Volume IV, No. 15
10 March 1997


The John Doe Times is an on-line, electronic newsletter published by the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment (Constitutional Militia) and friends. Our motto: Sic Semper Rodentia.


Denver Rocky Mt. News Online March 9, 1997

Going all out to save McVeigh
Aggressive attorney goes to mat to defend client charged in worst terrorism act in U.S.
By Karen Abbott
Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

The hand-drawn sign on the wall of Stephen Jones' Denver office says 22 this morning.

It's the number of days until the trial of Oklahoma City bombing defendant Timothy McVeigh, the client who put the stately, dark-pinstriped lawyer with the red-dirt twang on the world stage more than a year ago.

Every morning, while Jones and his 25-member Denver staff toil in the pressure cooker of international publicity to save McVeigh from the death penalty, someone writes a new, smaller number on the sign.

It said 31, and a thousand prospective jurors already had been summoned for McVeigh's March 31 trial, on the day Jones, at 56, learned just how slippery a platform the world stage can be.

The Dallas Morning News reported on the Internet that day that it had a confidential defense document showing McVeigh had confessed to blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people to get the government's attention with a big "body count.''

Struggling to defuse that shocker over the next four days, Jones kept changing his story.

First he said the defense had no such document, and the Dallas paper had been the victim of a hoax. Then he said it was a real defense document but not a real McVeigh confession and that the law wouldn't let him explain how that could be.

But within hours he did explain it as a fake drafted by his staff in an unsuccessful effort to get a reluctant witness to talk.

And, Jones disclosed bitterly on national television, the Morning News reporter who wrote the "confession'' story had even been a guest in his home, dining on ravioli made by Sherrel, his pretty, dark-haired wife who used to teach school. He calls her "Booter.''

"Thinking on your feet's a tough thing,'' Jones' friend Ed Apple said afterward in Oklahoma City, looking out his office window at the place where the Murrah Building once stood.

"But you're there faced with the incredible exposure of this thing,'' Apple said, "and your mind goes a jillion directions, and it's churning, and you're trying to digest the situation and make the statements on a calculated basis that will withstand the lawyer tenets of telling the truth and not lying -- but that doesn't mean you cannot deceive.''

Back in Enid, Okla., Bob Berry figures he has come to understand why his friend Stephen Jones let himself be fired from his first lawyering job rather than stop defending the man who waved the Viet Cong flag in Oklahoma, where doing that was a felony.

"Stephen is extremely conservative,'' Berry said.

Whoa. Conservatism goes with defending Viet Cong flag-wavers?

"He is so conservative that he actually reads the Constitution, and he actually believes that those guys that wrote that thing actually meant it, and that freedom of expression is an absolute,'' said Berry, who owns a construction company in Enid, where Jones practices law and lives in a house so grand it has its own name, "Elmstead.''

Berry and the rest of Enid's 45,000 residents have watched Jones at close range for a quarter-century, sometimes with an amused but polite patience and not unanimously with affection.

Jones said small-town life keeps him humble.

"You have to be careful that you don't get too uppity,'' he said. "There are no pretensions. Well, you may have pretensions, but they don't last very long.''

"He's a three-piece-suit guy in the summer,'' Berry said. "You're living in Enid in the summer, you wear Dockers and a short-sleeved shirt. Stephen, when it's really hot, just wears a lighter grade of suit.

"Initially he may seem very stiff, very formal. But I find him really humorous, you know, when you get to talking.

"Now, your subjects are going to be the World Bank or Winston Churchill and not how the Rangers are doing this year. I don't know that he ever sees the sports page. But he's hell if you take the New Yorker.''

In bass-fishing country, Jones is a fly-fisherman. On religious ground dominated by fundamentalism, he's an Episcopalian. In a prairie town where most men wear Stetsons or baseball caps emblazoned with farm equipment brand names, he wears a black homburg.

He reads voraciously and spends what spare time he has in Denver at the Tattered Cover and the city's classier used-book shops.

And in a city full of fitness fanatics jogging all over downtown every lunch hour, Jones tries to walk a mile three days a week.

The five-lawyer Enid firm of Jones, Wyatt & Roberts boasts a roster of multinational corporate clients. Jones proudly lists the important Oklahoma Republicans he has steered through legal waters muddied by political maneuvering.

That's how Jones helped Ed Apple -- at no charge -- win his seat on Oklahoma's powerful three-member Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities and the petroleum industry.

But Jones also has displayed a lifelong quirky penchant for defending the people other people hate.

