single factor was determinative. The Attorney General was more influenced by other significant issues, such as the difficulty in maintaining perimeter security at the compound, the unanimous conclusion of the negotiators and the experts that Koresh was not coming out, the Davidians' plentiful food and water supply, the deteriorating sanitary conditions inside the compound, the safety precautions included in the tear gas plan, and the unanimous agreement of her top advisers in the Justice Department and the FBI that the tear gas plan represented the only viable option left for the government. Ultimately, it made no difference whether the children were undergoing contemporaneous abuse, because the environment inside the compound was intolerable for children in any event.

B. Evidence of Historical Child Sexual and Physical Abuse

1. Sexual Abuse

Rumors about Koresh's sexual practices with girls persisted for years prior to the ATF raid. Former compound members told stories about Koresh's alleged practice of having sex with girls as young as twelve. Evidence suggested that Koresh had "wives" who were in their mid-teens, that Koresh told detailed and inappropriate sexual stories in front of the children during his Bible study sessions, and that Koresh taught the young girls that it was a privilege for them to become old enough (i.e., reach puberty) to have sex with him. One former compound member described how Koresh would invent theological justifications for his sexual desires, whether they involved having sex with young girls or with other men's adult wives. According to information provided to the FBI, at least two minor girls were "wives" of Koresh at the time of the standoff.

The following are excerpts from materials compiled by the FBI during the standoff providing examples of Koresh's historical (i.e., pre-February 28, 1993) sexual practices with young girls.

a) From ATF Affidavit in Support of Arrest of Koresh

From ATF Special Agent Aguilera's interview of former compound resident Jeannine Bunds, included in Agent Aguilera's affidavit in support of the Koresh arrest warrant, February 25, 1993:

"Ms. Bunds also told me that Howell had fathered at least fifteen (15) children with various women and young girls at the compound. Some of the girls who had babies fathered by Howell were as young as 12 years old. She had personally delivered seven (7) of these children.

According to Ms. Bunds, Howell annuls all marriages of couples who join his cult. He then has exclusive sexual access to the women. He also, according to Ms. Bunds, has regular sexual relations with young girls there. The girls' ages are from eleven (11) years old to adulthood."

b) From Interview by Texas Social Worker

Joyce Sparks, Children's Protective Services Investigations supervisor, Waco, interviewed a young girl, a former compound resident, on February 22, 1993:

"[She] entered the cult when she was about three or four years old. . . .

We asked her if she could think of any reason that any of the children at the compound would not be safe and as we got into this discussion, she brought up the topic of sexual abuse. She described herself as special and treated differently than other children. She talked about spending time alone with David and although this was 'scary' she felt 'privileged.'

She explained to us that on one occasion, when she was ten years old, her mother left her in a motel room with David Koresh. He was in bed and he told [her] to come over to him. She got into the bed. David had no pants on. He took off her panties and touched her and then got on top of her. . . .

We talked about how she was feeling when this happened and she responded . . . 'scared.' When asked what else she felt, she responded . . . 'privileged.' When asked what David would do if he knew she was telling us about this, [she] rolled her eyes and said . . . 'I wouldn't even want to think about it.'

We asked if she knew about any other girls who had experienced this and she said yes. She reported that she knew about Michelle Jones. When asked how she knew this, she explained that David had talked about having sex with Michelle when she was fourteen. He told in a Bible study once what it was like when he had sex with Michelle."

Michelle Jones died inside the compound on April 19, 1993.

c) From 1990 Affidavit of Former Davidian Ian Manning

"I was told that Vernon was sleeping with Michelle Jones, now currently fifteen years of age. . . .

I have seen Aisha Gyarfas come out of various rooms with Vernon where he slept that night. Vernon brags about having slept with her. She is now only fourteen years of age."

Aisha Gyarfas died inside the compound on April 19, 1993.

d) From 1990 Affidavit of Former Davidian Alison Manning

"Vernon claims to have permission from God to have more than one wife and although he is legally married to one woman (Rachel Olivia Jones) he has sexual relations . . . with other women -two of which were minors at the time of his first encounters with Vernon has also discussed his relations with Aisha Gyarfas (an Australian girl of fourteen years of age), stating that on their first sexual encounter her heart was beating so fast and hard he could hear it. Once taken as his new 'wife' these girls were involved in continuing relations with Vernon, intermittently being taken into his bedroom to spend the evening with him."

e) From FBI Agent's Interview of Dr. Bruce Perry

[As discussed above, Dr. Perry interviewed the children who had been released from the compound during the standoff. Following are excerpts from a taped conversation that Dr. Perry had with FBI Agent Nancy Houston, in which Dr. Perry discussed information he had learned form his interviews with the children:]

"Dr. Perry: Koresh had a special relationship with the women by which he was able 'to see the light' in all kinds of women, women that were even girls, and he had sex apparently with . . . girls that were as young as ten.

. . .

Dr. Perry: These girls [i.e., those that Perry interviewed], none of them -- I don't think any of them actually had intercourse with him. I do think that a lot of them were present when there was inappropriate sexual things talked about. I think they were present when -- I think it is highly probable that [a young girl] was involved in some kind of sexual behavior.

