Girl Leaves Lawmakers Speechless Koresh Victim Tells Of Child Abuse
The first day of congressional hearings on the Branch Davidian tragedy at Waco, Texas began Wednesday with the heat of politics: House Democrats accusing Republicans of allowing the hearings to become a platform for attacks on law enforcement and gun control advocates by the National Rifle Association.
It ended with the soft voice of a 14-year-old girl who told the panel that sect leader David Koresh taught her how to commit suicide and had sex with her when she was 10.
“I had known this would happen sometime, so I just laid there and stared at the ceiling,” Kiri Jewell said of the first time she had sex with Koresh. “Anyway, I was still kind of freaked out.”
She also recounted Koresh’s graphic description of sex acts with other women and children.
The testimony from Jewell, who left the compound before the siege began, brought a joint hearing of two House subcommittees to stunned silence after hours of partisan bickering.
The girl, who referred to Koresh as “David,” laughed nervously at times. Her father sat beside her, his right hand rubbing her back.
She said that after Koresh had sex with her, he told her to take a shower and he read to her from the Bible. She also testified that Koresh spanked her and other young girls, and she said one of her friends married Koresh and had a baby when she was 14.
Democrats sought to use the testimony to support the position of federal agents that they wanted to search the Waco compound of the religious sect for evidence of illegal guns, child abuse and molestation.
Jewell testified Koresh had taught them that they would die because of their beliefs.
“There was never a time when we didn’t expect to be killed by the feds,” she said.
She added that some of the Davidians talked about using cyanide for a mass suicide and said it was “accepted that the best way to shoot yourself if necessary in this battle … was to put the gun into your mouth, back to the soft spot above your throat, before pulling the trigger.”
As the hearings began, Rep. Bill Zeliff, Republican of New Hampshire, said “Our goal is to put the facts out before the American people.”
But the Republicans’ task was complicated by recent disclosures about NRA involvement in the hearings, including an NRA employee who posed as a member of “the Waco hearing team” and attempted to question a witness, and a group of firearms experts hired by the NRA who went to Texas under committee auspices to examine some of the weapons taken from the Waco site.
Democratic committee member Cardiss Collins of Illinois called the hearings “hopelessly tainted” by the NRA.
“From the beginning, these hearings have had the odor of bias hanging over them,” said Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “And over the last week, we’ve discovered where that odor is coming from - the National Rifle Association. I don’t think the NRA gives a damn about the tragedy at Waco but rather wants to destroy the ATF because they enforce the law the NRA despises,” said Schumer.
At one point Schumer even held up an AK-47 assault rifle, the kind allegedly used by the sect’s members to shoot at federal agents, and asked, “Isn’t this exactly the kind of gun that was used?”
The hearings, in which as many as 90 witnesses are expected to testify, started a day after Senate Republicans opened a new round of Whitewater hearings, a thinly veiled attempt some observers say to cast a shadow over the Clinton Administration as the 1996 election campaign gets under way.
The hearings run by Republicans on the House committees on crime and national security planned to focus on what ATF agents did during their Feb. 28, 1993, raid of the Branch Davidian compound.
That led to a 51-day siege, which ended when government agents knocked a hole in the compound and put in tear gas. The complex caught fire and more than 80 Davidians, including Koresh and Jewel’s mother, died.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Weaver hearings The Senate Judiciary subcommittee has scheduled hearings Sept. 6 on the 1992 FBI siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. House hearings on the standoff with white separatist Randy Weaver also are expected to begin in September.
This sidebar appeared with the story: Weaver hearings The Senate Judiciary subcommittee has scheduled hearings Sept. 6 on the 1992 FBI siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. House hearings on the standoff with white separatist Randy Weaver also are expected to begin in September.