Mark Lane’s Letters to Leo Ryan & Richard McCoy

Peoples Temple attorney Mark Lane learned in early November 1978 of the telegram that Rep. Leo Ryan sent to Jonestown on November 1, and responded immediately. He made calls to Ryan aide James Schollaert and – when the calls were not immediately returned – wrote a letter to Ryan on November 6, to discuss with the congressman and his staff the possibility of postponing the trip.

There were a couple of reasons for the request, as Lane outlined in his letter. First, Ryan and other members and staff of the International Relations Committee had so far spoken only to people whom Lane described as “hostile to the People’s Temple and the project in Jonestown.” Secondly, as the legal representative of Jim Jones, Lane said he should be present during Ryan’s visit with his client, and the lawyer had previous commitments during the timeframe that Ryan proposed to go.

Nevertheless, this is not the letter of a supplicant. It points out that, since “Jonestown is a private community” and the Ryan party would be guests, the delegation should accede to the Temple’s – and Lane’s – requests for accommodation.

More significantly, Lane reminds Ryan that the Temple has been under attack from “various agencies of the U.S. Government.” Thus far, the Temple had taken steps in response – migrating to another country, considering legal action against those agencies, etc. – but it had other steps it could take, including accepting an offer of refuge in one of “two different countries, neither one of which has entirely friendly relations with the U.S.” If the Temple believed it was being subjected to a witch hunt – such as a visit by an uninvited guest in the form of a hostile congressman, a circumstance unstated but implied – it might lead to “a most embarrassing situation for the U.S. Government.”

Ryan’s response appears here.

Lane’s letter to State Department Guyana Desk Officer Richard McCoy, also dated November 6, is even more combative. It makes reference to the Temple’s “serious consideration” accepting an offer of sanctuary from a country “which does not enjoy friendly relations with the U.S.” and adds a reminder of “how embarrassing this might be to the Government in view of President Carter’s continued reference to abuses of human rights in other countries.”

Lane’s letter to McCoy attaches a copy of the letter to Ryan.

Mark Lane’s Letter to Leo Ryan, RYMUR 89-4286-AA-1-i, pp. 1-2
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Mark Lane’s Letter to Richard McCoy, RYMUR 89-4286-AA-1-i-3
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Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
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