The man with the Viet Cong flag waved it in an anti-war demonstration during the Vietnam War, when it was a felony in Oklahoma to show such disloyalty. Jones was in his 20s, just beginning to practice law for an Enid firm, and after he agreed to defend the flag-waver, the senior partner called him in and told him to give up the case or quit.

Jones gave up his job, got the flag-waver acquitted by getting Oklahoma's law against disloyal flag-waving declared unconstitutional and later hung the senior partner's picture in his own Enid law office.

"A great man,'' Jones said. "He gave me my start.''

He staunchly defends Richard Nixon, for whom he worked as a research assistant in New York City in 1964. Thirty years later, he was a guest at Nixon's funeral.

Does he believe today that Nixon was innocent in the Watergate break-in scandal that forced him to resign his presidency under the threat of impeachment?

Behind the ornate partners' desk he moved from Enid to his Denver office, Timothy McVeigh's lawyer sat silently for a long moment.

Then he said, "It depends on which standard you want to use for impeachment, and I'm biased.''

Jones has listened to the Watergate tapes, and he thinks they make that 30-year-old scandal crystal clear: On the tapes, the president, focused on larger world issues, distractedly murmured assents to staff ideas he only half heard.

"It's the inflections,'' he explained.

" ... and Nixon says, 'Fine, right, well, you take care of it, Bob.' And there you are.''

Nixon, Jones believes, was a brilliant man who lost control of the details.

Stephen Jones grew up in suburban Houston. The high school debate teacher invited him to join the team and set the course for his life toward the law and politics.

His late father traveled the world as an oil field supplies sales manager. His mother was the bookkeeper for a wealthy financier. She now lives in Enid.

Jones received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1966. Three years later, he settled in Enid, a Republican stronghold whose largest employer is Vance Air Force Base.

Jones and Sherrel, his second wife, have been married more than 23 years. They have raised four children.

An active Republican, Jones has run for political office four times but never won. Souvenirs from his 1990 U.S. Senate race decorate his Denver office.

One member of the prosecution team accused Jones of running the McVeigh defense "like a political campaign.''

Indeed, Jones begged Denver U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch to let reporters interview McVeigh in the federal prison where he awaits trial.

Jones has welcomed journalists to his office, his home and his Denver apartment, patiently accepting their phone calls at all hours, answering the same questions hundreds of times and greeting reporters by name at his news conferences.

Jones wasn't nationally known before an Oklahoma judge asked him to defend the accused Murrah Building bomber.

He has never moved in the elite circle of the nation's top criminal defense lawyers.

"We had never heard of the guy,'' said one lawyer who does move in that circle.

"He is workmanlike. Competent. A fighter. And that case could only be accepted at enormous personal sacrifice; he has put himself through hell to defend his client. Nobody will ever take that away from him.

"Nobody has ever defended a case like this. And to wake up right before trial and have newspapers carrying a story that your client confessed -- well, if he didn't handle it with all the style and grace one expects, shock plays a large role in that.

"One of the things about these big cases is, nobody knows how people are going to react. Judges get strange. Jurors get strange. The media gets strange. The whole rulebook goes out the window. People are not themselves. They don't cover this in law school.

"In small cases, the lawyer controls everything. In medium cases, the lawyer controls mostly everything. In gargantuan cases, you can't control much.

"And he lost control of it.''

Even as he fights to save Tim McVeigh from conviction and possible execution, Jones said he believes in the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes.

He has felt that way ever since he read an anthology of atrocious true-crime tales years ago. The worst criminal described in the book, he said, was a man who put razor blades in children's Halloween candy.

His most famous client, after McVeigh, was Roger Dale Stafford, who was convicted of multiple murders in Oklahoma and spent 17 years appealing before he was executed.

Jones represented Stafford for the final eight years of his life. At Stafford's request, Jones witnessed his execution in 1995 -- the only one he has watched.

That morning, Jones met with a judge in the case, trying one last time to save Stafford's life. It didn't work.

Then he drove to El Reno, Okla., to meet with McVeigh in the federal prison there. It was just three months after the Oklahoma City bombing.

After that, Jones drove to the tiny Oklahoma town of McAllister, where Stafford was in the state prison. He spent a couple of hours with Stafford, then watched him die by lethal injection.

"It's very dignified,'' Jones said of Oklahoma's execution process. "And professional. They obviously carefully plan it, and invest it with a high degree of solemnity.''

