Monday, February 21, 2011

Ugly Story – But They Seem To Have Learned Something

ATF Agent spooky, duplicitous and disingenuous prior to raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Mt. Carmel nigh Waco (We Ain't Coming Out) McLennan Sheriff has no record of weapons violation prior to ATF raid

PHOENIX - A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging two illegal immigrants from Mexico with possessing a large number of guns.

Prosecutors said last Thursday that the immigrants possessed a total of 222 assault rifles and five pistols in May and August, later seized in Laredo, Texas, according to news reports.

Though the indictment doesn't charge them with gun smuggling, authorities say the guns were headed to Mexico.

Jose Beltran-Bermudez is charged with possession of 142 AK-47s and five pistols.

He and Yazmin Arvayo-Palafox were charged with possessing an additional 80 AK-47s.

Beltran-Bermudez's attorney, Stephen Duncan, says his client will plead not guilty.

He was the kind of guy that looked like what he was, a sleazy little secret policeman in an imitation leather vinyl jacket, his gray-haired looks all ghostly and gumshoe tip-toe stealth.

Marley Jones was the sole Republican candidate for Sheriff of Johnson County in the early spring of 1992.

He crept upon me at the Cleburne office of a small town paper where I was busy writing news at the time. Suddenly, he was standing there at my elbow where I sat writing copy on a PC.

Of course, he was there to complain.

He had sent us a 5-page press release announcing his candidacy. I cut it to a few column inches of copy containing the essential information and we printed it.

He wasn't satisfied.

“People have told me that they will vote for me if I am the most qualified. You didn't give me a chance to review my qualifications in my press release. It should have been printed exactly as it was written.”

I disagreed. Advertising copy is printed exactly as it's written. Press releases are subject to editing for length – and other considerations.

Unsatisfied, he inveighed at length about his qualifications.

The career started when he signed on with the dreaded “LCB's,” as an agent of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The job: lay around the lounges and honky tonks, looking for violations of the arcana of Texas hootchy kootchy law on how many shots there are in a bottle, when and where the stuff may be sold, and that most burning issue – are there any minors on the premises.

From there, it was all uphill, according to a little dossier he carried around with him. It was a scrapbook chock full of his greatest accomplishments.

At some point, he traded up to become a U.S. Treasury agent, eventually landing in an undercover role with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Hoo, boy. Here we go.

Mr. Jones began to tail me everywhere I went in town. I couldn't stop in for breakfast at the diner or lunch at the Mexican restaurant without his inviting himself to sit at my table.

Dragnet time. Bom da bom bom. Bom da bom bom dah!

I told him – flat out – that as a newsman, I was not supporting any Republican candidates for any office, nor was I endorsing any Democratic candidates for any office local, state or federal.

He just couldn't seem to accept that.

What's more, he was sneaky. He just seemed to appear, tiptoeing out of a fog bank, speaking in a voice you had to strain to hear, thumbing through his little scrap book and constantly reviewing his qualifications.

It was a sad tale. At one point, he had been working as a “revenuer” in the hills of North Carolina, looking to bust folks at their moonshine stills.

A teen-aged daughter back in Texas died in an auto collision.

It took the ATF two weeks to locate him. By then, the funeral was long past. It almost drove him crazy, he said.

As a result, things had changed. They don't leave undercover agents in deep for that long any more, Mr. Jones said. The result of the old policy of leaving a spook in character and playing a role as long as it takes was for Marley Jones a nervous breakdown – but one that came along in the line of duty. That put him in the office, flying a desk for the duration of his federal career. It all happened about the time
Uncle Sam went for computers in a big way. How sweet it is.

That's when he became an expert at running the numbers on confiscated weapons and serial numbers of guns examined in “book checks” field agents carried out at gun stores and pawn shops. Office pinky. Yeah. Such a deal.

Mr. Jones continued to harass me any time he saw me in public. The girls at the office started telling him I was in a meeting, but if he would leave his number, I would call him back later.

He caught me at the breakfast table in early March, just before the primary election of 1992, and told me a very racy tale about this guy in a rock and roll band who got caught coming out of a beer joint in Bellmead with a stolen firearm – a .22 cal. Pistol – with a silencer attached.

That's a no no. Big time. But the McLennan County Sheriff's office worked the case, he said, and the uniforms didn't know how to use their data terminal to get the goods on the gun.

Mr. Jones said a high-ranking official in the Sheriff's Department at Waco called him at home in the Bono community near the small Johnson County town of Godley. They asked if he could come to Waco to help them get the goods on the gun.

His computer check showed the gun was stolen. He used a computer at the McLennan County Sheriff's Department.

“What's the guy's name?” I asked, taking out my notebook.
He frowned, held his hand palm forward before my face, and said no way I would get that information – from him or the deputies at Waco.


“Because we're going to put him back inside the Branch Davidian compound at Mt. Carmel as an undercover confidential informant,” he said.

