Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue Unidentified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One TDK Maverick C-30/ “Brown, Sheehan” in envelope
Date cues on tape: November 19, 1977 (day following court decision in Stoen case)
Eugene Scheiman, New York attorney
John Victor Stoen
Bible verses cited: None
An unidentified female member of Peoples Temple speaks at some length with an attorney about the John Victor Stoen custody case in the aftermath of a crucial decision. The day before the conversation, a California court has granted John’s mother Grace physical custody of the child. It has also established that her estranged husband Tim Stoen is the legal father – thereby granting him rights he didn’t previously have – and simultaneously removes Jim Jones’ right to custody. The determination of whether Jones is the natural father is left undetermined, although throughout this conversation, both the Temple member and the lawyer refer to differentiations between the natural and legal father.
Nevertheless, as the lawyer reiterates several times, all the agreements, affidavits, and consent forms which the Stoens may have signed over the years, whether or not they were filed with the court – and the woman acknowledges they weren’t – have been superseded by the court’s decision. The Temple has relied upon the consent and guardianship forms which both Tim and Grace have signed to allow John Victor to be in Guyana – as well as the fact that Tim Stoen was down there with the child for several months – but Tim’s new status as legal father has definitely added a wrinkle. At one point, when the lawyer asks about the court’s previous jurisdiction over Jones, the woman replies, “We say none.” The lawyer laughs and replies, “Well, that doesn’t do you any good. What’s the court say?”
The woman – speaking on behalf of the Temple – is interested in considering what the Guyanese judicial system might do in light of the California court ruling, and what Jones’ options might be. The two speak in the abstract about Guyana – the first time the lawyer talks about it specifically, he says, with a laugh, “shall we refer to as the southern state” – although there is a chance he genuinely does not know which country it is, or at least very much about it, since he speaks of having the court order “translated into a civil court order down in the southern country.”
In general, the lawyer doesn’t say much the Temple does not already know and believe to be true. The issues facing Jones are what type of service the court has ordered, what the jurisdictional protocols in effecting that service, etc., which all hinge, as the lawyer says, on “almost a straight, almost physical question” of where Jones and John Victor are.
Much of it will depend upon whether Guyana has an extradition reciprocity agreement, and whether they would elect to execute it in this case. The lawyer acknowledges that a socialist country – like Guyana – would be less likely to recognize extradition treaties with the U.S. in such civil matters, “from a simply political perspective,” to which the woman responds, “of course, now, that’s the situation right now.” One problem would be if the Guyanese courts do grant service of the court order, and Jones defies it, because then the Stoens could ask for criminal kidnapping charges to be filed. That would just be a bargaining chip, the lawyer says: all they want in John Victor, and if Jones capitulates, the kidnapping charges would be dropped.
The real threat to Jones would be if Guyana chooses to enforce the court’s order and if Jones defies Guyana as well as the U.S. At that point, he could be sent to jail for contempt until his return the child, because that would be an open-ended sentence, longer, perhaps, that what the penalty for kidnapping might be. As with the extradition question, though, the lawyer says recognizing the court’s subpoena “becomes specifically a political question as to whether or not the foreign state will recognize it. In the vast overwhelming majority of the cases, they do not.”
However it plays out in the courts, as the woman reminds the attorney, the bottom line for Jones is that “he refuses to return the child.”
Date of transcription: 3/8/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 7, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62-28. This tape was found to contain the following:
An unidentified female talking to unidentified male about child custody of the son of TIM and GRACE STOEN.
This tape was reviewed and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted May 2013