When Jones moved from Enid to Denver in January, he put an ad in his hometown paper to say goodbye -- and to hint that he fears he can't go home again.

Elmstead is under guard now. A man in khaki sits outside the locked door to Jones' Denver office, asking all visitors who they are.

"We have had some unfortunate security incidents,'' Jones said.

"I've certainly been in controversial cases where I felt people didn't necessarily like me, but I've never been in one where I felt people might take their anger out on my house, or where I worked, or my children or my wife.''

As the McVeigh case unfolds, he said, some Oklahomans likely will grow even angrier at him as they watch the defense team work to discredit the government's case.

But Jones knew when he agreed to defend McVeigh that there would be few public relations benefits for him, Berry said.

"Everybody in Oklahoma was outraged by the bombing,'' Berry said. "Our whole state's only about the size of Cleveland, Ohio, and there isn't one person in this state who did not lose somebody they knew or were related to.''

Still, Berry said, many Oklahomans are glad to see Oklahoma lawyers working on both the defense and prosecution teams. "We like to think we can take care of our own problems,'' he said.

He thinks Jones' anxiety is largely self-imposed.

"If the fickle finger of fate landed on you to represent the most vilified person in the recent history of our nation, and you're trying desperately not to embarrass your profession or your state -- particularly after there's been another national case where everybody was embarrassed -- can you imagine the personal pressure?

"He's at ground zero. I know he feels real nervous about it. He wants to do well. But Stephen will certainly not embarrass the legal profession or the state of Oklahoma.

"So you tell him when he gets through to come on back,'' Berry said. "We're keepin' the lamp on here.''

Sunday, March 09, 1997

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John Doe Times Editorial Note:

The name Robert Jacques is not unknown to either the McVeigh defense team or the Wilburn private investigation of the bombing. The description of Mr. Jacques resembles that of someone who is known by another name -- someone who used to frequent Elohim City (go figure....). Further comment will merely complicate, and perhaps endanger, an ongoing part of the investigation. Codename "Tonto" may represent one of the last important pieces of that investigation.


ATLANTA (AP) - Federal authorities are looking for a man they believe sought an Ozarks hideout with Oklahoma City bombing suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, CNN and Time magazine reported.

The FBI thinks Robert Jacques can help reconstruct McVeigh's and Nichols' activities leading up to the April 19, 1995, bombing. The network released a sketch Sunday of a man believed to be Jacques.

William Maloney, a Cassville, Mo., real estate broker told CNN that in the fall of 1994, Jacques came to his office with Nichols and a man who identified himself as Tim.

Jacques did most of the talking and did not say why they were interested in buying land Maloney advertised as ``In the middle of nowhere, at the end of a rough road, at the bottom of a hollow ... there may be a cave.''

``I asked the question, `Were they looking for a place to hide?' and he didn't respond to that,'' Maloney said. The three men left the same day and never returned, Maloney said.

Several months earlier, Maloney said he got a phone inquiry about the land and asked the caller's name.

``He says `McVeigh,' and I said, `M-C-V-E-Y' and he said, `That's close enough,''' Maloney said.

McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones told CNN that his client wasn't in Missouri when Maloney says he met with the three men. He did not say where McVeigh was at that time.

``Our information indicates Tim was somewhere other than Cassville, Mo.,'' Jones said. ``That's what our research shows.''

Jones also said that Maloney never told the FBI that he had asked the men if they were looking for a place to hide, as he told CNN.

``I will admit it's intriguing and I commend CNN for its effort,'' Jones said of the report. ``But I don't know how much it adds to the prosecution or defense of this case.''

Meanwhile, Nichols' ex-wife, Lana Padilla, told The Daily Oklahoman in today's editions that he had talked about looking for property in Missouri or Arkansas for a blueberry farm.

``He never mentioned traveling with anyone,'' she said from her home in Las Vegas. ``The government's asked me about it a couple of times. I never knew why. Now I do.''

McVeigh's trial for the bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500 is set to begin March 31 in Denver. Nichols will be tried later.

Joseph Hartzler, the federal government's lead prosecutor in the bombing trial, said ``the FBI has thoroughly investigated all leads and I am confident in the investigation.'' He declined to comment further.

The FBI believes Maloney is credible and has been trying to track down the man he described for more than a year, CNN reported.

CNN's artists' reproduction of the FBI sketch shows a dark-complected, muscular man with short hair.

The drawing is the only remaining unidentified sketch in the FBI's files on the case, a Justice Department source told CNN.

AP-NY-03-10-97 0259EST

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