On November 25, 1977 – one week after a California Superior Court judge in San Francisco issued an order awarding custody of John Victor Stoen to his mother, Grace Stoen – San Francisco District Attorney Joseph Freitas wrote a letter to Fred Wills, Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to ask for assistance in enforcing the court order. (Wills’ office received the letter in late January 1978, according to a stamp on the document.)
The letter specifies the statutory authority which Freitas had as a representative of the court in writing the letter. However, Freitas implicitly acknowledges that neither he nor the state court has the ability to demand a foreign government to act on its behalf. Rather, he asks Wills “respectfully … to use whatever influence you have to help us obtain Rev. Jones’ compliance” and expresses gratitude “for whatever you can do to help.”
That was not the way the people of Jonestown received the letter, however. Following the posting of the writ of habeas corpus in Jonestown in September 1977, and the issuance of the court order itself, community leaders felt increasingly threatened by unfolding events and worried that their erstwhile supporters in the Guyana government would eventually – and perhaps soon – succumb to pressure from the United States and turn against them.