June 18, 1994|By New York Times News Service
SAN ANTONIO -- Ignoring pleas for leniency from the defendants and the foreman of the jury that convicted them, a federal judge sentenced five Branch Davidians yesterday to 40 years in prison for their roles in a shootout near Waco in February 1993 in which four federal agents and six cult members died.
The shootout began a 51-day standoff that ended when the sect's leader, David Koresh, and 78 of his followers died in a fire after FBI agents assaulted the sect's compound with tear gas and tanks armed with battering rams.
Judge Walter Smith of U.S. District Court handed down sentences ranging from five years to 20 years for three other defendants, and the eight were collectively ordered to pay fines and restitution to the government of more than $1 million.
"The evidence from this trial has not faded from my memory. Certain images are clear," Judge Smith was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "I remember evidence the jury didn't see, evidence I ruled was too gruesome."
Most of the defendants sat stone-faced during the sentencing proceedings, but there were several sobs from family members in the courtroom. As the defendants were being led away, a female visitor shouted, "Give us liberty or give us death!" but was quickly silenced by federal marshals.
The long sentences provoked angry reactions from defense lawyers.
"The prosecution was successful in getting the judge to completely ignore the jury's wishes," said Mike DeGeurin, the lawyer for Paul Fatta, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $50,000.
Another defense lawyer, Joe Turner, said of the defendants, "The judge slam-dunked them." MORE