. . . I don't think it was intercourse, but I think it was something sexual. She admitted to you that she thinks it is okay for [young] girls to have sex.

f) Excerpt From Negotiation Tapes, April 14-15, 1993

"FBI: . . . What about sex with twelve year olds? I keep getting back to that because you know and I know that's right, Steve [Schneider].

Schneider: It isn't right and it's not happening.

FBI: Well, was it with a fourteen year old?

Schneider: Fourteen year old? Wha ­ what can I say, it's true.

FBI: Yeah, okay, and --

Schneider: What can I say?

FBI: A fourteen year old is not a consenting adult, you know that.

Schneider: The person was, the person was.

FBI: Don't give me that. They're not an adult yet.

Schneider: I wasn't even here. This was with Rachel Jones.

FBI: It's rape. It's child rape. You know it and I know

Schneider: The parents consented before it even happened.

FBI: Oh, the parents can consent for a child, right?

Schneider: This is what I've heard, anyway. This is what I've been told.

g) Opinion of Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz

[Dr. Dietz's role is discussed in detail above. On April 17, 1993 he provided a memorandum to the FBI, which is excerpted below.]

"I do not believe negotiating in good faith will resolve the situation as it now stands. If everything continues as it has been going, I expect the following:

. . . .

-- Koresh may continue to make sexual use of any female children who remain inside.

-- The possibility of the children who remain inside ever leading a normal life will become increasingly remote."

[Material redacted as required by statute.]

2. Physical Abuse

a) From March 26, 1993 Report of Dr. Bruce Perry

As discussed above, Dr. Perry learned from the children who had come out of the compound that the children had been subjected to harsh discipline from a very young age. According to his report of March 26, 1993:

. . . [T]hese children had a number of strict behavioral and verbal prohibitions. Violations of these resulted in punishment, sometimes severe. These children, for example, expected to be hit when they spilled. The style of discipline often involved being beaten with what these children labeled 'the Helper.' The Helper sounds like it is a wooden paddle, some children have reported it is broken off from an oar, other children have labeled it as a rice stirrer. In any case it is some variation of a wooden spoon. other forms of discipline included restrictions of food, sometimes for a day. . . . These children have been disciplined physically, apparently from a very young age."

b) From the 1990 Affidavit of Ian Manning

"I have seen Vernon vigorously punish his son Cyrus approximate(ly] 5 years of age using a wooden paddle on his ,bottom, hitting him repeatedly. "I have seen Vernon encourage the mothers of babies to beat their children from eight months and on using a wooden paddle applied repeatedly to the babies' buttocks."

c) From the 1990 Affidavit of Allison Manning

"Vernon teaches a very hard method of disciplining children which begins at eight months (in some cases much earlier) entailing that you only inform the child once that you disapprove of their behavior, and if this bad behavior reoccurs then they are to be spanked with a wooden spoon or paddle. This often occurs more than once, i.e., if the child does not stop crying after being initially spanked, they are then spanked again. [T]his is done with considerable force, e.g., once a child was being spanked in front of me, and the force of bringing the paddle down on the child's bottom was enough to feel the breeze blow on my face. The child being spanked was approximately eighteen months old. Often the childrens' bottoms or thighs were bruised severely and these disciplinary methods are not abated -- they continue with full force. These methods are instigated by Vernon Howell and they are in turn carried out by more zealous followers after they have been convinced that this is the only way it should be done."

d) From 1990 Affidavit of Former Davidian Michelle Tom

"On one occasion Vernon spanked my daughter for forty minutes because she did not sit on his lap. She was eight months old at the time. Her bottom was badly bruised and he made her bottom bleed form spanking her so much.

Vernon performed this assault on my child in front of a room full of people, consequently I tried-to keep her away from him as much as I could. Nearly every time he saw her he would spank her. . . .

Vernon stated to me and another lady that if he ever saw us giving our children a dummy (or pacifier as they are known in the United States) that he would kill the children by smashing them against a wall."

3. Circumstantial Evidence of Ongoing Abuse During the Standoff

As noted above, there was no direct evidence establishing that any children were being either sexually or physically abused during the February 28 through April 19 time period. There were circumstantial indications, however, that the children were living in a deteriorating environment, and that the prospect of sexual or physical abuse was likely as the standoff continued.

[Material redacted as required by statute.]

4. Public Statements About Child Abuse After The Standoff

As noted, following the fire on April 19, 1993, the Attorney General made several television appearances, during which she indicated that one of the factors that had-influenced her decision to approve the tear gas plan was her belief that contemporaneous child abuse was occurring inside the compound. The next day, April 20, then-Director Sessions appeared on television and stated, accurately, that the FBI had developed no direct evidence of contemporaneous child abuse.

Following Director Sessions' statements, the Attorney General requested that all the available evidence regarding child abuse be collected. That project was completed over the next few days. The Attorney General realized that she had made an inaccurate statement. She corrected it during her April 28, 1993 testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary, during which she emphasized that the evidence of child physical and sexual abuse in the government's possession related to activities inside the compound prior to the standoff.

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