“How can I get a copy of the offense report?”

“You can't. This is our baby – from here on in. He works for us now.”

I asked if this was the same Branch Davidian compound where the shootout took place. Check. Was this a follower of David Koresh, erstwhile band leader, gun dealer, preacher?


It all added up. The Seventh Day Adventists have a college at nearby Keene, Texas, just up the highway from Cleburne. A regional headquarters is located just outside of Alvarado in I-35. Lots of Adventist politics in the air on a daily basis, splinter groups like the Branch Davidians, included.

My question: “Then why do you come to me, a newsman, and tell me all this? Looks like you would want to keep it buttoned up tight as Dick's hatband, fella.”

That's when he hit me with the proposition that I could cooperate with the ATF and get way on down the highway – become famous, make a worldwide splash with the crime story of the decade, etc., etc.

“When we raid that place, I want you standing by our side,” he said with a broad grin. Lovely. Such a deal.

Anybody with more than 30 days experience reporting cop shop and court news and IQ above that of a carrot, maggot or worm knows better than that. You have to know the defendant's name and age and how to identify them, and you have to know with what they are charged and in what court, or you will wind up as lost in the he said, she said wilderness as the poor old duffer who decided to get turned out as a snitch.

No way.

That's when he got evil.

About the people who owned the operation where I was employed. Did they have any money? Who knows. What kind of insurance did they have against charges of libel or slander? Above my pay grade. Wasn't it true that the owner's father was a multimillionaire? Wouldn't know.

Either you cooperate or you're going to find yourself in some hot water.

Enough. I told him if he didn't start making tracks real quickly, I was going to jerk him over the table and paste him one in the snot locker. I really don't like that kind of talk over breakfast. It's not of any aid to the digestion, you see.
I made my morning rounds and when I got back to the office, my boss, hopping mad, fired me. You have to know how to get along with people, he said.

I told him I was well checked out on that little doo dad. Some folks, the only way to get along is to let them know they're going no further. Period.

The rest is history.

A year later, only a month after President Bill Clinton took office in January, the ATF raided the Branch Davidian at Mt. Carmel. Four agents lost their lives because, the agency said, a newsman violated operational security and let the Davidians know they were coming.

In the interim, the ATF had fed them loads of information about what a bad actor Mr. Koresh - Vernon Howell in a former lifetime when he graduated from a Dallas area high school and worked as a carpenter's helper - could be when in the presence of underage girls whose parents had given him permission to breed them as the one true Messiah, etc., etc.

I told Mr. Jones that, according to the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...”

We're all free to get as kinky about God and matters spiritual as the law allows – and in America, it allows a lot. Oodles. Oceans. All the slack in the world. And it's a big world.

The upshot? All major media and their insurance carriers who were present at the raid that day, including the Waco “Tribune-Herald,” KWTX, WFAA, and others, wound up settling out of court for undisclosed sums said to amount to multimillions of dollars in wrongful death litigation brought on behalf of the dead agents' families.

The aftermath? According to whose account you believe – FBI, news reports, ATF, Congressional investigators – anywhere from 75 to 150 people perished, burned alive on April 19, 1993, after an FBI attack with tanks and helicopter gunships. Many of them were children.

The most accepted figure is that 80 were immolated – somehow – when tear gas and acclerants from gasoline lanterns exploded in the tinder-dry building on the prairie near Elk community on a day when hot, dry winds gusted to as much as 40 miles per hour.

A Public Information request made to the McLennan County Sheriff's Office reveals no offense or arrest report for a member of the David Koresh band busted with a stolen pistol with silencer attached outside a beer joint in Bellmead.

No such document exists.

I and my former employers were not sued by members of ATF agents' families who perished that day.

I still think I did the right thing. Marley Jones lost his election bid in a contest with “Nooner” Griffith, a detective on the Cleburne police force who served one term as Johnson County Sheriff.

The turning point in the race?

Griffith and members of his camp – all seasoned harness bulls who had worked cop shops throughout the state – came up with a lot of questionable data about Mr. Jones' career. It had the appearance of resume fraud, but, you know, by then I was down the road, disgraced as the kind of man who would actually tell a sneaky little narc he wasn't going to take it any more, to get off his cloud, take a hike.

Not guilty.


So mote it be.

- The Legendary

1 comment:

  1. Marley C. Jones, ATG Special Agent RetiredMarch 25, 2016 at 3:30 PM

    Comment on The Ugly Story above:
    REBUTTAL ; This is in regard to false statements made about me by John Richard Harrison in February, 2011. Mr Harrison is a vindictive actor who failed to mention he was exposed as a drunk. Mr. Harrison , while driving drunk, was arrested on 05/29/1998, by the Cleburne Police Department. He pled guilty, was fined and Drivers' License was suspended. He was seen around town riding a bicycle with orange banner on antenna. Marley C Jones